PrizePicks expanding Atlanta HQ despite Georgia’s sports betting purgatory

Homegrown fantasy sports giant plants its flag in Georgia despite the state’s murky sports betting laws
Photo illustration. (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Photo illustration. (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Daily fantasy sports is all about finding overlooked value.

Whether it’s banking on a player’s hot streak or believing a scrappy team is this year’s Cinderella, sports fans bet they can capitalize on their knowledge and intuition.

One of the largest and fastest-growing mobile sports platforms sees Atlanta as a worthwhile wager — one worth doubling down.

PrizePicks announced in April it will expand its Atlanta headquarters by moving to the top floor of the glitzy Star Metals building in West Midtown and adding 1,000 new employees over the next seven years. It’s a massive move for a homegrown company that also represents the growing influence of the wider mobile fantasy sports industry, despite Georgia ranking among the largest states without legal sports betting.

The wave of corporate investment into daily fantasy sports is also synergistic with the surging popularity of the WNBA, along with large annual events like the NBA and NHL finals, which are both currently underway.

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For years, Georgia lawmakers have debated codifying daily fantasy sports betting and sports wagering into law, arguing it will bring in fresh tax revenue for Georgia Lottery-funded education programs. Major sports leagues like the NFL and NBA have embraced sports betting after shunning it for decades. But as Georgia legalization efforts have stalled, some players in the industry have taken advantage of the murkiness of state law.

Unlike sports betting and gambling companies, PrizePicks and other daily fantasy sports platforms say they are able to legally offer their slate of pay-to-play games because their activities are categorized differently under Georgia law. Adam Wexler, the company’s CEO, said common law — which is established by judicial precedent rather than government statutes — has defined daily fantasy sports as a game of skill, which is permitted in Georgia.

Wexler said Atlanta is a sports and music juggernaut that helps keep PrizePicks on the cutting-edge of culture. He said a Peach State homebase helps differentiate his platform from other daily fantasy sports and mobile betting competitors.

“I’ve long found it as a competitive advantage that this business is headquartered in the hip-hop capital of the world in Atlanta where culture is arguably our biggest export,” Wexler said. “One of our company’s strengths is that nobody else in our industry is based in Atlanta.”

Adam Wexler is the CEO of PrizePicks, a fantasy sports company that is based in Atlanta and is expanding its headquarters. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy PrizePicks

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Credit: Courtesy PrizePicks

Like many fantasy sports players, Wexler looked for new avenues to expand his fandom at a time when the industry was going through a renaissance. The Sandy Springs native grew PrizePicks from the Atlanta Tech Village startup hub into the most downloaded free sports app on Apple’s App Store. It remains in the top 10, surrounded by other contemporaries like FanDuel, DraftKings and Underdog Fantasy, some of which are allowed to operate in Georgia as daily fantasy sports sites and not as sportsbook setting operations.

Brett Abarbanel, the executive director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said mobile fantasy sports and gambling applications have exponentially grown in popularity. The ability to place a wager while watching a game and get an immediate payout — or disappointment — has captured a large portion of sports fans.

“It’s quick information. It’s quick turnaround activities,” she said, comparing daily fantasy sports’ popularity to that of TikTok and other short-form social media platforms.

Though proponents argue full legalization would create a windfall for education, opponents say it’s not worth the potential social costs.

“Legalizing social vices does bring in money,” said Mike Griffin, a lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, which opposes legal sports betting. “But sometimes — well all the times — there are consequences that outweigh the money that you’re going to make.”

Skill vs. luck

The choice of how to handle sports betting was thrust upon the states in 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that banned sports wagering in most of the country, allowing states to regulate mobile sportsbooks. In the years since, dozens of states have legalized sports betting.

Georgia, along with Texas and California, are among the 12 states that have not codified any form of sports betting, leaving it up to their state constitutions and court precedent to regulate the industry. PrizePicks operates in all three states, arguing it’s able to operate as a game of skill.

This map shows which states can access daily fantasy sports games on PrizePicks. (Courtesy)

Credit: Courtesy PrizePicks

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Credit: Courtesy PrizePicks

Jacek Dmochowski, an associate professor at the City University of New York, has studied the math of sports betting to find optimal strategies. Like poker, he argues wagering money on sports outcomes does involve skill, although he cautions players to know the odds are stacked against them.

“It’s a game of skill with an extraordinarily high level of difficulty,” Dmochowski said. “There are literally armies of talented experts that are working to generate the optimal prices for the sportsbook.”

From office March Madness pools to illegal bookies, sports gambling has gone on for ages.

“Sports betting is already happening in Georgia, but that money is going to illegal bookmakers and illegal offshore providers,” said Sports Betting Alliance President Jeremy Kudon. “Let’s keep that money in Georgia and create a regulated and age-restricted marketplace that exists in more than half the country.”

Supporters have said sports betting could bring anywhere from $30 million to $100 million in tax revenue to the state each year. Two bills that would have led to a statewide sports betting referendum passed the state Senate earlier this year, but they were never brought up for a vote in the House.

“As far as the public is concerned, it’s just freedom,” said state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, who was one of the bills’ sponsors. “It’s just to give them the freedom to participate in an activity that is enjoyable to many people.”

More than 81% of Republican primary voters said in May they would “support a statewide vote to allow gaming in Georgia so the voters can decide this issue instead of politicians in Atlanta.” The next opportunity for a statewide referendum is 2026.

Despite being in favor of legal sports betting, Cowsert said the political landscape in Georgia is still a challenge for proponents. He said a majority of residents may support it, although it isn’t a top priority for many — except opponents.

Griffin, of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said expanded gambling is profitable to the industry, not to Georgia, and argues the gambling that takes place isn’t a game of skill but of chance.

“When you’re gambling on players, it is a game of chance because you’re not having anything to do with the outcome because you’re not the player,” Griffin said.

Ultimate second screen

Even without legal clarity, the mobile sports industry has exploded across the country.

Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimated that Americans wagered more than $1.2 billion on this year’s Super Bowl, and daily fantasy sports goes well beyond the country’s most popular sports league.

PrizePicks offers users access to wager on player stats across more than 30 fantasy sports categories including the major leagues, popular e-sports and more niche games like competitive darts and the Canadian Football League.

Credit: Courtesy PrizePicks

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Credit: Courtesy PrizePicks

“We’re a very stars-based app,” Wexler said, name-dropping Caitlin Clark’s emergence as a strong run for both the app and women’s basketball.

Wexler said the industry’s rise isn’t surprising, since it offers fans a new way to interact with games as they watch. He said those lines are getting blurred as mobile apps add new features to entice users to stay online.

“We talk about being the ultimate second screen for the viewing experience,” Wexler said. “But in some cases, the second screen is colliding with the first screen.”

PrizePicks has one major contemporary in Georgia that has set up its nuts and bolts office operations. Since 2022, FanDuel has leased offices within the bustling Ponce City Market.

“FanDuel’s growing footprint of several hundred colleagues within Ponce City Market has been powered by the diverse talent emanating from Georgia’s strong public, private and HBCU institutions,” said FanDuel spokesperson Chris Jones. “.... We look forward to having the opportunity to someday bring the regulated excitement of our platforms to the passionate fans of Georgia.”

Wexler compared his app to another popular trend in sports — the mixed-use stadium district, such as the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park and The Battery.

Wexler said PrizePicks sees that mix of restaurants, bars and entertainment beyond baseball as a model to build upon across its digital platforms.

“We’re about to basically enhance (our main PrizePicks games) with all of these ancillary, complementary assets,” he said. “... At the end of the day, we’re going to become an entertainment business.”