Vegas Gentlemen’s Clubs Dole Out $40M Annually to Taxi Drivers, Suit Says

Jun 4, 2009 8:00 AM PST
LAS VEGAS -- A federal suit filed Tuesday is certain to put the city’s strip clubs and taxi and limo businesses under the microscope.

Drivers from more than two dozen cab and limo companies have been listed as defendants after Calfornia resident Theodore Trapp said that many of the area’s strip clubs pay drivers as much as $100 per person to bring people to their venues.

Those clubs named in the suit include Cheetah’s, the Badda Bing Men's Club, the Can Can Room, Club Paradise, Deja Vu Showgirls, The Palomino Club, Sapphire, Spearmint Rhino, Treasures, Little Darlings, Olympic Gardens and Larry Flynt's Hustler Club.

Trapp said in the suit filed at U.S. District Court in Las Vegas that some drivers make as much as $100,000 a week. He also goes on to claim that the total damage to strip-club consumers amounted to $40 million in kickbacks last year.

The long-standing practice of clubs paying drivers to bring in customers echoes a similar suit filed in Clark County Court last October. The practice is illegal under two separate Nevada statutes.

Trapp, who claimed he was on his way to burlesque club Play It Again Sam, said in the suit that his own taxi driver discouraged him from going to that destination and "misled [him] into believe that his chosen destination was somehow undesirable," telling him, "'There are better clubs' ... 'The girls are better at other clubs.’”

"The illegal scheme is negatively impacting the city of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada," the suit said. “The harm to customers [doesn’t] end when a customer exit’s a given cab.”

Trapp claims the clubs recoup the money spent on kickbacks by watering liquor, selling cheap booze as brand name, padding customers' bills, and "threats of actual physical harm" to customers.

“[T]he aggregate of this practice fosters an environment that discourages people from returning to Las Vegas as these individuals have unwittingly become ensnared in an illegal scheme and are unable to travel freely via common carrier,” the suit said.

Trapp noted in the suit a local TV news investigation that uncovered the practice. He also said that a book, “Stripped: Twenty Years of Secrets From Inside the Strip Club,” provides a full insider’s view of the scheme.

“The author worried that the only way this extortion practice would end will be with one wrecked cab, a pile of half-a-dozen dead tourists and Las Vegas on the national media hot seat for our irresponsible behavior,” the suit said.

In October, two Las Vegas strip clubs filed suit against 12 competing clubs and their employees, alleging that the clubs and their employees bribed taxi drivers to take passengers to 12 clubs instead of the two that filed the suit.

Deja Vu Showgirls and Little Darlings of Las Vegas filed that suit in Clark County, claiming that taxi drivers would disparage Deja Vu and Little Darlings with comments like, "It's a dump," and descriptions of the dancers as "old hogs" and "chicks with bullet wounds," taking passengers to the defendant clubs in exchange for tips and kickbacks from club employees.

Tuesday's suit, which seeks class-action status, asks for an injunction to the practice, as well as punitive awards.

XBIZ could not immediately reach Trapp's attorney, James Smyth II, Wednesday evening for comment.

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