It was only a matter of time before John Oliver dipped his toes into the murky waters of daily fantasy sports. And, in keeping with his grand takedowns of the NFL, FIFA and the Washington Redskins, he made a splash when he did.
On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, Oliver tackled sites like DraftKings and FanDuel, which have come under increasing fire in recent weeks, highlighted by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's move to ban daily fantasy games in the state of New York. The two sites quickly fired back, saying Schneiderman's unleashed an "illegal campaign to destroy a legitimate industry," which brings up the same old question that seems to have an obvious answer: Are daily fantasy sports, indeed, illegal?
The way DraftKings and and FanDuel are able to beat the system is by claiming their services aren't gambling. Instead, they offer "an entertainment product." The problem with that, however, is they're tailoring their product to the same people who flock to Vegas – for entertainment, Oliver adds – and put their life savings on the roll of a dice.
They're not being very secretive about it, either.
"Not only have they applied for and received a gambling license in the U.K.," Oliver said, "but according to the Nevada attorney general, their website once had search engine optimization phrases with multiple instances of the word 'betting.' And sites usually use alt-text like that to tell search engines what they are."
Aiding daily fantasy sports in their fight against lawmakers is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which exempted fantasy sports from the regulations applied to online gambling. That was fine when fantasy sports were a much smaller entity, of course, but exposing that loophole has led to DraftKings and FanDuel becoming multi-billionaire dollar enterprises.
"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, saying 'We are dogs, it's a doggie door, right? That's for us. We're legally dogs. Woof,'" Oliver said.
That law doesn't say fantasy sports are legal, per se; rather that they are subject to each state's gambling laws. The way they are able to beat that is by selling a product based on skill, not luck, with claims that anyone can win big. Of course, when you actually look at the stats, that doesn't seem to be the case.
"To say anyone can succeed on daily fantasy is a bit like saying that I could be the next James Bond," Oliver said. "Sure, it's a mathematically possibility, but it's a long shot."
And to further illustrate the similarities between daily fantasy and gambling, Oliver then rolled out a pitch-perfect parody of DraftKings and FanDuel's omnipresent ads, one that featured the likes of Seth Rogen, Kathryn Hahn and Martin Starr attempting to justify the hobby – and failing miserably. It's not gambling, OK? Well, maybe it actually is.