February 27, 2017

Raiding Taxpayers’ Pockets

Michael D. Farren

Senior Research Fellow

The Oakland Raiders seemingly struck gold in the Silver State. Last fall the Nevada legislature voted to give the football franchise $750 million to build a new stadium in Las Vegas. It's the largest subsidy ever offered to an NFL team. So why is the deal falling apart?

Last month the key investor in the project, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, withdrew his $650 million support for the $1.9 billion stadium. Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak reported that Raiders owner Mark Davis and Adelson were unable to agree on revenue sharing and that Adelson was concerned about recouping his investment. Though potential funding from Goldman Sachs could have filled the gap, the company's offer failed to materialize.

Here's the question Nevadans should be asking: If private investors can't justify the investment, why does the state legislature still believe it's a good deal for taxpayers?

Is it because taxpayer money to subsidize private stadiums is so common? Twenty-nine of the 31 NFL stadiums have been paid for, at least in part, by public funds. Since 1995 taxpayers have, willingly or unwillingly, spent over $7.5 billion building and renovating NFL stadiums. And that figure doesn't even include money used for other professional sports facilities.

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