Las Vegas Taxpayers Could Be on the Hook for $750 Million to Fund NFL Stadium

Committee of "casino leaders and elected officials" votes to subsidize Sheldon Adelson and the Oakland Raiders.


You're gonna pay for this.
bdearth/Wikimedia Commons

Las Vegas and Nevada taxpayers may soon be on the hook for a $750 million handout to a billionaire casino magnate's company, to build a stadium for the National Football League (NFL)'s Raiders and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas' football team.

The crony capitalist cabal known as the The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee—which ESPN describes as comprised of "casino leaders and elected officials"—voted unanimously to raise Las Vegas hotel taxes as a means of financing a brand-new domed stadium. The Raiders, who currently call Oakland (Calif.) home, will contribute far less at $500 million, while Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner and financier of failed political campaigns, will contribute $650 million through his Las Vegas Sands corporation.

But lest you think this epic infusion of public dollars to finance incredibly rich people's private vanity projects will eventually benefit the public, ESPN reports that "Officials with the Las Vegas Sands said they don't want to return any profits to the public because they would be making little or no money on the stadium." ESPN also noted that "The Las Vegas Sands said it would walk away from negotiations if the public put in less than $750 million, and the company fought to protect itself from any future taxes targeting the team."

So the public takes most of the risk but won't see the profits, because the casino corporation sees itself making "little or no money" on the project. (This sounds like a perverse inversion of the scene in Lost in America where Albert Brooks desperately tries to persuade the casino manager character played by Garry Marshall that giving money back to wiped-out gamblers would be good public relations for the casino).

In another instance of willful self-delusion, News3LV reports "The committee estimates almost 19,000 jobs will come from the construction of the stadium," a staggering number that will almost certainly never come close to being realized.

The committee's recommendation will now go to the governor and the state legislature for approval. Raiders owner Mark Davis expects the required two-thirds of NFL ownership will approve his team's move to Las Vegas if the stadium deal moves forward.

Watch Reason TV's doc on why you should never, ever, ever, ever publicly finance professional sports arenas below: