The Pro Bowl Scam

How the NFL uses a taxpayer-funded tourist agency to subsidize its all-star game.


The Pro Bowl, the all-star game run by the National Football League (NFL), began in 1951. The first 21 games of the series were played in Los Angeles, California. After that, the game moved cities every year for seven years, before eventually landing a home at Aloha Stadium in Halawa, Hawaii in 1980. Since then, the game has only been played outside of Hawaii twice, in Miami in 2009 and in Glendale in 2015.

This year, the game will return to Hawaii. And when it does, it will return to a lucrative public subsidy thanks to Hawaii's government-run tourism agency. 

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) allocates funds to promote spectator sports such as the NFL Pro Bowl. Despite having only one yearly event, the Pro Bowl consumes more of the HTA's annual budget than all of the organization's other subsidized events combined while allowing the NFL to keep all of the direct revenue associated with the game.  

Pro Bowl Subsidies
reason infographic

HTA defends its subsidy of the Pro Bowl by claiming that the television viewership provides advertising for the state, and by claiming the event generates a boom in visitors and tourism spending. The HTA's 2014 economic impact study reported that the 2014 Pro Bowl (the last year it was played in Hawaii) increased the number of visitors by 47,270.

But their annual economic impact reports consistently overplay the benefits of hosting the game. The studies count all fans at the game as "visitors," including local residents who are not tourists and would have been spending money in Hawaii anyway. Total revenue doesn't actually go up. It is merely transferred from other sectors.

Substitution Effect Graphic
reason infographic

Because Hawaii's remote location forces the majority of visitors to arrive by plane, it is easy to estimate the tourism impact of an event. Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism provides daily arrival data at all Hawaiian airports. When excluding locals and tracking flight arrivals, the actual number of visitors is only a fraction of what HTA claims.

Pro Bowl tourism tracking
reason infographic

The Pro Bowl has left Hawaii twice, and it recently moved from early February to late January. These moves allows for comparisons between tourist activity during the same times with and without the Pro Bowl. A study by Robert Baumann and Victor Matheson, Economics professors at College of the Holy Cross, considered these factors and an additional four years of data. What they ultimately concluded was that the Pro Bowl had no measurable positive economic impact. 

pro bowl quote
reason infographic

Like so many other taxpayer-financed sports events, the Pro Bowl is a bad deal for the public. The Hawaii Tourism Authority and its boosters should take note. 

Perhaps they should start with some recent pieces at Reason about sports subsidies:

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  1. OT because I probably won't be around for AM links:

    "Primary care doctors should screen all adults for depression, an expert panel recommended Tuesday...the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which advises the federal government on health..."

    "...Federal law now requires that private insurers cover mental health and physical conditions equally."

    That is interesting. I wonder if there is any connection to this:


    *Immediately after Obumbles issued his illegal action an acquaintance told me that he was canceling his upcoming appointment with a psychologist. He was worried that he might be developing some mild OCD but he didn't want to lose his ability to buy or own guns. After he told me what his symptoms were I assured him that his concern was unwarranted. Apparently he thought he was worrying too much about whether or not he had locked his door after he left the house for work every day.

    1. Plenty of people nowadays tend to overemphasize and scrutinize relatively benign psychological quirks within themselves, which naturally leads some to seek medical help with these supposed problems. I don't have an experential basis from which to judge whether your friend's overreacting, but it seems that way.

      Personally, I've always refused to so much as consider any sort of assistance for anything most people might consult a doctor for, since I hate hospitals and doctors, and am, admittedly, a raging pussy in that regard. Additionally, "man the fuck up" was always the response to this sort of problem throughout my childhood. /TRAUMA!!111

    2. The dicks and cunts in the medical community who are already mostly gigantic bleeding assholes who will eventually all be working for the feds anyway have been casually handed the ability to fuck a constitutional right smack in the pooper just by checking a goddamn square on an Ipad. Thanks, prez!

      One can just imagine the infinite sources of social 'persuasion' that comes when healthcare is ladled from the bureaucratic dream factory.

      1. Any physician who abets the abridgment of sacred rights by bureaucratic diktat is a degenerate and a slaver.

        1. Well, yes. I wildly concur.

      2. You are a national treasure AC, you really are.

        Also, we don't have to imagine. All we have to do is look back at the USSR.

      3. One can just imagine the infinite sources of social 'persuasion' that comes when healthcare is ladled from the bureaucratic dream factory.

        Oh, you voted wrong? You support the wrong candidates? You got a subscription to the wrong magazines?

        No healthcare for you!

        You've been diagnosed with sluggish schizophrenia!

        You can't have the gold standard treatment ? you can have the old-fashioned, unreliable treatment.

    3. The program, focusing on youth ages 12 to 25, provides an ideal forum to engage communities in discussing the signs and symptoms of mental illness, the prevalence of mental health disorders, the effectiveness of treatment and how to engage troubled young people in services.

      "Discussing". And then you make two unwarranted assumptions and a begging-the-question. We want to discuss the posssibility of kicking you in the nuts, the necessity of kicking you in the nuts, the best way to kick you in the nuts, how to make you stand still so we can get a good shot in and whether or not you have an icepack handy. But don't assume that you getting kicked in the nuts is at all a foregone conclusion. Heavens, no. We're just discussing the idea.

  2. It's good to see a small, struggling corporation like the NFL get a taxpayer handout. Without this their execs would have four million less to spend on hookers and blow.

    1. A professional, genuinely attractive, certifiably clean prostitute can be had for an entire night at $250 each, with accommodations for anal sex and sexual inclinations that lead to pain costing an additional $50, in Amsterdam.

      If NFL bigwigs are spending millions on hookers, they're doing it wrong.


      1. The NFL only fucks hookers dipped in the blood of angry 'civilians'. Understandably, all the pretty girls aren't thrilled about the mass murder and gigantic tanks of blood so the premium for this will arguably be much higher than an additional 50 bucks.

        1. I'm picturing a massive Satanic ritual in which the bigwigs sit in a circle around a huge vat of taxpayers' blood, and the prostituted are brought in one by one to be ritually baptized in the blood before intercourse can commence.

          The image also befits Hillary's inaugural party, if it comes to pass.

          1. Fresh civilian blood dripping from warm hooker vagina makes for a delightful lubricant. One just needs to cum before the corpuscles curdle. Watching tax vampires dipping their entire goddamn heads in vats of seized hemoglobin is a virtual bloody fucking NFL sport.

      2. Need an address/link here, stat.

  3. How difficult would it be to put these infographics in a PowerPoint Presentation, convert to video and ship over to ReasonTV with some voiceover so I don't have to read? Come on, Keilsing. Pull your head out of your ass.

    As for the Pro Bowl, I say move it to Cuba as a gesture of goodwill.

    1. "I say move it to Cuba as a gesture of goodwill."

      Commie land is just as ripe for exploitation as fake freedom land here in the states. Billionaires enjoy that sort of plurality because dollar bills rain from the same skies.

    2. I have a better Idea - rescind the NFL's Non-Profit status, and cut-off the public spigot for these leeches.

  4. Like so many other taxpayer-financed sports events, the Pro Bowl is a bad deal for the public. The Hawaii Tourism Authority and its boosters should take note.

    But it's still a good deal for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, right? It's a tough job authorizing tourism and they deserve to relax once in a while in seats in a luxury box at an NFL game*.

    *Note: I have no idea whether or not the members of the HTA get comped at the Pro Bowl, I'm just making a wild-assed guess. Here's my shocked face in case it turns out my wild-assed guess happens to be correct. 😐

    1. The IOC agrees. How'd all that stimulus work for ya Greece or Beijing?

    2. While we all know money is fungible at first glance this appears to be Hawaiian money being spent.

      So I say go for it Hawaii. Just don't spend your money on that and then come ask me for some of mine to spend on something else.

      1. If money is fungible why are Govdollars clean and Corpdollars dirty as I hear so often?

        1. Because govdollars aren't tainted by the sin of EVUL PROFITZ!!1!!!111!!!!!!!

          1. ah so shrinking dollars is good but growing dollars is bad! But then why does the government always want more dollars?

            1. Because a dollar spent by government becomes 12 dollars in the pockets of the poor (and the bohemian leisure class like Lord Keynes and his friends).

  5. HTA defends its subsidy of the Pro Bowl by claiming that the television viewership provides advertising for the state, and by claiming the event generates a boom in visitors and tourism spending.

    Yeah, I would have never heard of this "Hawaii" place without the Pro Bowl. And it's not like there's anything else to do there, or any other reason to travel there during late January. /sarc

  6. Of course he NFL gets to keep direct revenue.

    What good would it be to sponsor the NFL, and then charge them?


  7. Why the fuck does Hawaii need a tourism authority?

  8. Not to mention no one actually gives a fuck about the Pro Bowl. All the big players opt out -- why waste time and risk a potential injury on a game that doesn't matter?!

    According to ESPN this year's Pro Bowl is the most declined game in history:

    1. Yeah, it's hard to even call it an all-star game at this point when all of the stars are skipping it and we're stuck watching guys like Jameis Winston and Teddy Bridgewater.

      Oh yeah, and coaches are opting out too.

      1. my roomate's step-sister makes $68 an hour on the laptop . She has been out of a job for five months but last month her pay was $12476 just working on the laptop for a few hours. read this post here


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