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Wall Street’s gambling picks as ESPN jumps into online sports betting. One is expected to rally 50%


The worldwide leader in sports is finally jumping into online betting. Disney’s ESPN division late Tuesday agreed to partner with Penn Entertainment to rebrand and relaunch the latter’s online gambling sportsbook as ESPN Bet. The operation, formerly Penn’s Barstool Sportsbook, will be run exclusively by ESPN and debut this fall in 16 states where Penn is already licensed. ESPN entering the online gambling business could signal another run for gaming companies that have a presence in the industry. Some gambling names saw record stock market performance in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic as a frenzy grew for anything tied to at-home or mobile gaming. Penn shares, for example, more than tripled in 2020, soaring 238% before crashing in 2021 (-40%) and 2022 (-43%). Now, the deal with ESPN may spell especially good news for Penn at the same time as it expands the entire online sports universe, boosting sentiment toward other online gaming companies. At one point Wednesday, Penn soared more than 18%. After the ESPN-Penn deal , CNBC Pro searched for some of Wall Street’s favorite plays in the gambling industry. We screened first for gaming stocks that have buy recommendations from at least 60% of Wall Street analysts covering them, and that have consensus stock price targets for the next 12 months at least 10% above where the stocks trade today. We used FactSet data for the search. Here are some stocks to keep an eye on that turned up on our screen: Online sports betting operator Rush Street Interactive made the list. Analysts’ average price target would translate into more than 56% upside to the average price target, according to FactSet data. Shares of Rush Street are up 12% so far this year and 5.4% in August alone. Last week, Rush Street posted second-quarter earnings per share that fell short of the Street’s expectations, but revenue beat analysts’ estimates. Earnings came to 4 cents per share, while analysts surveyed by FactSet expected 8 cents. Revenue totaled $165.1 million, topping Wall Street estimates of $157.7 million. Rush Street, which runs an online casino and sports betting in 15 states as well as parts of Canada and Latin America, also raised full-year financial guidance. Online sports wagering, where individuals create betting accounts and make wagers using an online device, is legal in roughly 30 states. Other states only allow sports betting at on-site retail locations. Caesars Entertainment also floated up on CNBC’s screen. On average, analysts expect the company to gain 29% over the next 12 months. Last week, Caesars posted second-quarter revenue that matched analysts’ expectations, according to FactSet. The gaming and hospitality supplier said its iGaming gross revenues increased sequentially during the quarter and was optimistic for the growth outlook of its iCasino products. Caesars also said it expects occupancy rates of 96% to 98% in the third quarter, depending on the property. The company’s share price is down a little more than 5% this month but has rallied 34.5% so far this year. Analysts are also optimistic about Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corporation. Shares of Boyd Gaming are up almost 24% so far this year, and analysts are projecting nearly 19% upside based on consensus price targets. On the second-quarter earnings conference call, management said nongaming revenue trends were consistent with its overall business performance, with room for revenue growth in Las Vegas.

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