Mattress Mack: Winners are the best advertisement

Mattress Mack at SBC

“My wife says I have a gambling problem. I don’t have a gambling problem, I have a promotions problem.”

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale is happy to draw attention, both positive and negative. The businessman has generated millions in advertising and publicity over the years thanks to his extravagant seven-figure wagers. He spoke about his remarkable life with David Purdum of ESPN to kick off the festivities at the 2022 SBC Summit North America.

Energetic and enthusiastic, McIngvale invited a range of questions, including how he feels about some of the negative feelings from sports bettors who are less successful at getting down big bets with sports betting sites. McIngvale is with those bettors and thinks regulated books should be more willing to accept all comers.

Even he struggles with limits sometimes.

“Open up those windows. I bet onshore a lot. Every time I bet, you get as much publicity as you want and people can live vicariously through what I bet.”

“I think winners are the best advertising in the world,” he said. “Winners make the business and just figure out in your business model how to get enough margin where you can overcome someone on a hot streak. Because by definition. when there is a hot streak, a cold streak is coming. Nobody wins all the time.”

McIngvale was quick to admit plenty of his bets haven’t been the sharpest. Even when he does cash in, such as when Kansas won March Madness earlier this year, it was geography and not analytics that sparked his success.

McIngvale’s bets are less bets and more hedges. The wagers tie into promotions at his Gallery Furniture stores, where customers can cash in on discounted or free furniture if Texas-area teams succeed. There were no Texas teams in the Final Four, however. The promotion stipulated the next-closest team geographically would be the team to root for.

“And that team happened to be Kansas,” he said with a smile.

Having to rely on states that are not his great home state of Texas is par for the course for Mattress Mack. The state has yet to legalize sports betting and remains one of the most conservative states in the country when it comes to gambling offerings. In order to place his big bets, he now drives to Louisiana. When placing his big bet on Kansas, he did so while he and his wife sat in the car and enjoyed some burgers from Sonic.

McIngvale has never bet with an offshore site and doesn’t intend to in the future. He nonetheless thinks there are other things Texas and operators could be doing to make his betting easier. He regularly speaks with state lawmakers to push them to legalize betting in the state. Ever the betting man, he said he will take the under on Texas greenlighting sports betting in the next five years.

He also thinks his knack for promotion and time in the spotlight serves a purpose in persuading lawmakers in states like Texas to embrace legal sports betting and gambling expansion. Through running ads and furniture promotions that normalize betting and make a sporting event a fun sweat for customers, he helps people perceive the industry as something more than just “back room bookies.”

His public reach isn’t insubstantial either. After his Super Bowl bet on the LA Rams this year, a report indicated he racked up $20 million in earned media.

“We got $20 million in paid publicity which helps us sell furniture a long time, helps me build my personal brand, and, you know, helps let people know that we are the fun furniture store.”

Love him or hate him, it is hard to argue McIngvale isn’t crucial in helping grow sports betting awareness in the US. His big bets are hedges or, more accurately, promotions, and they raise questions about responsible gambling, betting limits, and best business practices. These are necessary conversations to have though and it surely seems like McIngvale is the perfect lightning rod to make them happen.