Mattress Mack has his say on responsible gambling

Mattress Mack has his say on responsible gambling

A $75 million sports wagering win can buy you lots of things, but one of them is not instant expertise in the gambling space.

Fresh off receiving his record World Series pay-out, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale took to Twitter on Tuesday night to offer his thoughts on the pitfalls of playing the lottery.

Mattress Mack Tweets

McIngvale’s 10-tweet thread made some good points and asked some good questions.

“He’s doing folks a service by raising some of these issues,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gaming. “But pitting one vertical against another ultimately is not a very responsible gambling strategy.”

One of McIngvale’s criticisms of the lottery was its lack of efficiency when compared to sports wagering. In one of his tweets, he provided two pie charts, one talking about the lower hold taken off the top for a sports betting wager versus that from the lottery.

Though the numbers are not incorrect, this feels like “lies, damned lies, and statistics” exacerbated to a degree, considering McIngvale made his World Series wagers in states — Louisiana, Iowa, and Nevada — where sports betting is not lottery-run. (Sports wagering is not legal in his home state of Texas.) Also, a state lottery has a mandate to generate a profit to bolster government revenue.

This often gets lost in the shuffle when it comes to the lottery in general. For example, when the DC Lottery chose Intralot as its trading platform for sports wagering on GambetDC, the former entity was well known for having lines that bettors who line-shop would likely not consider. The DC Lottery, though, realized there is less money paid out on winning -120 wagers than on -110 wagers.

McIngvale’s second pie chart also undercuts his argument to an extent. Of the 33.2% in remaining money after prizes are paid out, a combined 24.6% goes toward education, veterans’ assistance, and other state-run programs in Texas. That means nearly three-quarters of the overall remaining money is going where it should be.

Does the Lottery Target the Vulnerable?

Studies show that lottery participation is more common – and more available – amongst financially insecure Americans & in poorer neighborhoods, a fact which comes as no coincidence. As such, those most in need of the state’s support are instead exploited for additional revenue.

“According to the consumer financial company Bankrate, players making more than fifty thousand dollars per year spend, on average, one percent of their annual income on lottery tickets; those making less than thirty thousand dollars spend thirteen percent.”

McIngvale follows up the above tweet with the claim that “Powerball contests and other lotteries are advertised by the states that participate as fast tracks to wealth beyond imagination, while many of those same states repeatedly warn us about the pitfalls of wagering on sports.”

Again, this is not incorrect, but it obscures the fact that sports wagering and lottery are both forms of gambling. That means both — not either — could lead to addiction if done irresponsibly, even with the responsible gaming aspect of sports wagering more front and center because it is still a novelty in the public space.

More context leads to better awareness

Whyte noted that “Mattress Mack” has a big voice because of his winnings, and knowing those bets are hedges put “his astronomically big wagers in a much different context.” Whyte raised another question – would McIngvale have tweeted had the Astros lost the World Series and he simply offset his $10 million gambling loss with profits from the promotion?

“The lottery skews repressive economically; sports betting doesn’t at the moment,” Whyte said. “But everything he said about the lottery can apply to sports betting and other forms of gambling. It’s kind of a reductionist argument, which isn’t a modern way of looking at gambling. It’s not a holistic way of looking at gambling.”