Jim McIngvale, better known as "Mattress Mack," has flown to the Colorado Springs Airport twice this year to make giant bets on major sporting events, and he expects to return this year or early next year to do it again.
McIngvale, who owns Houston's biggest furniture store, is the most high-profile gambler in the first year of legal sports wagering in Colorado, which began a year ago during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic when major U.S. sports were shut down. Though the sports betting industry started slowly last May, it expanded quickly, with $2.08 billion bet through the first 11 months (April betting totals will not be available until late May).
The 70-year-old Texas version of Colorado's Jake Jabs bet nearly $3.5 million on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl and won nearly $6.2 million, and he lost a $1 million bet that the University of Houston Cougars would win the NCAA Tournament. Both bets were made from Springs airport — bettors making online or mobile device bets must be in the state to make a wager.
McIngvale plans to fly to Churchill Downs in Kentucky on Saturday to make a $4 million bet on the Kentucky Derby. Betting on horse racing in Colorado and other states can't be done through sports wagering applications and instead must be done through a separate parimutuel system that pools all bets together. In Colorado, those bets can be made online, at Arapahoe Park near Aurora or at one of five off-track betting facilities in the Denver area, Grand Junction and Pueblo.
"I come to Colorado Springs because it is the closest place I can fly to nonstop after work, get off the plane and go into the terminal, make my bet and then come home," McIngvale said Friday. "You would have seen me there in October if the (Houston) Astros made the World Series, but they lost the seventh game of the (American) League Championship Series, so they didn't make it. I will be back in the fall if they make it this year. If not, I will be there in February to make a bet on the Super Bowl."
McIngvale's bets are about selling furniture. The bets are made to hedge any losses on promotions his Gallery Furniture offers — the store made millions of dollars in refunds because customers who bought before the Super Bowl got up to $3,000 in free furniture if Tom Brady and his teammates won the big game against the favored Kansas City Chiefs. Winnings from his successful bets pay the refunds.
"It has to be a championship game, tournament or playoff game to draw enough bets that they (sportsbooks) will take the bet," McIngvale said. "We do promotions that, for example, if Tampa Bay wins, you get free furniture, and we have won quite a few of those bets. I have to hedge (the risk of) those promotions with the bets. We try to get the customer excited — they love getting their money back, so it helps bring in customers."
McIngvale has visited Colorado Springs many times as a tourist, starting on trips with his parents and continuing with several conventions and other meetings at The Broadmoor.
"When the opportunity comes up, I will go to Colorado Springs to make my bets. It is a nice place," McIngvale said.