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When talking about reasons the Bills should stay in Buffalo, say it’s because you love football and you love the Bills. But don’t say what Governor Andrew Cuomo said today. He released this statement (emphasis mine):

“As the process of finding a new owner for the Buffalo Bills moves forward, one thing is clear – the Bills belong in Western New York. I have been in touch with the NFL and the team’s potential buyers to make sure this message is heard, and I will continue to work with all interested parties until the sale is finalized. The Bills support hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in the region annually, and by being located in Western New York they benefit from the most dedicated group of fans in the NFL. Few things are as culturally, historically and economically ingrained in Buffalo as the Bills, and we intend to keep it that way.”

Do the Bills support “hundreds of jobs?” Economists say, probably not.

The University of Denver Sports and Entertainment Law Journal:

“Generally, studies do not produce evidence of a positive connection between professional franchises and the creation of jobs…Jobs will only be created if there is an increase in aggregate spending on goods located within the city, but this is usually the exception and not the rule…most of the studies conducted prove that having a professional team or new stadium fail to increase significant job growth and can have an overall negative impact on a city.”

Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank:

“The net number of jobs created from hosting a professional sports team is quite low. It is almost certainly less than 1,000 and likely to be much closer to zero.”

You might be wondering how a professional sports team has such a limited impact on job creation. Blame the “substitution effect.”

Brookings Institution:

Most spending inside a stadium is a substitute for other local recreational spending, such as movies and restaurants. Similarly, most tax collections inside a stadium are substitutes: as other entertainment businesses decline, tax collections from them fall…

Now lets’ talk about revenue generated by income tax. Brookings continues:

Sports teams do collect substantial revenues from national licensing and broadcasting, but these must be balanced against funds leaving the area. Most sports revenue goes to a relatively few players, managers, coaches, and executives who earn extremely high salaries—all well above the earnings of people who work in the industries that are substitutes for sports. Most stadium employees work part time at very low wages and earn a small fraction of team revenues. Thus, substituting spending on sports for other recreational spending concentrates income, reduces the total number of jobs, and replaces full-time jobs with low-wage, part-time jobs.

The Kansas City Federal Reserve estimates localities get about $1.1 million in sales tax revenue from outsiders who attend NFL games. There is no local income tax in New York, but let’s say the state collects about $12 million based on the Bills salary cap. That doesn’t offset huge public spending to support the team, however. It’s also wrong to assume the players spend all their money in the local community.

The Buffalo News:

Experts forecast Western New York wouldn’t endure much economic pain. Not even the Orchard Park or Hamburg real-estate markets would miss a few dozen millionaires. Annual alcohol sales would be affected maybe only a percentage point or two without Bills-related parties and tailgates, Try-It Distributing chairman Gene Vukelic guessed…

Analysts predict Western New York’s economy could absorb a Bills departure with little trouble…

Based on 2010 U.S. Department of Commerce statistics, the gross domestic product of the Buffalo-Niagara market was $45.15 billion. Remove the Bills from that total, and “it doesn’t leave a ripple,” said Bruce Fisher, former Erie County deputy executive and founding director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at Buffalo State…

Overall, Fisher doesn’t see a substantial economic benefit from the Bills. He noted the county gives the Bills about $8 million a year in subsidies that could be spent elsewhere for a greater economic return.

Of course, the Bills may provide intangible benefits, such as community pride. But there’s no study proving that has dollars and cents value. There are, however, many independent studies showing professional sports teams have a marginal economic benefit. They may even have a negative one.

It’s laughable to suggest the Bills spur “hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in the region annually.” SHOW ME THAT STUDY. SHOW ME THE DATA. Oh wait. The governor was probably talking about the money the state may invest in a new stadium.

It’s okay to like the Bills and want them to stay in Western New York. Just be honest and let your argument end there.

Tweets of the Day:




Links of the Day:


– A “once-unthinkable crisis in the world’s greatest freshwater region,” Toledo residents can’t drink the water.

– Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo’s challenger for the Democratic line, hopes scandal gives campaign traction.

– Cuomo once said campaign money shouldn’t be used for personal expenses, but he’s using campaign money for lawyer.

– “Cuomo rode his high horse into the gully.”

– This data seems dubious, but it’s believable and sobering. One in 40 Rochester ninth graders will get a college degree. The article does a great job showing the effects of isolating urban students, not exposing them to college-going culture.

– South Korean students spent 13 hours a day studying and sleep 5.5 hours a night. But they do well on tests!

Censorship in the doctor’s office.

Solar panels have not taken off in Monroe County.

– Syracuse Silver Knights are unhappy with Rochester Lancer’s decision to pull out of new indoor soccer league.

10 Responses to Lies, Damn Lies, and the Bills

  1. August 3, 2014 at 5:51 pm Rick Geiger responds:

    Ms. Barnhart, the study from Garret Johnson is not an economic impact analysis, it is pretty much an opinion piece. The Federal Reserve study you liked to, while it is also not an full economic impact analysis, it is somewhat based on financials and facts and it comes to a different conclusion than you do. The other piece you linked to is some hype for a book, but it has no numbers relating to what is proposed for Buffalo, only some generalizations. Having done formal economic impact analysis studies for many years, I have found that unless and until an actual scientific study is done with a real project, speculation on the results based only on feeling and opinion is usually misleading. You may want to reserve your judgment until after you can fully review a real, scientifically based economic impact analysis. Kind Regards…

    • August 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      The Federal Reserve study had hard numbers on impact and came to conclusion outlaying huge public dollars for pro sports (which is what we’re already doing in Buffalo) doesn’t add up in most cases.

      • August 4, 2014 at 9:24 am Rick Geiger responds:

        The study states that the economic benefits are usually smaller than projected…that just means there is too much hype in the politics which is pretty much par for the course, unfortunately. The study also states that quality of life benefits are substantive. Furthermore, when doing a full analysis of economic impact for any project, those quality of life benefits can and should be included, not just for the subjective feeling about it, but also when considering how attractive any community is for attracting new businesses and business capital investments. There is no data from which you can generalize and say that a new stadium project in Buffalo would be positive or negative. Making generalizations is not good public policy.

  2. August 3, 2014 at 6:12 pm Dan Kuhn responds:

    Rick Geiger,

    “You may want to reserve your judgment until after you can fully review a real, scientifically based economic impact analysis”

    I think Rachel’s point is that Gov. Cuomo should have done precisely this before he made his statement. She doesn’t have a “real, scientifically based” study, but based upon limited information she does have, the Governor’s statement is completely baseless.

  3. August 3, 2014 at 11:37 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    I like the part about ” No one is going to miss a few dozen millionaires” that says it all. If the Bills generate so much money how come Buffalo is so broke?

  4. There’s also a huge difference between franchises that have huge pull from outlying areas (or events such as the super bowl). The spending is generally just a substitutionart redistribution within a limited area in Buffalo’s case. When you have pull from outside the area, then you bring in external monies and can begin to give it praise for bolstering the local economy. Granted, this is very generalized and there are exceptions, but they aren’t the norm. This is also one of the reasons why it burns me to subsidize large portions of stadium builds– locals end up paying for it two different ways.

  5. Cuomo is lying…..and that’s news because???? Being a politician has turned into a profession of being a slimeball. Can anyone EVER believe what is being said. It is all about getting reelected. There NEEDS to be term limits. Only two terms max. As for statistics, they can be used and twisted in any way that the user wants to use them. Use common sense and keep things simple. That is the recipe for success. As for the impact of the Bill’s on the region, it impacts different people in different ways. From the casual fan to the season ticket holders to the business owners near the stadium to the private house / lot owners who park cars to the street vendors and all in between. They have molded there lives around the Bills and it is NOT right to casually just take it away. There is more to life that statistics.

  6. August 5, 2014 at 10:58 am Edward responds:

    I am not involved in the Buffalo Bills controversies and am not a hardcore fan. But, if this is an appropriate time, I wonder, what prospect could there be for a publicly-owned Buffalo Bills team a la Greenbay? What a community event that might be!

  7. August 7, 2014 at 12:19 am Dorothy responds:

    Rachel, I enjoy your articles. It gives us thought for what we would like to pursue for further information.

    I am in agreement with Dan on this one in support of your article.

    Cuomo is well-known for band-standing, even more so in an election year.

  8. August 7, 2014 at 9:53 am ikejames responds:

    I’m late to the party on this one….

    However, I’m curious about the KC Federal Reserve study. By saying “professional sports teams” is this study looking at just a sample of the big four (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL)? Or is including other major sports, such as the MLS and WNBA? Or does it also include minor league sports which would encompass the Rhinos, the Red Wings, and the Rattlers?

    The sample is important. Is the economic impact of the WNY Flash, the Buffalo Bills, and the New York Yankees all the same? Which is to say, effectively nil?

    Less an argument than a provocative question.

    At any rate, I paid money for a war I didn’t want. I don’t feel bad at all asking people to pay for a football team I happen to like.

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