The most famous furniture salesman in America is known for his outrageous multimillion-dollar wagers on sporting events. Now Jim McIngvale is launching Gallerysports.com—to sell more furniture.
Mattress Mack is now betting on the media business.
Jim McIngvale, the 71-year-old Houston furniture entrepreneur and renowned gambler affectionately known as “Mattress Mack,” has launched a sports news website that he promises to be “your one-stop shop for everything in Texas and Louisiana sports.” McIngvale says he is interested in publishing great journalism, but like at the heart of everything he does, he hopes Gallery Sports will help sell mattresses at his Gallery Furniture stores.
“I’m a promoter,” McIngvale says. “I got a lot of wild and crazy ideas, and a lot of them are going to flop, but a few will be a home run.”
Mack isn’t selling ads yet, but he says if the site publishes great content and gets enough traffic, he will. “We expect to make money selling ads eventually,” he says, “but it’ll be a longhorn pull for six months to a year.”
McIngvale, who owns the three-store chain Gallery Furniture in Texas, has been making headline-grabbing wagers for decades. But his bets—including a $9.5 million wager on the Cincinnati Bengals to beat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI in February—are hedges against his big sales promotions. During the Super Bowl, he offered customers who bought a $3,000 mattress or recliner before kickoff a full refund if the Bengals won. Cincinnati lost, taking his multi-million-dollar bet. But it wasn’t all bad; he sold $20 million worth of furniture.
He may be an all-American huckster, but the economics behind McIngvale’s astronomical wagers are sound. Mack’s promotions and sports bets have helped him grow his business, which he started with his wife, Linda, in 1981. In 2019, Gallery generated $164 million in revenue, and by the end of 2021, sales grew by about 40% to more than $230 million.
With a few dozen contract employees working for Gallery Sports, including former Houston Chronicle sports reporters, McIngvale says he has invested $500,000 in his new media venture.
Eventually, McIngvale will launch a second site, Gallery Gaming, focused on his other passion—sports gambling. The site will publish odds, analysis, and, of course, stories about his bets. He won’t sell picks like certain sports betting hustlers. “I don’t believe in selling picks; it puts people in bad positions,” he says. The sites will cover Texas and Louisiana sports, but he hopes to expand it to national and global coverage. “We will walk before we run,” he says. “But we will probably do a lot of stuff on big events, like the World Cup and that sort of thing.”
Over the last 15 years, McIngvale’s biggest gamble was on the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series. He put a total of $17 million on his hometown team and lost when the Astros were defeated by the Washington Nationals. But the most painful loss was during last year’s World Series when McIngvale put down a $2 million future bet on the Astros with 18 to 1 odds. He would have bagged $36 million if the Atlanta Braves hadn’t defeated Houston.
This year, McIngvale is “fairly invested” in the Astros again. Ever the understatement as he has made multiple wagers totaling $10 million for Houston to win the World Series. If the Astros win the Fall Classic, Mack will take home $75 million. Of course, Gallery Furniture is holding another promotion tied to his monumental wager. (If a customer spends $3,000 or more on a mattress and the Astros win the World Series, they get a full refund.) McIngvale says Gallery has sold $50 million worth of mattresses so far—and the World Series is nearly two months ahead.
With the NFL kicking off this week, Mack is also ready for football season, but he is waiting for a good promotion before he makes a big wager. In the meantime, he’ll be rooting for the Houston Texans because “I’m a homer,” he says, “that’s just the way I am.” But he also likes how the Green Bay Packers look this season.
While the impetus behind the sports website is to “sell more furniture,” McIngvale admits he has loftier goals. In times when trust in the media has waned and become hyper-partisan, Mack thinks his site could help bring people together.
“I’m betting on the fact that I know people love sports, and one of the things I like is that sports are the great unifier,” McIngvale says. “No matter if you’re right-wing, left-wing, middle-wing, whatever, everybody unites. It’s a good thing for our current divisive times.”