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Uber's Long Road Into Las Vegas

Uber s Long Road Into Las Vegas BuzzFeed News


And if Uber and Lyft’s move into Vegas was worrisome to James, it was even more so to the city’s taxi drivers. For them, the ride-hail company entering Vegas meant more than just one more company chasing passenger fares on the Strip — it was a threat to a kickback system built over decades and closely tied to the city’s tourism industry. In Las Vegas, taxi and limo drivers often receive a commission for ferrying passengers to a particular strip club, massage parlor, or gun store — or recommending certain full-service escort services. And those commissions can very quickly add up.


By April, Roberson had adopted a very different position on SB 439 and SB 440: He’d become a staunch advocate for both of them. Ironically, the taxi guys were partially responsible for his change of heart. Sources close to Roberson said the Senate majority leader began to reconsider his support for the bills, put off by what one described as the “thuggish behavior” of the taxi cartel.


The taxi cartel had not been sitting idly by during this process. Once it became clear it had lost the battle at the state level, it went local. The taxi lobby hit the Clark County Commission, which has jurisdiction over business licenses in Las Vegas and Henderson, as well as McCarran International Airport. By early summer the agency was considering regulations that would have hamstrung Uber and other TNCs. Drafts of those regulations obtained by BuzzFeed News included mandates that, had they been adopted, would have relegated Uber and Lyft to out-of-the-way staging locations at Strip hotels, the airport, and convention centers, while giving incumbent taxi guys the primo real estate.

The regulations never saw the light of day. In the end, the Clark County Commission was obliged to cobble together regulations that reflected the limited scope the state granted them — but not without one last attempt at obstructing the TNCs’ entrance into Las Vegas. Clark County commissioner Steve Sisolak is mulling a run for governor, two sources close to the situation told BuzzFeed News, suggesting he was hoping to safeguard his relationship with local power lobbyist and fundraiser-extraordinaire Jay Brown. Brown was tapped to represent Bell Transportation at the local level. But the Clark County Commission had just one last card to play: delaying Uber and Lyft. The timeline for operations the commissioners had in mind slated Uber and Lyft’s entrance into Las Vegas and Clark County for late October or early November. But the laws that the NTA approved just a few days beforehand made it clear: A TNC must begin operating 30 days after its business application is approved. Both Uber and Lyft’s NTA applications were approved on Sept. 15, giving them only until Oct. 15 to begin operating. If they didn’t meet that deadline, they’d be legally obligated to resubmit their applications.

At the Sept. 16 hearing convened to introduce draft regulations that would dictate the terms of Uber’s and Lyft’s business licenses, Commissioner Larry Brown repeatedly asked Josh Griffin and Kelly Kay, attorneys representing Uber and Lyft respectively, for assurances the companies wouldn’t begin operations until they were officially licensed by Clark County.

Griffin and Kay declined to provide any and the hearing concluded. A few hours later Uber and Lyft began operating in Nevada.

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Amazing that Uber and Lyft were able to overcome the Vegas cartel.

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