Las Vegas Sands, MGM, Other Gaming Stocks Pounded Amid Renewed COVID-19 Fears

Posted on: September 21, 2020, 09:49h. 

Last updated on: September 21, 2020, 11:04h.

Gaming equities are following broader markets lower Monday, as investors fret about the potential of another wave of coronavirus cases in the US. Specific to travel and leisure stocks, Wall Street is growing pensive regarding the return to normalcy time line.

traders gaming stocks
Stocks slumped Monday and gaming names went along for the ride, as coronavirus fears resurfaced. (Image: Business Insider)

It’s a sea of red to start the week for casino operators, with Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) the lone exception. Shares of the regional gaming company are higher by one percent in midday trading, a move likely supported by bullishness on sports betting. The Orleans operator is the exception, not the rule today, as most gaming equities are being drubbed. Market participants are jittery over a rising number of pandemic-induced restrictions across Europe.

Expect lots more restrictions over the days and weeks ahead, especially in Europe,” Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note out today. “The fact that the virus is already spreading quite rapidly is a big worry.”

On Sunday, France reported 10,569 new COVID-19 cases, while the UK tallied nearly 4,000 new cases. Over the weekend in the US, the fatality count from the virus approached 200,000. On Monday, Arizona and Florida, previously coronavirus hot spots, tallied case count increases of 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent from the prior day. But those percentages are well below the 0.4 percent seven-day average.

That progress isn’t enough to allay concerns about gaming stocks today, as Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) is lower by almost six percent, while MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM), the largest operator on the Las Vegas Strip, is off more than four percent.

Vaccine Time Line: Murky at Best

Further pressuring gaming equities, particularly those with deep dependence on the Strip, is lingering debate on exactly when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for mass distribution.

President Trump believes vaccinations can commence as soon next month. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says November or December is more likely, and that it will take six to nine months to vaccinate all Americans. That places a return to normalcy time line in the third quarter of 2021.

With corporations holding off on booking conventions and many leisure travelers wary of flying until a vaccine is readily available, waiting until July, August, or September of 2021 for things to look normal again is a potentially big ask for investors holding gaming equities. Underscoring the sensitivity of Las Vegas-heavy operators to the vaccine theme, Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) is joining rival MGM to the downside today with a loss of almost four percent.

The Other Variable

The other wild card for financial markets and, certainly, casino operators, is the efficacy of any COVID-19 treatment.

There are more than 100 therapies currently in various stages of trials. But only a handful are viewed as credible contenders, and, at this juncture, it’s not immediately clear if any will be effective in vanquishing the virus.

The most optimistic time line is that a small number of companies that are in advanced stage trials on coronavirus vaccines could provide efficacy updates to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) sometime next month.