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Thursday, April 22, 2004

Legislative Action: Doug at the Business of Baseball Blog points to legislatures in two states taking actions with sports implications.

In Minnesota, the state is attempting to step in to get Twins games on television. Right now, 105 of the Twins games are slated for the Victory Sports Network, which is owned by team. VSN, though, is trying to charge $2.20 per subscriber and cable networks are balking at the demand. The price seems clearly high, as Fox Sports charged $1.70/subscriber last year for the Twins, Timberwolves and Wild and the Yankees on TV was just judged to be worth $1.93/subscriber. Now, the Twins are willing to provide VSN free of charge to any cable operator that will agree to mediation. The cable companies are staying away, though, telling the Twins to go back to Fox Sports. Why does all of this matter? Because the television fight could overshadow the legislation designed to give the team a new stadium.

In California, a legislator has proposed AB 3003, which would require any city in California that lures a team from another area to reimburse the community losing the club for lost revenues. Does this bill have any legs? In a word, no:

    The Oakland Raiders and Oakland Athletics say they're not concerned about the bill, which suggests how likely it is to become law. A good thing, since a law like this would have the perverse effect of encouraging California sports teams dissatisfied with their current lease to leave the state entirely. Moreover, most sports economists question the existence of the "economic loss" which this bill is designed to compensate.

    The only effective way to prevent local governments from subsidizing pro sports monopolists would be a federal law forbidding the use of tax-exempt bonds for anything to do with stadium construction or other incentives used to lure franchises from one market to another. I doubt that a President who owes most of his own personal wealth to the generous taxpayers of Arlington, Texas will be in any hurry to support such a bill.


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