US Execs on Stocks Splurge as Sports Betting Spreads in US

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It’s perhaps no surprise that, with the eager adoption of sports betting in the US, key executives have been getting a slice of the action.

As states move to legalize sports betting in the US, shares of gambling companies have been rising steadily, and executives in the gambling sector are buying stocks. Reports seem to confirm that one executive spent around $3.1m (£2.4m) for a stake in a regional gambling company.

Penn National

Timothy J. Wilmott, Gaming Chief Executive of Penn National, disclosed a filing that lists his purchase of 100,000 shares of Penn National for an average price of $30.85 (£23.94). The transaction took place on August 15, just two days before the company announced it would launch sports betting at five casinos in Mississippi, the firm’s Hollywood Casino in Pennsylvania, and Charles Town Races in West Virginia.

That was just one of stock the buyouts made by regional executives since the Supreme Court judgment allowing states to legalize sports betting was announced in May. However, Wilmott’s purchase was certainly the biggest on the open market by an executive or director.

Figures show that in terms of volume and market value since online SEC records began back in 2003, it was actually the largest to date.

This could be partly down to the recent purchase by Penn National of smaller operator Pinnacle Entertainment in a deal that is expected to conclude early in the fourth quarter. JPMorgan analyst Joseph Greff said last month: “We think Penn National’s ability to improve margins will only be enhanced when its pending acquisition of Pinnacle closes.”

An alternative asset class

Pundits have been exploring the idea that sports betting could soon control its own asset class, but insiders at gambling corporations seem to favor the companies’ current stock.

Both Caesars Entertainment CEO and CFO bought shares in the company on the open market earlier this month; the company announced in July that it would launch sports betting at its Atlantic City, Tunica, and Gulf Coast locations.

On July 31, Robert G. Goldstein, president and COO at Las Vegas Sans, bought 10,000 shares in the company for $711,250 (£551,862), an average of $71.13 (£55.19) each. It was the manager’s first purchase in around 14 years and the largest by a company insider since 2009, when Sheldon G. Adelson bought 4.7 million shares for $14.2m (£11.0m).

Stocks expected to rise

As it stands, shares in Penn National are lower than they were at their highest, but they are still up by around 10% over last year. Caesars is down 20% and Las Vegas Sands has dropped by 3%, excluding dividends.

All three firms are expected to benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned the Amateur Sports Protection Act, making way for legalized sports betting. Thomas Allen, an analyst for Morgan Stanley, wrote a report at the time that said: “Regional operators Boyd Gaming (BYD) and Penn National are likely the biggest beneficiaries in our coverage given their smaller market caps and exposure to numerous states.”

There’s also a lot of movement in the markets around properties and, with multiple partnerships on the horizon, this is where the water could really get murky.

For instance, Allen in late June raised his target price on LVS to $86 (£66.7), a $1 increase to account for the “limited impact” the sports betting legalization will have on the firm given its size. LVS gets 90% of its earnings before deductions from Asia and is selling its single non-Nevada-based US property.

Although even though the firm dwarfs Penn National and Caesars with a market share of around $52bn ($40.3bn), compared to Caesars’ $7bn (£5.4bn) and Penn National’s share of about $3bn (£2.33bn), analysts are still expecting Penn National to be the biggest beneficiary of the sports betting ruling overall.


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