I have covered stadium subsidy deals across the country and the just-approved $750 million public gift to billionaire Sheldon Adelson and the Oakland Raiders for a $1.9 billion domed stadium off the Strip is one of the biggest rigged fleecing jobs I have seen in my 20 years of reporting on stadium deals.
You have the Las Vegas newspaper owned by Adelson playing cheerleader, so there was no watchdog -- the role the biggest local newspaper should have been playing all along.
(It should be noted that in my first stadium subsidy story at the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this year, the new publisher, Craig Moon, who had just been hired by Adelson, would not allow an anti-Adelson quote by a respected sports economist in my RJ story).
The review process by a state panel created by Gov. Sandoval and then the state legislators was nothing less than a joke -- yes, a farce because the stadium economic numbers served up by the consultants were laughable.
I call bullshit on their assertion that a new domed stadium would host 46 annual events. I call bullshit on the consultant's assertion that the PR value of having the Oakland Raiders in Las Vegas is worth a value of $100 million a year (as if nobody ever heard of Las Vegas). I call bullshit that a third of the seats will be bought by people who don't even live in the Las Vegas market. And I call bullshit that there will be more than half a billion dollars of economic spending a year thanks to the stadium when a big chunk of that money would have simply been spent on other entertainment options in the Vegas market.
The rush job behind increasing the hotel room charge for the $750 million in public dollars was pathetic. There was no subtle style behind it. No finesse. This deal was rammed through without the proper vetting typically seen with these stadium ripoff deals.
Jon Ralston, the political watchdog of Las Vegas, was the only journalist in the market who consistently hammered away at the absurdity of handing over $750 million to one of America's richest men and a team that's part of a sports league that generates $12 billion in revenue every year.
I chipped in with this story for Desert Companion that highlighted some of the points I'm making here.
I'm hardly the only one who has made these observations.
A bicycle friend in Las Vegas, Kevin Turchin, wrote a fantastic comment on Facebook about this stadium ripoff deal and I am posting it here. Kevin works and lives in the Summerlin area of Las Vegas and is one of the most thoughtful people I know. (And he's one helluva of cyclist. They don't call him the "Turchinator" for nothing.)
Here's Kevin's words:
The problem is the entire process and our prioritization of community and state needs.
The process has not been transparent and this has been a rush job from the beginning (your first clue that we are about to get screwed).
The Tesla deal and others have been much more thoroughly vetted than our politicians have done in this case.
In cities across the country this happens again and again where the taxpayers are on the hook for a significant portion of the funding and are not told the true cost of the stadium.
Minnesota's new stadium was finally approved after a an electronic gambling funding mechanism was approved.
The problem was the math was so flawed nobody found out until after everything was approved and in motion.
The taxpayers are now on the hook for more than they were promised.
The math on taxpayer subsidized stadiums is always fuzzy at best and has never been proven to be a net profit for the communities they are built in had the stadiums never been built.
I encourage everyone to read the articles written and posted by Alan Snel who written on these things for years.
Also KNPR had a great two part series on the State of Nevada show describing both sides of the argument so you can be the judge.
Also, look at the recent history of these stadiums. Stadiums are looking to build new stadiums about every 20 years, much shorter than the projected taxpayer obligation even under very aggressive tourism growth applied to this case.
Lastly, like I said before, the city of Oakland is offering very little to the Raiders in terms of subsidy and yet we come out of the gate with $750,000,000?
And we get none of the profits from the stadium?
This is lunacy and we need to look beyond how cool it would be to have our very own football team.
There are other unfunded obligations in our city and state that would be better addressed by this new tax and would go much further in creating a more livable and sustainable place to live and work.