The man who thinks of himself as “the world’s biggest gambler” says legalizing sports betting in Texas is a bad idea.
In an interview on his own Gallery Sports website, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale revealed his surprising and morally-confused position on expanding legal gambling in the state. In short, he stated, “I’m 1,000% against it.”
McIngvale’s interview presented a range of disparate thoughts on legal sports betting that PlayTexas thinks Texans would be wise to ignore.
A salesman, not a gambler
Mattress Mack is first and foremost a salesman. At some point in his past, Jim McIngvale may have been a gambler–risking money, winning some, losing some, watching his bank account rise and fall. Today though, as he says the words “I am the world’s biggest gambler,” he is misleading his audience.
The reality is that Mattress Mack uses bets as hedges against furniture promotions. Fundamentally, he assumes no risk because his gambling debts are subsidized by people buying furniture, and he can adjust both promotion and bet to ensure that he stays in the black. For instance, During the Houston Astros 2022 World Series run, McIngvale had to stop a furniture promotion because he sold through his potential gambling winnings.
Promoting himself as a gambler and glorifying his bets isn’t a problem for a savvy businessman trying to sell furniture. However, it’s incredibly dangerous when McIngvale decides to concern himself with the welfare of his community.
McIngvale pays lip service to discipline but encourages recklessness
In his Gallery Sports interview, McIngvale states,
“I am the world’s most famous gambler because I am very impulsive. And I feel like other gamblers like me are very impulsive. And if all you have to do to make a bet is pick up the phone … it’s too easy.
“You have to have the discipline of having to get in the car, drive all the way to Louisiana or fly to Lafayette or Lake Charles, wherever, and make the bet.”
Who is McIngvale speaking to here? The person in San Antonio who wants to drop $20 on the Super Bowl, or the person in Houston who wants to drop $20,000? And who’s going to fly anywhere to place a bet? Again this must be taken with a grain of salt. He’s obviously got big spenders like himself in mind, but this advice actually reinforces some dangerous gambling habits for the casual bettor.
The central Texas bettor isn’t about to jump in their car and drive overnight to Lake Charles to place a bet. If Texas doesn’t legalize sports betting, these bettors will show their “discipline” by seeking out risky offshore sports books to place their bets.
Further, impulsiveness is a dangerous trait for a gambler. Many bettors would be wise to consider self-exclusion from their sports book operator if they see this trait dominating their betting habits. McIngvale doesn’t recognize this at all. For him, impulsiveness is just a feeling that needs to be coupled with conviction. In his mind, if you’re not willing to spend the extra time and money on travel to make your bet, then leave it to those who are.
While McIngvale might think these statements appeal to the dangers of gambling addiction, they do not. He’s unable to grasp what the average bettor considers because–and this point can’t be stressed enough–Mattress Mack is not a gambler.
Playing a dangerous game
In the interview, McIngvale made a couple of baseless claims about the lottery “doing nothing” for education as well as the need for more trade-based training to give students purpose.
John P. Lopez, his interviewer, didn’t press either of these points. Instead he asserted they were “equally as compelling” as arguments about revenue growth and job creation from expanding legal gambling, which he didn’t bother to lay out either. The result is that the Gallery Sports article presents McIngvale as a concerned citizen interested in lifting up his community.
However, At the same time that McIngvale makes statements like,
“There are a whole lot of people that gambling has ruined their lives. I’m lucky enough not to have ruined my life. And you know, you get up to the edge. But for a lot of people, it’s like … if you fly close enough to the Sun, sooner or later it’s going to burn you.”
he posts bet hype videos like this, asking, “are you riding with Mack?”
Mattress Mack made another hype tape for his bet 😭
This time for his $200K Cowboys to win the NFC bet
— br_betting (@br_betting) January 16, 2023
When seen in the light of each other, both iterations of McIngvale come off as disingenuous. On the one hand, he’d like Texans to steer clear of gambling and sports betting, but, on the other hand, he’d also like them to root him on so they can reap the rewards from his promo offers.
The deeper irony to all this grandstanding is that McIngvale’s promotions actually make gamblers out of his customers. Instead of gambling with money though, they’re gambling with furniture. One Astros fan said as much for a Caesar’s Sportsbook press release:
“I’ve never done the promotion, but my brother did it in 2017. He had just bought a house and then bought a bunch of mattresses, and they became free after the Astros won. It basically felt like a sports bet since he had free mattresses riding on it.”
None of this is lost on McIngvale either. He regularly tweets about how his bets will win his customers free furniture, leading them to decide if they ought to make the same bet and buy a mattress. Surely, he checks the receipts at his furniture stores after posting these tweets to see how many people took the bait and how much more money he can stand to bet. At this point in his career, it’s a pretty stable system.
Ultimately, Jim McIngvale might be good for Houston, and he certainly does do good in his community. However, he is playing a fast and loose game by posing as both a “gambling outlaw” and a concerned citizen, and the bottom line is that Texans should not trust him. He does not have a real position against gambling because he is not a real gambler.
He is a salesman selling mattresses, and he is very good at it. That is all.