Churchill Downs Stock Upgraded as Analyst Sees Benefits from Illinois Gaming Bill

Posted on: June 6, 2019, 01:22h. 

Last updated on: June 6, 2019, 01:48h.

Shares of Churchill Downs Inc. (NASDAQ: CHDN) surged 6.1 percent Wednesday to close at $109.07 with volume more than double its daily average after Tesley Advisory Group analyst Brian McGill upgraded the stock, noting the company stands to benefit from the recently passed gaming legislation in Illinois.

Thanks to its ownership stake in Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill., a Tesley Advisory Group analyst has upgraded the stock of Churchill Downs Inc. to buy. The recently passed expanded gaming bill in the Illinois General Assembly should help Churchill Downs increase its business in the state. (Image: ABC7 Chicago)

McGill upgraded shares of the casino and racetrack owner to “outperform” from “market perform,” while boosting his price target on the stock to $120 from $108.

Illinois recently passed wide-ranging gaming legislation aimed at shoring up the state’s finances, a move that some industry observers see as a negative for existing operators in the Land of Lincoln due to the specter of increased competition. However, McGill sees Churchill Downs as an exception.

While this is broadly correct, we believe CHDN is an exception that is poised to benefit tremendously due in large part to its 61 percent stake in the Rivers Casino,” said the Tesley analyst in a note out Wednesday.

The Kentucky-based company acquired that position Rivers Casino, which is located in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, earlier this year by purchasing a controlling stake in Midwest Gaming Holdings (MGH).

On Thursday, the stock extended its winning streak, going up 1.1 percent to $110.26.

It’s Been a While

It has been more than two years since Tesley Group changed its rating on Churchill Downs. In April 2017, the research firm downgraded the owner of the eponymous race track and the wagering site, to “market perform” from “outperform.”

Since that time, Tesley has reiterated that rating eight times, the last time in April. McGill’s new price target of $120 on Churchill Downs is above the average analyst forecast of $109. With the stock up about 14 percent over the past week and more than 34 percent year-to-date, it is possible more analysts could revise their price estimates upwards on Churchill Downs.

McGill said Rivers Casino being well-positioned to withstand new competition in the Chicago-area gaming market is not surprising because the property is managed by Chicago-based Rush Street and Neil Bluhm. Bluhm, a Chicago casino and real estate mogul, was reportedly active in crafting the new Illinois gaming bill.

Plenty of Benefits

The Prairie State’s newly liberalized gambling laws could potentially benefit the Rivers Casino on multiple fronts, according to McGill.

The analyst sees the state’s new tax schedule as “particularly beneficial to Rivers” while noting the venue will be able to increase the number of gaming positions offered to patrons to 2,000 from the current amount of 1,200.

McGill also said the Illinois bill will allow Churchill Downs to install 1,200 gaming positions at Arlington International Racecourse. Located in Arlington Heights, Illinois, Arlington International is home to a 1 1/8-mile main track, a one-mile turf course, and a five-furlong training track.

On Wednesday, shares of Churchill Downs hit an all-time high, making it one of just 190 stocks trading in the US to accomplish that feat yesterday. There are about 4,000 stocks trading on the major American exchanges.