Penn National Powers Higher as Bank of America Anoints it Preferred Gaming Pick

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Shares of Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN) are pushing higher again Wednesday, adding to a rally that’s seen the stock more than double over the past month. Some bullish analyst chatter is behind today’s move.

Bank of America (BoA) gaming analyst Shaun Kelly reiterated a “buy” rating on the regional gaming stock, while boosting his price forecast to $41 – the highest on Wall Street. Kelly dubbed Penn “el Presidente” of regional gaming stocks, a reference to Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy, who calls himself “Stool Presidente.” In January, Penn paid $163 million for a 36 percent stake in Portnoy’s company, a move analysts widely view as a significant catalyst for the shares going forward.

The analyst is also encouraged by Penn’s recent reopenings, particularly in the South, saying there are confirmed signs of strong demand despite limited capacity and offerings.

PENN’s business is mostly regional drive-to customers that show signs of strong pent-up demand in states like Mississippi and Louisiana, despite capacity restrictions,” said Kelly.

Ten of the operator’s 41 casinos are in those two states, and those properties combine for a quarter of the company’s revenue.

Encouraging Signs
“We are hearing of strong initial profitability given limited marketing/amenities (e.g. buffets),” said the BoA analyst. “While early, continued strength could lead to ’21 estimates proving conservative, and we have factored in little from either cross-over/sports into our models.”

Kelly said Penn is the bank’s preferred choice for exposure to iGaming and sports wagering, which are verticals the company is looking to enhance via the Barstool deal. Penn executives previously said online casinos will be a material contributor to top and bottom line growth starting next year. The analyst forecasts those markets growing to $20 billion or beyond.

The return of US sports could provide a jolt for Penn because it runs venues in some states where sports wagering is established. Likewise, the company has exposure in Colorado and Illinois – two states that recently approved sports betting, but were unable to take bets because of the coronavirus.

California Call
On Tuesday, a California Senate committee approved an amendment that would allow for online sports betting in the largest state by population.

“While the amendment still requires 2/3 support in both the Senate and Assembly, and voter approval via a November referendum, we had not expected this progress, given the California tribes’ focus on a referendum for onground-only sports betting,” said Morgan Stanley analyst Thomas Allen in a note to clients today.

Sports wagering in the Golden State still has a long way to go, and there are no guarantees the issue will even make it to the November ballot. But Allen named Penn as one of the beneficiaries of the aforementioned amendment, assuming that proposal is signed into law.

Commercial gaming companies such as Penn have no direct exposure to California because the state’s casino market is dominated by tribal operators and card rooms.

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