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WVU professor says Super Bowl is rarely a win for host cities

Photograph of Brad Humphreys, WVU professor. He is wearing a WVU branded, navy blue golf shirt and standing inside of a room full of widows in the background. He has short hair and a gray beard.

Brad Humphreys, a WVU economics professor, said research shows Super Bowls aren't typically lucrative for host cities. (WVU Photo)

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A West Virginia University economist sees Super Bowl LVIII, being held for the first time Sunday (Feb. 11) at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, as the fulfillment of an economic promise to Sin City that likely won't pay off in any supersized way.

Brad Humphreys, associate dean for academic affairs and research and economics professor in the WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics, said when National Football League teams and local officials decide to build new stadiums — like Allegiant Stadium which opened in 2020 as the home of the Las Vegas Raiders and a future Super Bowl site — the promise of hosting the “Big Game” is often used to secure subsidies.

Humphreys is available to discuss research that shows the Super Bowl does not deliver many tangible economic boosts to host cities.


“The promise of hosting the Super Bowl plays a large role in many new stadium deals. The league announces that, if a new stadium is built, the city will get to host the Super Bowl in year X, possibly more than once. Both the team and local officials quickly point out that this will be a big economic win for the city, justifying a large subsidy.

“The prospect of hosting a future Super Bowl played a large role in attracting the Raiders to Las Vegas and also in determining the $380 million subsidy the state of Nevada provided for the construction of a new stadium in the city. A majority of the Super Bowl host cities over the last 20 years were tied to new stadium deals.

“Peer-reviewed academic research shows hosting the Super Bowl has no tangible economic impact on the economy of the host city. The game has been played since the 1960s and moves around every year. This provides an ideal situation for comparing local economic outcomes when a city hosts the Super Bowl compared to years when the game was not played in the city. The reason hosting the game provides no tangible economic benefits is that it is a single game. While the game clearly draws a lot of people from out of town to the host city, the cities that host the Super Bowl are all large tourist destinations in their own right.  

“Las Vegas attracted nearly 40 million visitors in 2022. This Super Bowl weekend, people traveling to Las Vegas to watch the game will rent hotel rooms, eat and drink in bars and restaurants, and visit other attractions that other visitors would have spent money on had the Super Bowl not been played there this week. The spending by fans going to the game just replaces spending by other visitors. That’s not net new economic impact. It’s just dollars coming out of the pockets of a different group of visitors.” — Brad Humphreys, economics professor and associate dean for academic affairs and research, WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics

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