Las Vegas Raiders

Even though top professional sports teams are owned by billionaires, teams are constantly lured to move by public welfare that these billionaires do not need.

That’s how Las Vegas lured the Raiders from Oakland to the Sin City, raising taxes to put together a $750 million subsidy for the team’s new stadium.

Proponents of the stadium said that it would create an economic boost for the city, and that the money raised would be worth it in the long run, but that’s the argument that new stadium proponents always make, and it never actually happens.

Take Stanford economist Roger Noll’s analysis of the plan:

“It is a catenation of optimistic assumptions,” he said. “The probability that it could happen isn’t zero, but it is pretty close to zero.”

“Every single thing they made an assumption on has no prior experience anywhere else,” said Noll, director of the Program in Regulatory Policy in the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. “In defense of it, well this is different because this is Vegas, therefore, it must be true.”

Perhaps Milwaukee Area Technical College director Michael Rosen said it best after Wisconsin governor Scott Walker announced a plan to give $250 million in public funds to the Milwaukee Bucks:

“You could do more for the local economy by taking a plane over the city of Milwaukee and dropping $500 million dollars down. That would generate more economic activity than building a stadium.”

The Raiders aren’t going to bring an economic boost to Las Vegas. If the city wants to give them $750 million, that’s fine, as long as they know they aren’t getting something in return, and as long as they aren’t taking money away from other, more important priorities. However, that’s not the case.

As The New York Times points out, Las Vegas decided to raise class sizes in underperforming schools because it couldn’t come up with an extra $14 million in the budget. That’s 1.9% of what the city will give the Raiders.

This led to unremarked-upon cognitive dissonance in Las Vegas. Even as politicians increased taxes for stadiums, Clark County school officials voted last spring to increase public class sizes and to close a school for at-risk students. There was simply no money. “This is the last thing we ever want to do,” Linda Young, president of the school board, said at that time.

Even Bill Foley, the owner of the coming NHL expansion club, the Vegas Golden Knights, noted that spending $750 million on the Raiders is a bad use of money.

“There are a lot better ways to spend $750 million than on bringing the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas,” Foley declared. “Spend it on police, firemen, and teachers, and have all three be the best in the country. But I guess we’re going to make a $750-million investment in a stadium.”

Sports are fun, but they aren’t worth it if they require giving near-billion-dollar welfare packages to billionaires while also ignoring the financial needs of basic necessities. If Las Vegas can’t afford to properly fund schools, it shouldn’t have an NFL team, and it certainly shouldn’t tell its residents that, based on no evidence, the Raiders will be an economic boon for the city.

About Kevin Trahan

Kevin mostly covers college football and college basketball, with an emphasis on NCAA issues and other legal issues in sports. He is also an incoming law student. He's written for SB Nation, USA Today, VICE Sports, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, among others. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

9 thoughts on “Las Vegas couldn’t afford to give $14 million to schools but will give the Raiders $750 million

  1. This article is intentionally deceptive. The funds for the stadium are coming from the state, as voted by the legislature. The change in class size is a county decision. These budget decisions are not linear and not a zero sum game. Is there a valid case to be made for education being under funded? Of course. However, misleading “reporting” only hurts the credibility of the reporter and “news” organization.

    1. The state could have easily allocated said funds to education instead. Why are NV taxpayers giving a billionaire’s kid a 750 million dollar gift when critical programs remain underfunded. You say its not a “Zero Sum Game” but every time funding increases come up for a vote GOP politicians cry about how we “don’t have the money”. They are perfectly willing to spend enormous sums to bribe this brat who inherited his wealth, but they cant afford to pay for decent roads or schools? The only bull excrement on this page is coming from you my friend.

      1. So would you be oaky with the extra $14,000,000 to the local schools or are you against the “gift” for the stadium? How much should we spend for schools? Most of the money going to union-run schools where we don’t get our money’s worth.

        1. What is this “extra” $14 million you’re talking about? I wasn’t aware we had that money lying around burning a hole in our pocket.

        2. You give unions way too much credit. Unions don’t run schools, never have—-local school boards and administrators do. I know it’s an R belief, but it’s just incorrect.

      2. Nice job trying to spin this as a Republican issue but far more Democrats voted for this than Republicans and far more Republicans voted against it than Democrats.

        1. I’d love to hear more about how this was apparently on our state ballot, and definitely wasn’t already decided months ago by people with their pockets pre-lined.

  2. While trying to characterize this as going to a “billionaire’s kid”, the three NFL teams that moved in the past 18 months all had financially weak ownership and a weak fan base – so no extra money to expand. 70,000 season’s ticketholder seats at about $3,000 per seat is about $210M per year, and the venue will support other events as well. I remember having to go to high schools in Las Vegas to see semi-pro games because of no stadiums. The unique thing about this market is that it is very small, so most of the money going into Vegas will be coming from outside of the city. Great cash injection, more outside tax revenue, jobs going to locals, all for a small investment by Las Vegas standards. What a sweet deal for Vegas!

  3. Great example of what people value in the US. No wonder US schools are struggling to compete globally against countries where education is valued far more highly by parents, students, and the general public. Forget the underfunding, and the still-increasing poverty of kids!

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