“The most addictive thing you can do on your phone except perhaps cocaine,” said John Oliver by way of introducing last night’s target du jour: bazillion-dollar fantasy sports betting sites like Fan Duel and Draft Kings that prey on gullible woulbe jock couch potatoes. You know, those sites with the ever-present commercials chock-full of sports-lovin’, nacho-pounding high-fivin’ white guys (and one token black guy) bragging about the insane winnings they pocketed betting for or against their favorite athletes. According to WIRED, Fan Duel and Draft Kings combined outspent the ENTIRE BEER INDUSTRY ad spend for a month. For the three week run up to the NFL season, Fan Duel and Draft Kings had a commercial on national television every 90 seconds. Who’s getting in on all this action? An alphabet soup of greed and exploitation: ESPN, MSNBC, FOX, CNN, NFL, MLB, NBA.
Recently, daily fantasy sports sites have come under fire for their uncanny similarities to illegal gambling sites. In 2006, Congress passed the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act”, which was intended to crack down on illegal Internet gambling. However, this legislation did not explicitly say that fantasy sports games were illegal, a surely-not-accidental loophole that set the stage for the birth and explosive growth of Fan Duel and Draft Kings. Additionally, these fantasy sports sites skirt the law by insisting they are skill-based, not games of chance, i.e. the nice word for gambling.
So how skilled do you have to be? Unlike, say, actual sports, which rewards the strongest and the fastest, fantasy sports rewards the smartest — people that can crunch big data into probability. Some players spend hours and hours poring over homemade algorithms so specific, that factor in everything from injuries to weather forecasts. One data cruncher earned $200,000 last year betting on fantasy sports. Still, Fan Duel and Draft Kings clearly is not for the casual player, 91% of the profits are made by 1.3% of the players a study showed. That adds up to 85% of users being empty-pocket losers. Like casinos, fantasy sports sites make bazillions of dollars fomenting the illusion that everyone can win big, while in reality 99% of players lose big. — MEGAN MATUZAK
BONUS CUT: John Oliver had some choice NSFW words for the cowardly assclowns that shot up Paris.