Pay to play
(Sun file photo)

When Baltimore's Gardiners furniture lost a Super Bowl bet with its customers, forced to give away $600,000 in furniture because the Ravens' Jacoby Jones returned a kick return for a touchdown, the store owners couldn't have been happier.

Because they didn't have to pay up.


Their insurance company did.

And now Odds On Promotions president Mark Gilmartin isn't exactly doing the Ray Lewis dance.

"It's always good to have winners in our industry," he told Insider Wednesday. "But we weren't rooting for that to happen."

It's fair to say the Reno, Nev.-based company -- whose motto is "Big prizes. Big results." -- was rooting for anything but. Because of Gardiners and two other entities that made the exact same bet -- that during the Super Bowl someone would return the opening kick (at game start or after halftime) for a touchdown -- the company is stuck for nearly a million dollars.

Gardiners customers get most of that. And elsewhere in the country there was a casino and a bar that made the same deal with customers. Gilmartin said three casino customers got $100,000 each and a few folks at the bar got payoffs of about $10,000.

Odds On will be paying out precisely $911,000 because of Jacoby Jones.

The company's niche is these sorts of games -- halftime contests at sporting events, sweepstakes, and promotions with big prizes. With Valentine's Day coming up, Gilmartin says he's got deals with jewelry stores across the country who've told customers that purchases will be free if it snows a certain amount on Feb. 14.

Gilmartin says his company has insured similar Super Bowl promotions before -- and lost big before. (Thanks to a play in 2006 by the Chicago Bears.) But even so, he says the odds are so slight of it happening, it's a solid gamble every time.

"It's about a one or two out of 100," he said. "They're good until they hit. If you do this 100 times, you're going to have one of them happen."

And next year, if more stores want to insure a kick return promotion? Gilmartin says he's in.

"Absolutely," he says. "We don't shy away from risk."