Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, Houston furniture magnate and record holder for largest payout in legal betting history, is seeking “eyeballs.” Mattress Mack has hired top talent for his new sports site to lure readers. It’s the first part of a network that will eventually include a sports gambling site.
If you’re a fan of Texas and Louisiana sports, it’s a safe bet you’ll like what you see. It’s unclear if the site is a way to get ahead of legalized sports betting in Texas. At least one effort is underway to make Texas sports betting legal next year.
A regional sports site with top-flight journalists
McIngvale started Gallery Sports, named after his Gallery Furniture stores, to provide the South Texas and Louisiana sports markets up-to-the-minute coverage of their favorite teams.
Like a sports owner with deep pockets and no salary cap, McIngvale signed some top journalists to his new site. He even pulled some out of retirement. They include:
- John McClain: A 47-year veteran reporter for the Houston Chronicle (retired in March 2022) and inductee into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame
- Richard Justice: Columnist for MLB.com, the Baltimore Sun, The Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Post; host of a radio show on Sportsradio 610 in Houston
- John P. Lopez: Host of Sportsradio 610’s In the Loop; author of two hit athlete biographies
- Fred Faour: A recent edition to the site, Faour is a former sports talk show host from Houston and former editor at the Houston Chronicle. He also represents the first columnist to sign on with a gambling background.
The site currently has a heavy football focus that will eventually build out into, in McIngvale’s words, “a one-stop shop for everything in Texas and Louisiana sports.” A recent update to the site now shows an NBA section is “coming soon.”
It also features podcasts and vlogs as part of its network. There is the Astros-focused “Talkin Stros podcast” and the general sports talk and sports wagering pod “Frednation.” Both are established and have significant fan bases.
Rachel van Oranje, a Houston-based sports media influencer, hosts a vlog called “Juiced Up,” which features interviews with other prominent members of the Houston sports media market. McIngvale has even offered his own vlog clips called “Mack Ups” where he gives run downs of the coming week’s college and pro football matchups.
Content comes at you fast, fast, fast
McIngvale’s furniture store is known for its same-day deliveries, and that same speedy approach is on display at Gallery Sports. The result is engaging and frenetic.
Every article includes a flame icon next to the byline indicating how many pageviews it’s received. The home page bombards the reader with two layers of side-scrolling cover photos and headlines. The right sidebar allows readers to filter a list of 20 articles by popularity, recency or number of comments.
Readers can easily use drop-down menus to search by team, league and sport. However, finding the multimedia content is not as straightforward. There is, for example, no way to browse podcasts, something most people would expect of a site that featured the format.
Images are prominent, and text is small. The overall effect of the site is somewhat disorienting.
One major plus is that the content is totally free. Usually, sites with this caliber of journalism have immediate paywalls. Gallery Sports is entirely free (a word McIngvale loves to say). The only ad you’ll find is for Mattress Mack’s Gallery Furniture.
It’s unknown where revenue will ultimately come for the site, but one option is to become an affiliate, where operators make deals with entities that deliver sign-ups to their platforms.
A potential conflict of interest is in the offing
Gallery Sports is the first part of the Gallery Sports Network, which will eventually include Gallery Gaming, a sports gambling site.
Whether Gallery Gaming will focus on Texas sports betting is unclear. However, it raises an important question: Does a major high-stakes bettor create a conflict of interest by running his own sports betting site?
In addition, what about potential responsible gambling issues presented by a man known for multi-million dollar bets running a gambling site aimed at the general public?
Mattress Mack is not a gambler by definition
Mattress Mack’s exploits in the sports betting industry are well documented. He made record-setting bets on the Super Bowl last year and has done so for numerous major sporting events. When possible, he piles his money on teams from the South Texas region.
These bets are not simply the impulses of a multi-millionaire. In fact, they almost fail to qualify as gambling in terms of risk and reward. They’re calculated hedges against massive promos offered to the customers at his furniture stores.
While McIngvale may bet millions of dollars on the Astros to win the World Series, he knows his promo offers will bring in millions in mattress sales. He may or may not win his bets, but he profits on mattress sales either way. A lot of money is at stake but not much risk.
In this way, he’s not like most gamblers.
When Gallery Gaming launches, it will, in McIngvale’s words, “be a separate site with content talking about different odds, scenarios and some of the crazy things I’m doing.” At that point, one might question the ethics of a sports betting personality who’s bets assume disproportionately low risk operating a site that presents betting scenarios.
McIngvale’s bets shape betting lines
McIngvale’s enormous bets have the power to shape odds, as he acknowledged to Horse Racing Nation during this year’s Kentucky Derby.
“Last year, I bet a little bit in the morning and a little bit in the early afternoon. That way it didn’t affect the odds pool so much. It’s always an interesting strategy when you’re going to bet one-third of the win pool on the Kentucky Derby favorite and how to do it without destroying his odds.”
Could he present scenarios to his readers that preserve bets favorable to him? While unlikely, it is at least possible. Add to that the fact that he is also known for losing some huge bets. One could envision a reader without McIngvale’s resources being swayed by his outlandish wagers and assuming undue risk.
Will responsible gaming resources be available?
Since all gambling involves some risk, McIngvale’s eventual gaming site should provide responsible gaming resources to its readers. Gaming regulators typically create these resources for the state. Since sports betting is still illegal in Texas for the time being, Mack will likely be limited in what responsible gaming resources he could offer.
We don’t know when McIngvale plans to add Gallery Gaming to the network, but we know he likes to move “fast, fast, fast.” Fans of Texas and Louisiana sports ought to check out his site for its top-quality content. Bettors, though, should approach a Mattress Mack-backed sports betting site with some diligence.