The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee yesterday approved spending $750 million in hotel tax dollars on a new stadium for the Oakland Raiders and whoa whoa hold on, take a deep breath and read back to the beginning of the sentence, okay? The SNTIC, despite that official-sounding “committee” in its name, is an unelected body appointed by Nevada’s governor to “explore potential funding mechanisms to support new tourism-related initiatives,” and looks like this:
- Steve Hill Chairman Executive Director Governor’s Office of Economic Development
- Len Jessup Vice Chairman President University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- Carolyn Goodman Mayor City of Las Vegas
- Steve Sisolak Chairman Clark County Commission
- Kristin McMillan President and Chief Executive Officer Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce
- Tom Jenkin Global President Caesars Entertainment
- Bill Noonan Senior Vice President of Industry and Governmental Affairs Boyd Gaming
- Bill Hornbuckle President MGM Resorts International
- Kim Sinatra Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary Wynn Resorts
- George Markantonis President and Chief Operating Officer of The Venetian and The Palazzo Las Vegas Sands Corporation
- Mike Sloan Senior Vice President of Government Relations Station Casinos
So, one governor’s aide, the mayor of Las Vegas, the county chair, the president of the university that would get to play at the stadium, the head of the chamber of commerce and six casino executives — including a top exec of Sands, the company that would be getting the $750 million — thought it was a good idea to send this plan to the state legislature. There, exactly none of them will have a vote on actually approving the deal, though Sisolak might get a vote if the state punts it to the county, as is its right if it can’t get a two-thirds majority to pass a stadium bill.
So what, exactly, did these seven business leaders, two appointees, and two elected officials approve? Take it away, Las Vegas Review-Journal:
At a meeting stoked with enthusiasm and a few minor squabbles, the 11-member committee unanimously supported the stadium developers’ preferred funding option, which requires a $750 million public investment, eliminates a 39 percent public contribution cap and allows the private partners to reap all stadium profits during the lifetime of the Raiders’ lease.
And that’s how it was reported by the paper that is owned by Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, mind you. So stark was the SNTIC’s capitulation to every one of Adelson’s demands that even the paper that isn’t allowed to say anything bad about the deal had to shake its collective head in wonderment.
What we know about the stadium proposal: Clark County would raise hotel taxes by 0.88%, and direct the proceeds to paying down $750 million in public stadium construction debt. (The hotel tax hike is projected to be plenty big enough to cover those costs.) Adelson would kick in $650 million, and Raiders owner Mark Davis would provide $500 million, though they would presumably get to offset their costs with naming rights fees and PSL sales and NFL G-4 funds, whereas the county would get none of this money. Another $10.4 million a year (roughly $150 million in present value) in sales tax, live entertainment tax, and business tax from an area around the stadium would get siphoned off by the stadium authority, though the SNTIC’s stadium Powerpoint makes it appear that maybe that money would go toward the same $750 million payment, and not be on top of it.
I’m hedging on that last one because the state-controlled stadium authority could well be stuck with additional costs — future capital improvements to the stadium, say — depending on the ground lease that it agrees to with Adelson. A ground lease, mind you, that hasn’t actually been negotiated yet. This, people, is crazytown, but sadly the kind of crazytown that is all too common in public stadium negotiations, particularly when it’s between the developers that are asking for the money and an unelected body that the developers themselves sit on.
The next step now is for Gov. Brian Sandoval to decide whether to call a special session of the legislature, since Davis would want to apply to the NFL for relocation at its January owners’ meeting, and there’s no regular legislative session scheduled before then. (Why should the Nevada legislature be playing to the NFL’s clock? The two-minute warning, duh.) If he does, which seems likely, then the battles will start over getting the necessary two-thirds vote of the legislature to approve the tax hike — or, if that can’t be arranged, a simple majority vote to punt the deal to the seven-member county commission, which would then have to vote at least 5-2 for the stadium to be approved.
It’s still no sure thing, in other words, but the SNTIC has set the framework for debate, which is no longer “What, if anything, should we offer the Raiders to move to Vegas?” and now instead “Should we give Sheldon Adelson at least $750 million in tax money, and possibly a whole lot more, so the Raiders will move here? Y/N.” Residents of Nevada, if you have an opinion about this, let your state lawmakers know.
UPDATE: Almost forgot to mention the best thing ever in the history of things:
The Twitter handle for chairman of the committee that just voted to give Adelson $750m in tax money is @shillfornevada. It really is.
— John Mehaffey (@John_Mehaffey) September 15, 2016