Betting on Sports


A new Cato briefing paper takes apart the economic case for D.C.'s baseball deal.

Matt Welch took a dim view of stadium subsidies in Reason's January issue, as did Rick Henderson in this 1997 book review (among other places) and Keating Holland in his classic (i.e., not available online) May 1990 cover story.

NEXT: 'The Best Interests of the City'

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  1. You guys drive me crazy, but you certainly are fighting the good fight w/r/t baseball stadium subsidies. Just what we need here in DC, more big parking lots, more unearned wealth transfers and more sports bars! For the love of all that’s holy in DC, mayor Williams must fail!

  2. Three Cheers! As someone whose taxes are now being taken to fund Bob Johnson’s Bobcats, I’d just like to say thanks for keeping people aware of this form of welfare.

  3. Nice segue with the previous H&R post- Here in Memphis, the new Basketball arena paid for by fleeced taxpayers (and on land seized by eminent domain) is now an excuse to abuse eminent domain in the surrounding area. After all, the “reasoning” goes, the taxpayers built this great facility, and deserve to have a better neighborhood around it (?). To leave the surrounding neighborhood in blight is to not properly realize the potential of the $300 million investment the community has made (?).

    This is one of the things that pisses me off about new stadiums. The politicians and businesses like to make it like the war in Iraq- once it gets going, you have to get behind it or else it was all in vain.

  4. Oh, and I should add, our city leaders gave the basketball franchise the right of first refusal on any shows (rock concerts, disney-on-ice, etc) that come to town, and *may prevent the show from playing in any other local venue on the same date*. Again the reasoning is “the people of Memphis have invested $300 million in this arena and deserve to see shows in the best venue possible.” Really, that’s what they said.

    This essentially sends business out of the city, as they just go to a suburban facility. A big rock concert wanted to play town the on the Grizzlies’ opening day- and were refused. So they said screw you and went to a facility in northern Mississippi.

    Way to go city leaders!

  5. I actually think many cities’ leaders won’t really care about the Cato report- the front page states: ” …policymakers should not be mesmerized by faulty impact studies that claim that a baseball team and a new stadium can be an engine of economic growth.”

    But that’s not the point, and not really what cities are looking for- they want an engine of economic growth *in a particular part* of the city. They can read report after report saying that *overall* economic impact is negative, but as long as a blighted area is spiffed up, they’re happy.

  6. It’s not given that they will name the team “The Senators”, due to political squabbling. This is totally moronic. However, if they go with a different name, I think they should be called “The Honkies”, and be sponsored by Wonder Bread. This would put everyone on a level field as far as “offensive” team names go, plus it would be a lot of fun chanting “Hon-kies! Hon-kies! Hon-kies!”

    I’m finding it odd that I’m siding with the city ultra-liberals who don’t want public money being used for this. When they start yakking about using the money instead for “economic justice” I close my ears and yell “la la la la la la”

  7. Here in hardshell Republican Texas, the idiots in Arlington just voted in a tax increase to pay for a new Dallas Cowboys stadium.

    In spite of the fact that the old Cowboys stadium, the new NBA stadium, and the Rangers stadium (in Arlington! right there in front of their noses!) are obvious failures in terms of spinning off community benefits of any kind.


  8. San Francisco voted down stadium giveaways multiple times against the warnings of the Democratic establishment. SBC park shows that you guys need some anti-corporate San Francisco liberal voters.

  9. Naming the team “The Senators” would certainly have the historical appeal, but I’d like to see the team named “The Fleeced Taxpayers.” Perhaps the stadium nickname could also be “The Eminent Dominion.”

    I know this idea is going to kick you guys right in the Libertarianhood, but I’d like to see one of these team franchises actually owned by a city government. Look, the reason these teams can continually gouge cities for sweetheart deals is because they’re always threatening to move. A team owned by the city isn’t going to threaten to move. Furthermore, these teams are always crying bankruptcy, but this is a fiction created by actuaries who can shuffle income around between a team and its merchandising holding co. or the cable channel subsidiary. All this revenue would also become the city’s.

    And here’s the best part…. make the GM an elected position. You want to see voter turnout?

  10. Wow, Rick Henderson….the best leadoff hitter in baseball history, and wrote a book on publicly funded sports stadiums!!

  11. Forgive my ignorance, but can someone explain to me why local governments take it up the rear from professional sport teams? Is the return they get from their investments that significant (if there IS a return..)? Is this merely a prestige issue? Or are there fat Caymen bank accounts floating out there?

  12. The way I understand it, when a sports franchise presents a proposal to the city council or the mayor’s office, they typically include a television spot showing a six year old wearing team colors and a baseball mit, sitting alone in a deserted stadium, with a single tear running down his face. The spot then explain that this is the ad that their opponent will run in the next election. And then the screen fades to black, showing how the check should be made payable.

  13. Jacon Sullum,

    There is also this piece in the NYT about the issue (yeah, I know they are fucking hypocrites):

  14. The government should provide for the common defense, not a West Coast Offense.

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