Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale on Thursday made the largest wager in New Jersey’s modest one-year-old mobile sports betting history, placing $1.5 million on the Houston Astros to win the World Series at +220 on the FanDuel Sportsbook app, for a potential payout of $3.3 million.
The bet is one part of a multi-state strategy by the Houston-area bedding tycoon to mitigate his risk should the Astros win the World Series for the second time in three years.
In 2017, McIngvale famously refunded about $13 million to customers who spent at least $3,000 at his Gallery Furniture store in the months leading up to the World Series title. With an insurance policy he estimated at around 10-20% of his losses and more than a million dollars of bets in Las Vegas on the Astros, McIngvale figures he came out well ahead — considering the publicity.
Now with multiple states offering legal sports betting, McIngvale — who officially made his FanDuel bet on his mobile phone but who spoke with NJ Online Gambling during a visit to the Meadowlands Racetrack’s brick-and-mortar FanDuel Sportsbook — can hedge differently.
“I only bet legally, and now with New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, lots of states — my total liability is going to be about $15 million, and I should have it all laid off,” McIngvale said. “This is a big step.”
McIngvale said he had been “talking to FanDuel on and off about this for a couple of weeks, and we just kind of settled on this number — which is good for me and good for them. Plus-220 is as good as you’re going to get anywhere right now.”
A day earlier, McIngvale, 66, had wagered $3.5 mm on the Astros at the DraftKings Sportsbook at the Scarlet Pearl Casino in D’Iberville, Miss.
Not much risk for this millionaire
“I’m not going to win or lose too much either way,” McIngvale said. “I’m hoping that the Astros win it so all the customers get free mattresses. The win for me is the [public relations]and the word of mouth that people got that free mattress. I’m an Astros team sponsor, and I’ve rooted for the Astros for the last 38 years, since I moved to Houston.”
The fact that McIngvale isn’t really taking such a rash risk won’t lessen the value of the promotion in customers’ eyes, he said.
“They just know they might get a free mattress. They don’t care about any of the logistics,” McIngvale said.
McIngvale added that the late July trade acquisition of Zack Greinke, which gave the Astros the sport’s best starting pitching trio along with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, “spiked sales through the roof.”
A second “spike,” McIngvale said, came during his Labor Day weekend sale when Verlander threw a no-hitter on that Saturday.
In spite of the large numbers he wagers, McIngvale claims no particular expertise.
“I’m not a professional gambler, but I’m good at hedging,” McIngvale said. “My tip would be to bet on your team and root like crazy. But don’t bet too many games, or the odds will eat you up.
“I think legal gambling should come to all the states, and make a sports-crazy country even more crazy,” he added.
The mattress king is a horseman, too
While this was Mattress Mack’s first visit to the iconic Meadowlands Racetrack, he has a background in horse racing.
“I started in horse racing in 1995 — one my first trainers was my friend Nick Zito,” McIngvale said of the legendary horseman.
The biggest gem in McIngvale’s stables — whose horses have cost millions of dollars all told — has been Runhappy, who earned the Eclipse Award as the best sprinter in 2015. Runhappy was 7-for-7 in sprint races, including a win at Keeneland in the GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint Series.
“He has a good life — he has 140 girlfriends a year,” quipped McIngvale, whose horse has gone out to stud at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky.
How FanDuel decides on its limits
John Sheeran is the FanDuel oddsmaker who gets to decide how much of a bet to allow and at what line.
“How much people can bet depends on our levels of confidence in the price that we’re offering,” said Sheeran, who said this bet was about double any previous FanDuel wager in New Jersey. “So for example, on an NFL Sunday our limit is going to be something the range of $20,000-$30,000 on a side. If it’s a low-division soccer game being played in Greece, that might be $1,000.
“This bet was an easy one for us, because our group thankfully is big enough to be able to assume a lot of volatility should the Astros go on and win,” said Sheeran, whose company was part of a massive merger this week. “And in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, we’re going to be taking a lot of money on the Yankees to win the World Series — which has already been the case. It kind of levels out our book.”
Sheeran noted that FanDuel stood alone in New Jersey last year in offering the Patriots as just 2-point favorites in the Super Bowl over the Los Angeles Rams.
“Despite it being about 85-90% biased toward New England, we felt like as a business decision for our group, that was the right line to offer at that time,” Sheeran said, though the Patriots won the game, 13-3. “We deem what the true price is, and ride out that short-term volatility. We think that leaves us in a stronger position over the longer [time frame].”
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