The gaming technology company seems poised for a turnaround.
International Game Technology (NYSE: IGT) has been a public company since 1981. Had you purchased shares at the split-adjusted offering price of $0.50, you would be sitting on a gain of 34 times that investment.
However, as with many technology companies, the world moves very fast and if management isn’t totally on top of its game, the world can pass them by. IGT hit an all-time high of $46 back in 2006, and utterly cratered in 2008 during the financial crisis, hitting a low of $8.82.
International Game Technology is a global gaming company specializing in the design, development, manufacture, and marketing of casino-style gaming equipment, systems technology, and game content across multiple platforms—land-based, online real-money and social gaming. While IGT has struggled since 2009, it has still doubled from that low. The world of gaming technology continues to evolve, but IGT is still the leader.
North America accounts for 78% of IGT’s revenues. The gaming operations segment accounts for more than half of the company’s revenues. This segment provides casinos and other game operators with machines and content licensing. It earns money by having casinos pay service fees to IGT based on how much gets wagered.
Variable and fixed fee arrangements exist, with 83% being variable. In other cases, casinos may buy the machine outright and pay a royalty fee. The Product Sales segment is thus aptly named, as it comprises a bit less than half of total revenue.
IGT’s fortunes, so to speak, are dependent on casino traffic. Revenue depends on the number and type of machines in service, levels and frequency of player wagers, and which pricing arrangement is used. Levels of play are dependent on game popularity, casino seasonality trends, economic conditions, and other player preferences.
Because of those variables, it can be somewhat difficult to predict how IGT may do from month to month. But now you understand why the stock died in 2008.
The key to understanding IGT as a long-haul business is what it refers to as “content”. If you’ve ever been in casinos, and I’ve been in too many to count, and thought about dropping money into a slot machine, what goes through your mind?
For me, it’s that first impression.
I see a machine and it either stimulates my curiosity or it doesn’t. There are so many distractions in a casino that IGT has about one second to capture your attention with its machines. So it wisely makes licensing deals with brand names, such as “Wheel of Fortune”. That name recognition and the familiar “big wheel” appears on the machine. That is more likely to grab your attention than something that isn’t branded.
Once your attention is captured, you need to be sold that the slot is going to be fun. Just pulling the lever and hoping for three cherries doesn’t cut it any more. With the “Wheel of Fortune”, there’s this enticement about hitting the right combination to get that wheel to spin. Hopefully, this hooks you and hopefully, it’s fun to play.
Content, as it is said, is king.
Of course, there is a lot of competition these days. IGT must fight that. Casinos have been struggling the past few years, but I think the economy is going to improve next year, and that may stimulate more traffic. IGT also merged with GTECH S.p.a., an international gaming company, in an aggressive move into global gaming waters.
I think the time is ripe for an IGT stock turnaround. The new entity is going to have over $6 billion in revenues and $2 billion in EBITDA. It will now be a global leader in the space. With IGT stock trading at roughly a third of its all-time high, it’s a low-cost gamble (pun intended).
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