Nevada Falls for the Stadium Subsidy Scam | Citizens Against Government Waste

Nevada Falls for the Stadium Subsidy Scam

The WasteWatcher

For a brief time, it appeared that Nevada lawmakers might resist the temptation to finance the Oakland Athletics’ move to Las Vegas.  Unfortunately for Silver State taxpayers, on June 14, 2023, the legislature voted during a special session to approve $380 million in taxpayer funding for a $1.2 billion Major League Baseball (MLB) stadium west of the Las Vega Strip.  Governor Joe Lombardo (R) signed the bill into law on June 15.  Nevadans are now the latest to pay the high price of a publicly subsidized professional sports stadium.

Like every other deal for a such stadiums, the new Athletics ballpark is sure to cost taxpayers for years to come, with little tangible gains in return.  Time and time again, economists have determined that taxpayer funded stadiums have a negative economic impact on local communities. 

Among the arguments made for the stadium project was that it would draw even more visitors to Las Vegas.  Such reasoning, however, ignores the fact that the Las Vegas economy already relies heavily on tourism and professional baseball games will not bring in a significant number of unique visitors, especially from outside of the city.  If anything, existing Las Vegas institutions like as the city’s famous casinos may suffer from the substitution effect that accompanies professional sports arenas as consumers choose to spend money at the ballpark instead of hitting the slots or blackjack tables.

As CAGW has previously written, the positive economic impact of a new sports arena in Las Vegas will be limited or nonexistent.  The stadium will be available for professional baseball for less than one-third of the year.  Moreover, in a city dominated by large and well-known entertainment venues, there will be few opportunities for the stadium to host non-baseball events.

The A’s are owned by billionaire John Fisher, the son of Gap founders Donald and Doris Fisher.  Another billionaire owner, Bill Foley, who did not fleece taxpayers and used his own money for T-Mobile Arena, home of the 2003 Stanley Cup Champion Golden Knights, said in 2017 that public money is better spent “on firefighters, teachers, and policemen.”  But lawmakers did not follow the Knights’ precedent.

Notably, the A’s-to-Vegas deal has been met with staunch opposition from MLB All-Stars like Philadelphia Phillies outfielder and two-time National League MVP and Las Vegas native Bryce Harper.  He decried the taxpayer subsidized move from the Pacific coast to the desert and the abandonment of the A’s fan base to start from scratch to get fans with existing loyalties to other teams to support the new team in town.  He observed that fans in Las Vegas who are now “5- and 6-year-olds” will become A’s fans “by the time they are 16, 17 years old.”

Meanwhile, every Nevadan will be given the opportunity to watch the A’s play in a stadium that could cost them up to $500 million.  That is, until the team once again demands hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to move decades down the road and swindle another city’s taxpayers.

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