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Tickers in this Article: MGM, PENN, LVS, WYNN
In 2009, consumer spending was the key to success and no other industry was hit as hard as those who operate casinos. As the global consumer has tightened their wallets, Casino operators are delaying or suspending development projects and are showing reduced profits. Analysts predict that much of 2010 will be the same as high unemployment is taking its toll on available gambling dollars. (For more, check out A Prelude To Sinful Investing.)

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Growth in China
The biggest gains for the casino sector came from overseas. Macau still remains one of the bright spots in casino development and operation. The city generated nearly $13.5 billion of gaming revenue in 2008, more than double the revenue generated by the Las Vegas strip. Nearly 16 million visitors arrived in Macau this year, prompting gaming operators to get creative with financing plans.

With the credit markets seizing, Both Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) and Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq:WYNN) sold stakes in their Macau operations to the public, raising billions to complete their plans.

CityCenter Problems
MGM Mirage's
(NYSE:MGM) ambitious CityCenter was set to revitalize the Las Vegas Strip, but the project is mired in nearly $13 billion of debt. CityCenter opened this December along with the fanfare of partner Dubai World's possible default on its share of the bonds associated with the project.

Shares of MGM continue to show signs of stress as Dubai World is being pressured to sell assets, including its 26 million share stake in MGM.

Taking it to the Track
Racetrack operator Penn National Gaming (Nasdaq:PENN) has had its own share of both ups and downs. The company, first losing out to activist investor Carl Icahn in a bidding process to buy the bankrupt Fontainebleau resort, on the north end of the infamous Las Vegas Strip. Icahn has been busy buying the bank debt of several casino projects.

Penn has also seen its share of good fortune, recently winning approval to add table gaming to several of its racetracks in West Virginia. Similar voter approvals are pending in Ohio, Kansas City and in Pennsylvania.

The Bottom Line
Though many casino stocks are far above their respective 52-week lows, there is still a lot of uncertainty as consumers wrestle with concerns about the economy. Until, discretionary spending increases, any growth will come from overseas markets. (For a related discussion, check out Going All-In: Comparing Investing And Gambling.)

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