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MGM Resorts International, the largest casino operator on the Las Vegas Strip, reported a quarterly profit that beat analysts’ estimates, as the company drew more gamblers in Nevada.

Excluding items, profit was 4 cents a share, the Las Vegas- based company said today in a statement. Analysts on average projected a profit of 1 cent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sales climbed 6.8 percent to $2.5 billion, compared to the average analyst projection of $2.42 billion.

Las Vegas casinos have struggled to return to pre-recession growth as consumer spending has remained weak. Properties on the Strip generated gaming revenue of $1.39 billion in the second quarter, down 2.1 percent from last year, while baccarat revenue, a growth area in recent years, declined 15 percent, according to Bloomberg Industries. In contrast, gaming revenue at casinos in Macau, where MGM owns a property, rose 16 percent.

MGM posted a net loss of $92.9 million, or 19 cents a share, in the three months ending in June, compared with a loss of $145.5 million, or 30 cents, a year earlier.

MGM China declared a dividend of $113 million, to be paid on or about Sept. 2 to shareholders of record as of Aug. 26. MGM Resorts will receive $57 million, representing its 51 percent share of the dividend, according to the statement.

MGM’s shares rose 2.6 percent to $16.98 at 8:12 a.m. in New York. Through yesterday’s close, the shares were up 42 percent this year compared with a 20 percent advance in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Editors: Ben Livesey and Niamh Ring. To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at cpalmeri1@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net.

Photo Credit: MGM is beginning to recover from recession slump as more gamblers head to Las Vegas. Leonardo Pallotta / Flickr