'Fantasy' island: Sports betting may be the next Macau: Expert

Macau fears overblown?

A monumental meltdown in Macau's gaming revenues hasn't halted expansion in China's gambling mecca, with new billion-dollar resorts continuing to pop up in the area as recently as last week.

In an interview with CNBC, Las Vegas Sands board member and SpringOwl Asset Management CEO Jason Ader says his near-term expectations for Macau are low. That said, a new betting platform—daily fantasy sports—is now the hottest trend in gambling.

Last week the Galaxy Macau opened its enormous Phase II addition, which now includes six hotels, 200 shops, and 120 bars and restaurants. The debut comes amid a push by Chinese officials to crack down on corruption and to create a more family-friendly, Vegas-style environment. Those shifting policies have led, in part, to 11 straight months of gaming-revenue declines in Macau, as high rollers have shied away from the area.

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"There's a lot of supply being created in the Macau market … in the backdrop of a very serious anti-corruption crackdown," Ader said on CNBC's "Fast Money" recently.

Ader said that while Macau is well-positioned long term as "the only game in town" in a region with "1.3 billion people who love to gamble," his expectations for the near term are "fairly low."

A gambler's 'fantasy'

Yet just as Macau cools down as the center of attention in the gaming world, Ader said one new entrant is just starting to heat up.

Daily fantasy sports betting is "the biggest and hottest area in the gaming industry right now," he said.

The daily fantasy craze is largely dominated by two companies, FanDuel and DraftKings, though more than a dozen other platforms exist. Those sites allow users to change their fantasy team rosters, which track real player stats in everything from Major League Baseball to college football, on a daily basis.

That's a big departure from traditional fantasy leagues, which typically last for a full season.

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Users compete against one another for cash prizes, and FanDuel says it has already paid out more than $560 million since its inception in 2009.

FanDuel and DraftKings have secured major funding from key players in the entertainment industry, and Ader estimated that both companies have valuations approaching $2 billion. In April, Disney invested $250 million in DraftKings, and CNBC's parent company Comcast invested in FanDuel in 2013.

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According to Ader, the popularity of daily fantasy sports can be traced to a shift in millennial attitudes away from traditional gaming such as slot machines. He added that the slot machine business has been declining as millennials search for new ways to entertain themselves in gambling hubs.

"If you look at millennials, take Las Vegas again, what are they doing?" he asked. "They're going to nightclubs, they're spending a lot of money on expensive alcohol. They don't really like the traditional gaming experience."

The mobile-first nature of daily fantasy sports betting is appealing to the younger crowd, he said.

"They're all playing daily fantasy sports," he stated, "and they're figuring out with statistics how they can have fun in a new way, in a way that's more mobile and more traditional with their own forms of medium."

Might daily fantasy sports ever match the size and scope of traditional casino gambling? According to Ader, "the business has the potential to be as big as Macau over time."