Subsidies for professional sports venues has to be one of the most ludicrous things in politics. Professional sports are hugely profitable enterprises, where the teams are owned by billionaires and staffed with millionaires, so the idea that there’s a need to subsidize the stadiums and arenas where these people conduct their business is absurd.
Yet, time and again, taxpayers get duped into footing the bill by politicians playing on team loyalties and team owners threatening to take their franchises elsewhere. The latest group of victims are Minnesota taxpayers who according to the Associated Press may be on the hook to bail out the new stadium for the Vikings after a scheme to fund it through online pull-tab gambling flopped.
Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter encountered sharp questions Monday from lawmakers who are worried that general tax dollars will be needed to compensate for poor results from expanded gambling. Finance officials said last week that the electronic pull-tabs are producing only a tiny fraction of anticipated revenue to pay off future state debt on the stadium.
Last year’s stadium law gives Schowalter power to initiate a sport-themed lottery game and impose a luxury suite tax to make up for shortages in e-pull tab revenue.
It is, in a word, grotesque to witness an attempt to fund subsidies for billionaires and millionaires at the expense of lower-income taxpayers who are by far the largest demographic in the customer base for state-run gambling operations. But it’s even worse to think that Minnesota taxpayers at large could be forced to make up the shortfall.