‘Mattress Mack’ is betting $ 5.5 million on Kansas to win the NCAA Basketball Championship

Late Thursday night, the legendary sports gambler and Texas furniture entrepreneur known as Mattress Mack had to come to Lake Charles, Louisiana to bet $ 5.5 million on the Kansas Jayhawks to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. But there was a problem: he was 150 miles away in Houston, and the highway was backed up for five hours.

Mack, whose real name is Jim McIngvale, took a 15-minute helicopter ride instead. After the bird landed at Million Air, the private terminal at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, Mack and his wife Linda went to the fast food chain Sonic, where they shared a strawberry milkshake and a caramel milkshake to help ease her anxiety over the bet. he was about to make, then placed two bets for Kansas to win the championship at +190: one for $ 3.3 million on Caesar’s sports betting app and the other for $ 2.2 million through Barstool Sports. If he wins, he will raise $ 10 ,5 millions.

“I bet Kansas wins it all,” McIngvale said.

But McIngvale is not a University of Kansas fan. For those who know Mack, who owns the Houston-based furniture store Gallery Furniture, his headline bet is business only. His $ 5.5 million bet is a hedge against an in-store furniture campaign he runs: If customers buy American-made furniture for $ 3,000 or more or Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster or Sealy Mattress, and Kansas wins, they get a full refund.

Customers have until the tipoff between Kansas and the University of North Carolina Monday night to purchase and take possession of the furniture. McIngvale says they already sold $ 10 million worth of Saturday, so he expects to sell between $ 12 million and $ 14 million before the championship game.

“We’ll keep selling, so I may have to bet a little more on Monday,” he says. “The promotion has gone well, even though the furniture industry is very soft right now. We had three good weeks. ”

Texas is running through McIngvale’s blood, so his promotion started three weeks ago with the University of Houston. They came to Elite Eight, but lost to Villanova 50-44. When a Texas team did not reach the championships, McIngvale selected the team that was closest to his store geographically, so he is now on the hunt for the Jayhawks for the best Tar Heels. “Thank God it was not Duke or North Carolina because they’re about five miles apart – that would have been an argument,” McIngvale said.

There is an argument to be made that it would be better for McIngvale and his business if Kansas loses. He would lose his $ 5.5 million bet, but he would be able to keep all of his sales, which could top $ 14 million, millions more than he would win if Kansas cuts online Monday night. But McIngvale disagrees: “The best case scenario is for Kansas to win: customers get their money back and they’ll talk about it literally a decade from now,” he says.

McIngvale has run these types of campaigns and secured himself against them with sports betting for about 15 years, so he never feels too restless before a match. As a traditional retailer, the 71-year-old entrepreneur has relied on gimmicks like this to keep his business alive in the e-commerce era. Plus: “It’s a lot sexier than liability insurance,” he said Forbes during an earlier interview in February.

If he loses, it would not be the first time. Mack lost $ 9.5 million by betting on the Cincinnati Bengals to win the Super Bowl LVI in February, but he sold furniture for about $ 20 million during this promotion. The Super Bowl was just the latest multi-million dollar loss for McIngvale. His biggest bet was on the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series. He put a total of $ 17 million on his hometown team over a few months and lost when the Astros were defeated by the Washington Nationals. But the most painful loss was during last year’s World Series, when he placed a future bet of $ 2 million, 18 to 1, for the Astros to win the championship. He could have won $ 36 million if the Atlanta Braves had not defeated the Astros.

Millions of Americans have bet with McIngvale during March Madness. About 45 million American players planned to bet a total of $ 3.1 billion on this year’s NCAA Men’s Division I tournament, according to a report from the American Gaming Association.

McIngvale is a bookmaker, but he is also a religious man. He posts Bible verses once a day on Twitter and goes to church every week. Gambling may be frowned upon in some religious communities, but McIngvale, who is a Catholic, says his church does not mind. “In the church where I grew up, they always held lotteries and bazaars, and they always played and played bingo,” he says, “so what the hell?”

When Kansas and UNC meet at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans on Monday night, McIngvale will be in his store watching the match with the customers. He pays some of the University of Houston basketball players to come and sign autographs.

“We want to feel good,” McIngvale said. “There will be hundreds of customers in here who are watching from the store and cheering on Kansas.”

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