Audit: Vegas taxis overcharged $15M to airport

LAS VEGAS: A taxi turns off Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, Nevada. Over 40 million tourists visit Las Vegas annually. Originally founded by Mormon Missionaries in 1855, Las Vegas started it's gambling industry in 1940. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Clark County taxicab drivers taking tourists on the scenic route to and from the airport overcharged their passengers an estimated $14.8 million last year, according to a legislative audit released Monday.

The report said the state Taxicab Authority needs to do more to prevent these roundabout rides, which are meant to run up the meter and accounted for 22.5 percent of the 2,730 airport trips that auditors reviewed.

"Taxicab trips are often the first and last experience tourists have in Las Vegas," auditors wrote. "Therefore, long hauling may result in tourists having a negative experience."

Officials with the Taxicab Authority, which oversees the 16 cab companies in Clark County and their estimated 9,000 drivers, were not immediately available for comment on the report Monday morning.

The report said the authority had not audited individual taxicab companies for more than 3 1/2 years, making it difficult for the authority to assure companies are following the law. State auditors said more than half of the 600 driver trip sheets they reviewed didn't have the proper time stamps that would ensure drivers aren't working too many hours and taking to the roads while fatigued.

While the Legislature allocated more funds in 2003 so the Taxicab Authority could audit the cab companies, authority managers were assigning staff members to other tasks instead of audits, the report said.

Auditors also recommended the authority keep better tabs on its inventory of medallions — the metal plates that authorize a taxi to operate. One company received an extra medallion and kept it for about 14 months, the report said, while another reported two-thirds of its medallions had been lost or stolen since 2006.

Each permanent medallion generates about $190,000 in gross revenue each year, officials said.

Sloppy records could allow taxi companies to gain an unauthorized share of the market, and make it difficult for Taxi Authority board members to determine whether they should authorize more cabs on the road.

Having too few medallions means passengers would have to wait too long for their ride, while having too many leaves too little work for drivers and encourages them to long-haul to make up for lost revenue, the report said.

The Taxicab Authority is required to respond to the audit with a plan of action by July 17. It's also required to follow up with a six-month progress report by Jan. 17.

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