Are you ready to bet on some football? Gambling stocks hope to get an NFL boost

By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business

    (CNN) -- Some would argue that Wall Street is just one big casino. And for investors wagering on gambling stocks, it's been a big losing bet so far this year.

Shares of sports betting giant DraftKings are down about 35% in 2022. UK-based Flutter Entertainment, which owns DraftKings rival FanDuel, has fallen 20%.

Most of the major casino companies are also struggling.

MGM and Wynn Resorts are each down around 25%. Penn Entertainment, which owns a 36% stake in Barstool Sports and announced plans earlier this month to buy the rest of the company, has plunged almost 35%. Caesars Entertainment has lost half its value this year.

Worries about an economic slowdown are hurting these stocks as persistent inflation and a possible recession have led investors to question if gamblers will bet less.

But there is also a sense that there are too many gambling companies chasing too few potential gamblers. FanDuel CEO Amy Howe said late last year that she thought the sports gambling market was oversaturated. David Gandler, CEO of sports streaming service FuboTV, which also has a betting unit, made similar comments earlier this year.

Still, some experts are optimistic that a comeback could be in the cards. After all, the NFL season is around the corner, with week 1 kicking off right after Labor Day.

The NFL has historically been the biggest draw for gamblers, even before the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that states other than Nevada could legalize sports betting. But now companies including DraftKings, FanDuel and the top casinos are all trying to get a bigger piece of the national action.

"We are in a strong position from a competitive perspective as we approach the beginning of the NFL season," DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said after the company reported earnings earlier this month. "We remain well-capitalized, ready to enter new markets as they become live, and confident in our ability to compete and win with customers."


Wagering on a big financial touchdown


According to the American Gaming Association, 30 states and Washington, DC, have legalized some form of sports betting. The gambling industry got a big lift earlier this year when online betting went live in New York.

Others in the business believe that demand for online betting will continue to grow — and that the start of the NFL season will give the entire industry a lift.

"The apex of sports betting in the United States is nowhere in sight," said Charles Gillespie, CEO of digital marketing firm Gambling.com. "We aren't seeing fatigue."

"With week 1 of the NFL season — the seasonal peak of interest in US sports and sports betting — you're going to see an absolute explosion in betting activity and revenue in the legal sports betting market," he added.

Gillespie also said that even if consumers worried about a recession decide to not go to Las Vegas for vacation, they may still decide to "engage in sports betting through their phones from home."

But some investment pros still prefer the brick and mortar casinos, most of which have sportsbooks on site. The hope is that US tourism will continue to pick up— to Las Vegas in particular — now that more people are vaccinated and Covid-19 fears have started to wane.

"I really like Caesars. Heading into football season, there should be a boost for casinos and sports betting," said Lamar Villere, portfolio manager with Villere & Co., which owns Caesars stock. Caesars operates several casinos in Las Vegas as well as in Reno, Nevada.

Villere also said that the renovation of a Caesars' property in New Orleans could help the company. And he noted that while parts of China are seeing a new surge in Covid cases, Caesars can benefit from the fact that it does not have a presence in the international gaming mecca of Macao. MGM, Wynn and Las Vegas Sands do have casinos there.

"Caesars is a pure domestic play," Villere said. "You don't have to worry about what's happening with China and Macao."

The-CNN-Wire
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