Legality of Uber in Las Vegas
Uber is a technology pioneer, launching its ride-sharing business across many metropolitan areas throughout the nation. And it desperately wants to enter the largely untapped Las Vegas market. Uber recently opened its ride-sharing business to the Las Vegas community and was immediately hit with a legal battle that aims to shut it down before it can get started. Because of this lawsuit, which is currently pending in court, Uber and its drivers are facing great uncertainty whether they will be able to even operate in Las Vegas.
Why Can’t Uber Offer Their Full Services Yet?
The State of Nevada Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the Nevada Transportation Authority and the Nevada Taxicab Authority, sought a temporary restraining order against Uber to prevent it from offering its ride-sharing services in the valley. This effectively prevents Uber from operating in Las Vegas until the courts decide the issue; however Uber has continued to operate, albeit in a decisively low key manner, and away from taxi hotspot areas around the airport and downtown.
The State of Nevada argues that Uber is a transportation company, like a taxi service, and it lacks the required certificates to operate. Without the required certificate, Uber is considered an unlicensed operator. The State argues that as an unlicensed operator, Uber cannot legally conduct its ride-sharing business. The State further argues that in order for Uber to conduct its business in Nevada, it must seek the proper “certificate of public compliance and necessity”. Uber counters that it is not a transportation company, but a technology company that connects independent operators through its mobile application with people who need a ride.
Uber’s position is further bolstered by the fact that the market in Las Vegas is in desperate need of change; the taxicab system leaves out a substantial portion of customers by focusing 99% of its efforts on traffic around the airport and the Las Vega Boulevard “strip”. Thus, there is a need that is not being met for the areas outside of the airport and strip which Uber could meet. In addition, Uber rides typically cost 15-20% less than standard taxicabs, and therefore would bring competition to the current monopolistic taxicab system.
What Kind of Crimes or Penalties do Uber Drivers Risk by Working for Uber in Las Vegas?
Nevada Revised States section 706.476 states that a vehicle used as a taxicab or other passenger vehicle must be impounded if a certificate of public compliance and necessity has not been issued to the driver or company the driver works for. Uber drivers who are caught will immediately have their vehicle impounded, and be fined for violation of the statute. Multiple Uber drivers have had their vehicles impounded already. Several have even been chased down and pulled over by masked gun-toting NTA officers who bear a lot of resemblance to a SWAT team. Uber has stated that it will stand behind its drivers until the legal issues are sorted out, but there are real risks for Uber drivers.
Both NTA agencies appear willing to fight the issue all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court if necessary. They stand to lose millions if Uber is successful in court and wins the right to operate in Las Vegas. Hopefully the Nevada court system will resolve the conflict soon.