EXCLUSIVE: Mattress Mack Pushes for Texas Sports Betting, Calls It a “Stress Reliever”

Posted on: May 2, 2021, 11:16h. 

Last updated on: May 3, 2021, 09:28h.

Before Houston businessman Jim McIngvale could make his Super Bowl bet, he first had to get on a plane. America’s highest-profile sports bettor, known to most as “Mattress Mack,” lives in a state that has yet to legalize the activity.

Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale
Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale gets ready to make one of his bets on Essential Quality during Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. (Image: NBC Sports)

It’s a fact not lost on him.

We need to open up sports gambling in Texas,” McIngvale told Casino.org. “It’d be a huge industry and puts some more money into the state coffers and prevents people like me having to fly to Colorado to bet.”

Two weeks ago, a Texas legislative committee received testimony on proposed constitutional amendments that would legalize sports betting and casino gaming in the country’s second-most populous state. Las Vegas Sands has reportedly invested millions in a campaign to promote expanded gaming in the Lone Star State.

However, the measures face opposition. Earlier this year, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said there are not enough votes in the state Senate for it to pass.

The day before Mattress Mack made his $2.4 million bet on Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby, he sat down with Casino.org to talk about the future of horse racing and share his thoughts on the proliferation of sports betting across the country.

Mattress Mack: Bettor and Believer

In addition to being a high-profile gambler, McIngvale is also a person who actively professes his faith. His Twitter account features as many, if not more, tweets citing Bible verses than sports betting content.

He’s also opened up his Gallery Furniture stores in Houston as temporary shelters during times of crisis. He did so most recently during the February winter storm that shut down much of the state for days. And for the Kentucky Derby, he partnered with Churchill Downs to bring about 300 representatives of the state’s foster care system to watch the race as their guests.

It’s an issue close to him. His daughter and her husband formally adopted their son two years ago after serving as foster parents.

“I have seen firsthand the importance of foster care, and Brodie has been a true joy in my life,” McIngvale said in a statement from Churchill Downs.

Those two sides to Mattress Mack are noteworthy, especially when many who oppose expanded gaming cite religious or moral arguments.

While Texas does not offer much in the form of legal gaming, it does have a state lottery, which first sold tickets nearly 30 years ago. McIngvale called the lottery the “worst gamble in history,” and said that many who have opposed efforts to expand gaming in Texas have not said much about the lottery.

Country Faces “Bigger Issues than Gambling”

McIngvale added that he believes the country has “bigger moral issues” it must address.

“One of the big moral issues we need to focus on is, “We don’t have enough young people in the country,” he said just days after the US Census Bureau announced that the country’s population grew at its slowest rate since the 1930s. “There’s more people in the country right now over 80-years old than there are 2-years old, and that’s a problem for the future of the country. We need to focus on bigger issues than gambling.”

He went on to call gambling a “harmless attraction,” though he noted that it can be addictive, as much so as drinking alcohol, sex, and other activities.

“With control, I think gambling is something that’s a good hobby for people,” he added. “It’s certainly a stress reliever for me.

“My wife asks me all the time, ‘Do I have a gambling problem?’ No, I have a promoting problem,'” he quipped. “Because every gamble I do is tied to Gallery Furniture and promotes the business. And seeing success being measured by results, I haven’t done too bad.”

In February, Mattress Mack bet nearly $3.5 million on Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl. He ended up netting more than $2.7 million after the Buccaneers won. Those proceeds offset the refunds customers received as a result of a Gallery Furniture promotion tied to the big game.

Besides his sports bets, the only other bets he says he makes are on his stable of horses. However, he added that he doesn’t bet a lot on them unless they’re longshots.