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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Update: Limo/Taxi extortion racket continues unabated
Citizen's group forms to challenge un-enforced law

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
April 13, 2009

LAS VEGAS - In this 2005 Las Vegas Sun photo, hundreds of local cabbies are shown blocking the Las Vegas Strip in protest of a proposed bill then-awaiting ratification by the Nevada Legislature that would have prohibited many of them from taking pay off's from business owners for delivering patrons to their strip clubs and other tourist dependent businesses.

After extraordinary pressure was presented by transportation company owners and some casino executives, the bill was vetoed by then-Governor Kenny Guinn, and the illegal practice has been allowed to continue to the present day.

Shortly after the 2005 veto, some limo and taxi drivers declared victory and vowed to use the same tactics with the addition of  threatening to block access to McCarran International Airport if the need should again arise.

Transportation company owners remained strangely silent and did not protest the use of their vehicles in such demonstrations while local citizens and out of state visitors complained loudly about being inconvenienced and threatened, along with the local's continued complaints about receiving poor taxi service in neighborhoods because most available cabs spend their late nights idling in front of strip clubs with their radios turned off, and are not available for neighborhood pick ups.

This past week the story made headlines again when local business owners renewed their complaints that if they depend on tourist's business,  they stand to be extorted by unscrupulous limo and taxi drivers who have the ability to suggest their fares go elsewhere. New complaints came from owners of  wedding chapels, off-Strip restaurants, pawn shops, bridal shops, and florists, some saying drivers demand up to $100 per passenger delivered, or they will recommend other businesses that agree to pay their demands.

A citizen's group was formed, and attorney Al Marquis was hired to try to convince state authorities to do their job. The group developed a web site; to tell the story. But they're facing an uphill battle because some limo and cab company owners condone the extortion practice since it saves them the expense of having to pay a living wage and benefits to their drivers. It also allows them to claim they need more vehicles to meet the demands of locals and conventioneers.

After no company owners complained when their equipment and personnel were involved without permission in the 2005 civil disobedience, some observers began to ask how our state government could be so controlled by the threat of only one industry, and why public roadways were allowed to be used to threaten the Governor, especially when the limo and taxi industries are supposed to be regulated by state law?

Keep in mind that most cab and limo drivers in Vegas are moral law abiding citizens. However, in most other states these same drivers can own their own cabs or limos and compete with the largest of transportation companies. In Nevada and only two other states, an unconstitutional "Adverse Impact Law" exist that allows competing transportation businesses to "intervene" when a new application comes forward, and argue that the newbie will cut into their bottom line. In all cases I've studied, the existing limo and taxi operators prevailed, and no new companies were allowed.

Meanwhile, the extortion demand is now topping $100 per passenger delivered to local strip clubs, and one club has reportedly begun paying drivers $120 per patron!

What's most amazing is that the Internal Revenue Service has been aware of the racket for over 19 months -- and has done nothing.

The following letter was sent via U.S. Certified Mail on September 5, 2007, and its delivery receipt was signed by an employee of the IRS Fraud Division two days later.

The writer states that he has not been contacted or received a written response from the IRS, therefore, he recently requested that a redacted copy of his letter be made public in hope its dissemination will eventually inspire an investigation.

Sources report that the purported owner of Bada Bing men's club also manages the doormen at several MGM resorts, and those doormen are instructed to only recommend his topless bar to MGM casino patrons.

The man's godfather is former Crazy Horse Too owner and convicted racketeer Rick Rizzolo who is known as a "whale" in MGM casinos. Rizzolo's  now-shuttered topless bar was allegedly the first to benefit from his godson's doorman/limo driver scam. Rizzolo's plea bargain stipulates that he not have an interest in any adult business for the rest of his life, but sources say he's a hidden owner in Bada Bing.

The same sources allege that the godson is a silent partner in a local limo company, and MGM doormen allegedly let his vehicles cut in front of others waiting in line for fares, especially if the fare requests a ride to a strip club. When in the vehicle, the driver reportedly tries to divert passengers to Bada Bing and other adult businesses including massage parlor brothels and swinger's clubs that allegedly pay  $100 per passenger. The MGM doorman allegedly receives a cut from the driver that he shares with Rizzolo's godson who is benefiting both ways, while he and his doormen's bosses at the MGM apparently know nothing of the scam, and the marks are overcharged at the adult venues they're encouraged to patronize by unscrupulous doormen and drivers.

For years the politically appointed commissioners on the Nevada Taxicab Authority (TA) and Nevada Transportation Authority (NTA) have been accused of  looking the other way and letting the practice continue unabated to the detriment of our tourism industry and the discouragement of new business ventures.

However, the following coverage by my colleagues John L. Smith and George Knapp may indicate that the illegal practices are about to finally become of interest to the IRS and the unaware casino owners.
Apr. 01, 2009
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
JOHN L. SMITH: Las Vegas strip clubs waging high-stakes cash-for-customers war
Apr. 03, 2009
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
JOHN L. SMITH: Topless clubs take the gloves off to fight for business during recession
Investigative Reporter George Knapp and Photojournalist Matt Adams
I-Team: Cabbie Kickback Fight Going to the Airwaves
April 9, 2009
Streaming Video:
Apr. 10, 2009
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
JOHN L. SMITH: Attorney spearheads movement to stop kickbacks for strip club clientele

The New - Old Racket
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
October 23, 2002
Sin City Cabbie Conspiracy Worsens
The tail is wagging the dog with government help!
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
October 24, 2005
"We've taken in excess of 50 rides, and one out of five rides that we take, we offered the opportunity for the driver, and they attempted or diverted us to a specific location." -  Former Nevada Taxi Authority (TA) Administrator John Plunkett
Nevada legalizes extortion
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
February 12, 2007

Steve: I think one part of the story you should also include is that one topless club owner even owns a taxi cab company to try and combat the diverting of customers and he more than likely had hopes that his drivers would have some loyalty to his club when deciding what topless club to recommend to passengers.  Unfortunately for him, his drivers are more loyal to the payouts offered by other strip clubs and will even divert customers wanting to go to his club if they can get a bigger payout somewhere else-----and not get caught.

Also the reason you see such long lines of cabs at strip clubs is because they know most customers go from one strip club to another, allowing them to repeatedly get the payoffs.  Why would a taxi driver take a call from dispatch to get a $15 fare when he can sit at a strip club for an hour or so and have a 50-50 chance of getting another couple hundred for a strip club run.

This town lives on payoffs, crooked police to help with the coverups, and bribed politicians. It won't be changing anytime soon. - Mel
Hi Steve,

The biggest incentives to these limo and taxi drivers is that the clubs can supply drugs to offer to their passengers.

Last month I met up with a woman friend at Ceasars... She asked the doorman for a limo. When we got in the limo, the Chinese driver who could hardly speak English, right off offered us "eight ball for $400."  That is close to a $250 to $300 profit for him!. That's Nuts! - Jasper
Steve: You should write an article about how $40M-$200M is being diverted illegally off the Strip by Arabic and Pakistani cab drivers. As the backbone of Nevada, the major Strip casinos are going bankrupt and broke. That money is desperately needed by the casinos during this recession. I understand Rick's Cabaret is now paying $120/head and charging $20 for a beer. I believe that the casinos need to plead their case to the transportation commissioners because the casinos will ultimately be the losers in this game as more revenue is taken from them. This is unheard of (major kickbacks happening in the open without punishment) in any major city in the United States. - Lou

As a fifty year Las Vegan, I can only ask, "What is this town becoming?" - SM

Editor's note: Steve Miller is a former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner

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