UNLV stadium project wants a room tax increase

Victor Joecks

(This story originally appeared Jan. 30, 2013.)

Surprised? Don’t be. Once crony capitalists think they can get their hands in the taxpayer till, more is never enough.

UNLV stadium boosters have long stressed that an on-campus tax district would carry the weight of financing a proposed 60,000-seat sports and entertainment venue, but they now say they’re concerned that this funding source might not be enough.

Additional funding sources under discussion include a new fee on rental of each hotel room across the Las Vegas Valley, officials at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, confirmed late Monday.

“We have to plan for the contingency of what if the tax increment district doesn’t provide adequate funds,” said Don Snyder, dean of UNLV’s hotel administration college and the university’s point man on the stadium.

In other words, if the project isn’t successful enough to generate sufficient tax dollars to subsidize itself, project backers want to pass their costs onto hotels and their guests.

Crony capitalism at its finest.

Here’s an idea. If a business or group of investors has an idea they think would be profitable, put up your own money and reap either the profits or losses. That’s capitalism. That’s freedom. If businessmen and women are risking their own money, it’s also why profits, even large profits, are just.

Depending on taxpayer handouts to build your business, however, and then wanting even more tax dollars to subsidize your future losses is unjust.

What gives the government the right to take money from one business or taxpayer and give it to another? Government exists to protect property, not redistribute it.

Aside from the philosophical problems— which should end the discussion entirely — there are plenty of practical objections to UNLVNow.

Exhibit A is the Reno Aces ballpark. Team owners want a $30 million subsidy from the city’s general fund to support the stadium after its Tax Increment Financing scheme didn’t produce enough revenue.

Exhibit B is what’s happening right now in Henderson. The city of Henderson is suing sports stadium “developer” Chris Milam. It’s accusing Milam of using his “Las Vegas National Sports Center” as a ruse to get land at a steep discount from the BLM. Land that, according to the city’s lawsuit, he was planning to sell “piecemeal to residential and commercial developers at a substantial profit.”

Exhibit C is the “hundreds of other studies and books … (that) reach the same conclusion: Public support of professional and minor league sports is a bad investment.

In practically none of the cities these studies examined did new sports stadiums lead to any significant new private investment or provide for any significant economic benefits to the local economy besides the jobs generated by the initial capital construction of the stadiums. More important, the new stadiums generally were not even profitable or self-financing. Nor could cities point to rising land prices or economic development in the surrounding community. Even as tourist attractions, the stadiums either simply transferred sales from somewhere else or failed to demonstrate that the local hotels were filled as a result of the sports events.”

Government has a very important role — it’s supposed to uphold the rule of law, enforce contracts and protect individual rights to life, liberty and property.

If that’s not “exciting” enough for some elected officials, join the business world. Just don’t join government to the business world. Along with being unjust, it doesn’t end up for anyone but the crony capitalists.