February 10, 2023 | In the News

Indicators of the Week: Super Bowl Betting, Snacks and Corporate Buybacks

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NPR’s Planet Money Transcript:


Get ready, America. It’s time for the big game. But before kickoff, we’ve got something even more exciting to share.

KENNY MALONE, BYLINE: Forget Monday Night Football. It’s money night football. It’s what makes the world go around. But do you know where it’s going and why?


Today on indicators of the week, everybody’s favorite pregame show.


WOODS: No, not the Puppy Bowl. It is the Super-Bowl-themed indicators of the week.


WOODS: I’m Darian Woods.

MALONE: I’m Kenny Malone from Planet Money.

MA: And I’m Adrian Ma. Get ready to learn, laugh and cheer with us because the money game is about to begin.

MALONE: But first, a quick message from our sponsors for whom we are not charging exactly Super Bowl prices, but I’m sure they’re paying a lot of money.


MA: It’s indicators of the week, Super Bowl edition. Kenny Malone, are you kicking or receiving this time?

MALONE: I mean, we haven’t done a coin toss. What is this? We’ve missed the most obvious money joke here.

MA: (Laughter).

MALONE: So my Super Bowl indicator this week – it’s in a bit of a foreign language, and I’m going to see if you can translate it. Are you ready?

MA: Ready.


MALONE: OK. It is KC plus 1.5. Do you know what KC plus 1.5 means, Darian or Adrian?

WOODS: Kick, Captain, 1.5 times.

MALONE: (Laughter) Not quite. Adrian?

MA: Is this a new, like, Kentucky Fried Chicken meal?

MALONE: It should be. It should be. It is not. KC plus 1.5 is sports-betting language for the Kansas City Chiefs are expected to lose by 1.5 points. That’s what that means.

MA: Gambling parlance.

MALONE: Yes. I chose a sports betting indicator because it is quite possible that this year’s Super Bowl will go down as the moment sports betting stepped out of a shadow economy in the United States.

WOODS: So not just dice in the alley these days.

MALONE: No, like, an actual, serious business that has been legalized and brought above board, which is kind of bananas to think about, because exactly, like, five years ago, if you wanted to bet on the Super Bowl, you know, you could fly to Vegas, I suppose, or you could go to some sketchy offshore sports betting website, or you could go to some definitely illegal bookie in the Bronx. Those were kind of your options, until, in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that had kind of cordoned off sports betting to mostly Nevada. And once that law was down, state after state after state started to legalize sports betting. More than half of the country now lives in sports betting states. And this year’s Super Bowl, for the first time ever, is being played in a state with sports betting – Arizona.

MA: Does that mean, like, you could be, like, standing outside the game and betting on the game at the same time?

MALONE: In this case, yes. Yes, you can. And so, like, it is worth mentioning that, like, in five years, we went from I got a bookie down in the Bronx to, oh, hello, sir. May I hold your drink before you place a wager before the big game? Like, this happened so fast. It’s everywhere, and, you know, for better or worse, depending on how you feel about it. Adrian, what Super Bowl indicator is super exciting to you. What have you got?

MA: Yes. My indicator is something that I happen to feel very strongly about. It’s a very important indicator released this week, just in time for the Super Bowl. And it is 49%. So according to a nationally representative survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, 49% – nearly half of those surveyed – said that running out of snacks while watching the Super Bowl would actually be worse than having their team lose the Super Bowl.



MALONE: That’s wrong. Those people are wrong.


MA: This survey is from the Frito-Lay company, you know, the chip company.

WOODS: Works in their interests.

MA: It is part of what they call their Snack Index.

WOODS: All right, so you got some highfalutin indicators on THE INDICATOR.

MALONE: Yeah, this is a Funyun – fun one.

WOODS: (Laughter) Oh.

MA: Obviously, this survey is kind of a joke. I cannot attest to its econometric rigor of this study/press release. What I do know is that I am a snack-driven creature, and I cannot resist an excuse to talk about snacks on the show.

MALONE: This might Ruffles some feathers, Adrian.

MA: (Laughter) Keep it going. Yes. That is two on the board. Let me just get your reaction to a couple of more findings from this survey. Sixty percent of Gen Z snackers are more likely than older generations to prefer flavor dust, you know, the stuff that sticks to your fingers when you’ve been ruffling around in the bag?

MALONE: So is it – is the distinction, whether you like it on your fingers or whether you like flavor dust?

MA: I think they said in the survey that they like it when it sticks to your fingers, yeah.

MALONE: I could hear that as, I like it when there’s so much flavor dust that it sticks to my fingers. They may not like the finger stick, but they just want all the flavor dust. And for that, I say, let me join you, Gen Z. I’m with you.

MA: (Laughter). OK, here’s another one. Apparently, 60% of the respondents said they also have, quote, “bonded over snack preferences with people they have struggled to make conversation with, including partners, friends or family.”

WOODS: Snacks, bringing people together.

MA: One more very important statistic – 3 out of 10 respondents say they have gotten into arguments over snack flavors.

WOODS: Sometimes you got to let sleeping dogs Frito-Lay.

MALONE: Oh, Cracker Jack.

MA: All right. I think, even with all the snack talk, we still have room for one more Super Bowl indicator. Darian, take us to the touchdown zone.

MALONE: That’s right, Adrian.

WOODS: (Laughter) What is…

MALONE: It’s called an end zone. But please, never cut this.


WOODS: My indicator is also about the Super Bowl.




MALONE: Wait a second, wait a second – Darian?

WOODS: (Laughter) Yes?

MALONE: Darian?

WOODS: Yes? I didn’t do the Super Bowl. I have no interest in sports whatsoever. So my indicator is from the Super Bowl of politics, the State of the Union.

MA: (Laughter).

WOODS: I watched this at a friend’s place. He had it going on his overhead projector. We ate onion soup.

MA: Your favorite Super Bowl snack is onion soup?

WOODS: I did not get onion soup on my fingers.

MA: (Laughter).

WOODS: Back to the State of the Union – one thing that really caught my ear, apart from the booing and the chaos, was this.


BIDEN: Corporations ought to do the right thing. That’s why I propose we quadruple the tax on corporate stock buybacks and encourage long-term investments.

WOODS: More taxes on stock buybacks. So there was this 1% tax added to stock buybacks in January. And Joe Biden is proposing to raise it to 4%.

MALONE: Four percent – OK.

WOODS: So for the stock buybacks 101 is when a company makes profits, it’s got three options. It can reinvest that money in new equipment and staff, or it can give the profit back to investors in the form of a dividend, or it can buy back some of its own shares. And so that means the remaining shareholders will see their share price rise because there’s fewer shares out there. But it is controversial, right? You’ve probably heard all this discussion about stock buybacks.

MALONE: I’ve definitely heard a lot of people yelling about it.

WOODS: Yes, people do yell about it. Executive pay is often linked to the price of shares. So critics say it’s tempting for a CEO to get the company to buy back shares and jack up the share price and get a higher paycheck themselves. That’s even if the money that the company made would be better spent investing in new plants or on worker pay.

MALONE: I suppose the other side of this would argue what? Like, why is this any different than dividends? This is a way of rewarding shareholders. It’s going through, like, a more complicated route. But, you know, it’s not bad news, right? I don’t know.

WOODS: Yeah, these are debates that are being had. But what is clear is that stock buybacks have tax benefits compared to dividends. You don’t have to pay any taxes on the rising share prices until you actually sell the shares. So whatever the merits of this policy, this would go some way to reducing some of those tax advantages.

MALONE: Look. It is good that you’ve brought some actual political discourse to an otherwise frivolous, chip-heavy episode.

WOODS: That’s right.

MALONE: I do wonder, what are the odds of Rihanna opening the Super Bowl halftime show with “Umbrella,” Darian?


RIHANNA: (Singing) You can stand under my umbrella.

WOODS: She has a lot of hits, though – lots to choose from.

MALONE: That’s true.

WOODS: I’d say…

MALONE: That’s true.

WOODS: …Plus 0.9.

MALONE: Hey, that’s not really how it works, but I love it. I love it.

WOODS: (Laughter).

MA: This episode was produced by Brittany Cronin with engineering from Katherine Silva. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Viet Le is our senior producer. Kate Concannon edits the show. And THE INDICATOR is a production of NPR.


Source: NPR Planet Money

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