Penn (PENN, Financial) declined 28.3% in the quarter and penalized performance by 71 bps. This was due to investor concerns that a potential recession would result in a slowdown or decline in growth. The company has seen no material change to its visitation or spending levels, and its earnings remain strong. Penn is generating strong cash flow to more than offset investments in its digital growth opportunity. It is using excess cash to buy back its stock. Penn is well positioned to weather a slowdown or recession and, if one does occur, the company should still generate revenue and EBITDA above pre-pandemic levels. Management continues to use its excess cash for share repurchases and debt reduction as well as continuing investments in its digital businesses. We think the $50 million of losses this year from its digital business is modest in relation to Penn’s $1 billion of casino EBITDA. The losses from its digital business represent customer acquisition costs incurred as additional states legalize online gambling. Since it is far less expensive to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones, we expect marketing costs to decline as Penn builds its customer base. Penn’s core bricks and mortar casino business remains strong, and the company has a healthy regional casino business and a strong balance sheet to fund its digital losses.
From Ron Baron (Trades, Portfolio)'s Baron Focused Growth Fund second-quarter 2022 letter.