John Oliver Explains Why Daily Fantasy Sports Is Gambling

There's a daily fantasy sports commercial on TV every 90 seconds in America.

Between those ads are either segments on how to make money through daily fantasy or exposés about why DFS is probably, very likely, illegal. And in the middle of those segments, every host undoubtedly has to disclose their parent company's financial partnership with daily fantasy sports sites. On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver joined in with a fresh look at the hypocrisy of an industry that defines itself however it wants to suit its daily needs.


"Every time you talk to our users, what comes through loud and clear is the fact that we're an entertainment product," FanDuel CEO Matt King told PBS Frontline. "Okay, sure," retorts Oliver. "But you know what else is an entertainment product? Gambling. Gambling is incredibly entertaining until you're down 15 grand to a Russian 'entertainment' syndicate."

Oliver notes that DraftKings applied for and received a gambling license in the U.K., had search engine optimization phrases throughout its site that included the word betting, and has been declared illegal gambling by the Nevada Gaming Commission and New York attorney general. But thanks to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement act of 2006, which includes an exception for fantasy leagues that were, at the time, friendly wagers among college friends and co-workers (with no operating third party taking a cut), DFS sites have been riding the "game of skill," not gambling, argument as far as it will legally take them.

"It's like those lawmakers built a doggy door for a beloved pooch, and then daily fantasy came bursting through like a pack of wolves saying, 'We are dogs. It's a doggy door, right? That's for us. We're legally dogs. Woof. Right? Tell 'em. Woof. Step aside. Woof.' "

The problem, Oliver points out, is that "gambling enterprises, wherever they are legal, are regulated to protect people," while propped-up entertainment brands require no such oversight. Even online poker, which these sites' owners constantly compare their game to, has been regulated almost out of existence. But DFS is allowed to continue making billions by being whatever it needs to be to get through another day. "If they're going to keep bombarding us with those ads, they should at least make them a little more honest," says Oliver.