John Oliver’s latest investigation on Last Week Tonight focused on daily fantasy giants, Draft Kings and FanDuel. In dwelling more on how these sites are most definitely all about gambling, Oliver missed the connection in how this new consumerist addiction carries the same code that forces us into swallowing the American Dream as a legitimate possibility. What made me draw the comparison was this striking statistic: “91% of profits won…by the top 1.3% of players.” Creating the bridge even further was this humdinger: “85% of the players were losers.”
Is this reality stopping participation in the game? Causing doubts about the beliefs and hopes of all the players involved? Of course not. People keep gambling almost in spite of the odds, thinking that in the end they’ll win because that’s what they deserve. At the very least, they’ve been told that “winning” is what they deserve, and so they’re trying to cash in on that promise. Regardless of the curious, self-centered, fuck-everyone-else optimism fueling their investment, most players are, in fact, getting what they deserve: nothing.
Gambling on the American Dream invariably yields the same result. The profits are concentrated in the hands of a few while the dream spreads like a virus through the psyche of the many. Despite no tangible evidence to justify the persistent pursuit, people hold steadfast to their wager, almost in the spirit of Pascal’s wager, wherein it makes no sense not to believe in God because of all the potential benefits you stand to gain if it turns out that He does exist. Likewise with the American Dream. If it turns out that the Dream is a reality, what you stand to gain makes it a no-brainer to believe in it. If salvation doesn’t come, it doesn’t really matter; better to take the chance than not go for it and be left with nothing all the same. The marketing teams behind the sites have done well to exploit this self-sealing logic; in turn, we’re sealing our selves off from everyone else, selfishly focused on earnings we haven’t earned, knowing that even if we do win, it’s at the expense of the many.
Put simply, the American Dream is indeed a daily fantasy that we keep going all in on.