Remember when “fantasy sports” involved an office pool into which everyone threw $20? As anyone with a TV knows, those days are long gone—daily fantasy games like DraftKings and FanDuel now dominate. On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver dedicated his long take to breaking down the hypocrisy at the heart of these multi-billion dollar totally-not-gambling enterprises.
In 2006, Congress passed a law to crack down on online gambling, but fantasy sports—at the time mostly casual pools among friends and coworkers—were given a pass. “Through that small carve-out, two multi-billion dollar businesses have emerged,” Oliver explains. “It’s like those lawmakers built a doggie door for a beloved pooch, and then daily fantasy came bursting through like a pack of wolves.”
These corporate giants simultaneously claim that anyone can win—that’s what attracts players, after all—but also prove that they’re skill-based games, not gambling enterprises. In truth, these games are way more skill-intensive than most players realize: They’re actually dominated by a small contingent of numbers nerds using detailed algorithms. “To say anyone can succeed on daily fantasy is a bit like saying that I could be the next James Bond,” Oliver says. “Sure, it’s a mathematical possibility, but it’s a longshot.”
To set the record straight, Oliver made his own daily fantasy sports commercial with the help of a few celebrity guests—including Seth Rogen and Kathryn Hahn, who play a very unhappily married couple.