Nevada Legislature: Raiders relocation set to screw Vegas taxpayers

The Oakland Raiders filed the paperwork Thursday for relocation, and Las Vegas stepped closer to hosting an NFL team.

So brace yourselves Sin City taxpayers. Budgets are about to get tight.

You might remember that the Nevada Legislature held a special session last year to address the matter. It concluded in the contested passage of a bill to commit a whopping $750 million to the overall $1.9 billion needed to build an NFL stadium. The money will come from an increased hotel tax.

John Locher/AP
Raiders owner Mark Davis is all smiles with Las Vegas Raiders fans after Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval approved a $750 million public funding deal. (John Locher/AP)

Footing the rest of the bill is casino mogul Sheldon Adelson ($650 million), and the Raiders owner Mark Davis ($500 million), making the state’s contributing slice the largest of the pie.

Nevada was always going to front whatever public money it needed to get the deal done. The standard talking points that have been circulating include:

  • The in-season economy will surge.
  • Jobs will be created.
  • The increase in tourism would mean locals would foot less of the bill

That last one is important. As the New York Times’ Joe Nocera explains, getting to that $750 in hotel taxes from tourists only was complicated.

“Getting to that number required some rather unusual assumptions. One was that a third of the 65,000 fans at any Raiders game — including preseason games — would not be Las Vegans but out-of-towners. They would stay in a hotel for 3.2 days and spend collectively, on an annual basis, $375 million. In other words, 217,000 people each year would fly to Las Vegas for the primary purpose of watching the Raiders play football. Even if there were that many seats set aside for tourists (highly unlikely), that seems implausible.”

The math doesn’t appear to add up, likely leaving the Clark County taxpayers at the mercy of the NFL’s alligator arms. The league is a $13 billion industry, mind you.

Getting America’s biggest sport to play in your city is a huge point of pride, and in some way, it could signal a positive perception shift folks have about Las Vegas. But I leave those odds at slim to none. In fact, if my team ever faces the Vegas Raiders,  “football game” would be a three-hour blip on an otherwise typical 20-something’s 48-hour, never-mention-this-again Vegas itinerary.

The final step for Las Vegas to overcome is a vote from NFL owners – because unlike your average citizen, rich people get to practice democracy when it comes to decisions of finance. NFL owners must approve the move with at least 24 of 32 owners supporting it.

And let’s applaud Oakland for a second. The city knows it can’t afford to increase taxes in any of their stadium proposals just to appease the local sports boys. Their plans include a higher portion of private money for a stadium deal.  It’s got to suck for Northern California’s Raiders fans, but the city officials have remained firm that there are more pressing priorities.

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