His name is Jim McIngvale, although his friends know him as “Mack” and the state of Texas knows him as “Mattress Mack”. Famous in part for selling furniture to householders in the Lone Star State, McIngvale has gained even wider fame as one of the most opportunistic gamblers in the United States. His 2022 gamble, where he placed $10 million at various sportsbooks and won to the tune of $75 million when his hometown Houston Astros won the world series, led to the biggest payout in US sports betting history. Oh, and he doesn’t want Texas to legalize gambling.
In the week where efforts to regulate betting in America’s largest contiguous state moved up a gear, it was only natural that journalists would seek out McIngvale and ask for his opinion on something that would seem to be in his interests. After all, he’s a proud Texan and a keen bettor. Not only that, he wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle almost two years ago stating that it was time for Texas to legalize sports betting, stating as a key factor that he wanted the tax from his bets to be used to benefit the people of Texas, rather than Louisiana and Colorado as has previously been the case.
So as Texas prepares for a legislative round that may end in the legalization of sports betting, it seems counterintuitive that McIngvale would be against the proposed law. What could be the reason for this?
According to the man himself, it has to do with impulsivity. While his 2022 bet made him richer to the tune of tens of millions, other bets have not gone quite as well. Mattress Mack has become a famous gambler because he makes impulsive bets. He feels that other bettors are as impulsive as he is. And in his own words, having to drive to Louisiana to place a bet limits his impulsivity by a factor of a thousand. He feels that if people can pick up their phone and make a bet just like that, it will be too easy.
While his thought process is logically consistent, it’s a far cry from his 2021 op-ed in which he argued that Texans should have the “freedom” to place bets as residents of other states can. It may be that the fact that key decisions are now imminent has focused and changed his mind. As a millionaire, he can circumvent the restrictions that other Texans have to live within; in 2021 he flew to Colorado just so he could bet on the Super Bowl using his phone. He didn’t even leave the airport to do so. He can continue to do this whenever he wants to bet. Some might argue that it’s hypocritical for him to make the decision on whether other Texans who can’t just hop on a plane should have the same freedom he does.
In any case, he may find himself in the minority, as poll after poll has shown Texas residents believe they should have the right to make sports bets, and they may be given the chance as early as this November.