The Panther City Lacrosse Club, the newest National Lacrosse League expansion team in Fort Worth, Texas, has agreed to a record multiyear sponsorship agreement with online gaming company and sportsbook PlayUp. The franchise declined to disclose specific financial terms but said the deal, which could run as long as 10 years, includes a seven-figure guarantee with the potential to reach eight figures should sports betting become legal in Texas during the course of the partnership.
The agreement is believed to be the largest ever sponsorship deal in the NLL’s 35-year history. PlayUp, now one of Panther City’s founding partners, is the indoor box lacrosse team’s first sports gaming partner and will also serve as its fantasy and esports partner.
The Australian sports betting company currently also operates in New Zealand and India and is licensed in the U.S. in Colorado and New Jersey. Sports betting is still illegal in Texas. After lawmakers missed the deadline last year, the earliest the activity could be legalized in the Lone Star State is 2023 when the next legislative session convenes.
“Even though Texas won’t consider legalization until 2023 at the earliest … the Texas market has the potential to be one of the biggest in the country,” Panther City Lacrosse Club president, CEO & managing partner Greg Bibb said in a phone interview. Bibb said Panther City had been in conversations with several potential sports betting partners.
Texas is the second-most populous state in the U.S. Fort Worth itself is home to nearly a million people, good for the 12th biggest city in the country, with another 1.3 million next door in Dallas.
For now, the deal is structured as a traditional sponsorship arrangement. But Panther City’s agreement with PlayUp includes a market access component that enhances its value if sports betting becomes legal in Texas and Panther City receives a sports betting license and requisite regulatory approvals.
“I don’t think I can overstate the importance of this deal for our franchise,” Bibb said. “It’s a transformative level deal for us. It would be at any point, but especially with the team being in its inaugural year.
PlayUp’s logo will be featured on the Panther City jersey and in the stadium.
“Texas is an evolving state in terms of sports betting, and should legalization occur, we want to ensure we are positioned to maximize that opportunity,” PlayUp USA chairman Dennis Drazin said. “We are excited by this partnership with Panther City as it gives PlayUp a great opportunity to grow our brand and connect directly with fans throughout the state.”
Panther City’s ownership group is led by Bill Cameron, chairman and CEO of insurance and financial services conglomerate American Fidelity Group. Cameron and Bibb are also partners in the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, and Cameron owns a stake in the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
(This article has been updated in the last paragraph to clarify Bill Cameron’s role.)