“JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD FOR YOU” reads the message emblazoned on the mobile billboard as it inches its way along Las Vegas Boulevard, obscuring views of the multi-million dollar attractions that line the Strip. Within seconds the message changes, inviting visitors to “SHOOT 3 GUNS” for $79.
Moments later a mobile billboard advertising “Asian Girls to You” flips a u-turn in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard.
“That’s not safe,” Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick said after viewing the video.
Twenty years ago a handful of mobile billboards roamed the Strip. Today, that number is estimated at close to 100. They serve no transit purpose, emit carbon, waste energy, and clog the artery that delivers lifeblood to Nevada’s primary industry.
The Clark County Commission voted in December to impose regulation on the industry for the first time. In January, nine companies paid to license 79 vehicles at $500 a pop.
But the Nevada Resort Association wants more.
“We would like to see the county place a moratorium on new applications and study the operation of mobile billboards until such time as a study of the impacts and limitations can be established,” president Virginia Valentine said in a statement to the Current.
In a letter to the county supporting the ordinance passed in December, Valentine lamented the billboards result in “time lost from resort employees and employees of resort vendors who are stuck idling in traffic.”
“Add to this the even direr direct economic consequences of visitors stuck within eyesight of their expiring dinner reservation, spa appointment or evening show,” she wrote. “This causes innumerable dollars, including public revenues, to be left on the table out of our community’s reach while our guests sit in traffic exacerbated by slow moving and abundant mobile billboards.”
Kr8 Media owns 50 of the 79 mobile billboards licensed by the county. A moratorium on new licenses could cut both ways — it could increase the company’s competitive advantage but also stifle growth, says co-owner Jeremie Watkins.
But it’s the NRA’s call for “limitations” that Watkins fears could put a crimp in business.
“I’d have to understand what that looks like,” says Watkins, who estimates 85 to 90 mobile billboards cruise the Strip on a regular basis. “But I get it. I’m not interested in clogging up the roads.”
Former Commission chair Rory Reid, now an attorney in private practice, represents Kre8 Media.
“We understand this is the first step toward regulated mobile billboards,” Reid said at the December meeting, calling the Las Vegas Strip “the most important stretch of asphalt in our state, economically.”
“Today, the operation of mobile billboards in our community is essentially unregulated,” Reid told the commissioners. “Any given day, substandard vehicles without Nevada license plates advertise up and down the Strip and throughout the county. Some of these operators, we assume, pay no taxes or fees of any kind.”
The ordinance requires mobile billboards to obey the rules of the road, shut down when the wind picks up, and agree not to park in neighborhoods. It also prohibits the vehicles from making u-turns.
“For any regulation to be effective it must be enforced,” Valentine told commissioners in December.
How many are too many?
“There are limits to the number of stationary billboards our community allows as well as a moratorium to prevent their further proliferation,” Valentine wrote before the commission’s December meeting. “As drafted, the ordinance does not state how many mobile billboards may operate in the primary gaming corridor at any given time. We believe maximum capacity in the primary gaming corridor has been reached.”
“If they are on the Strip at one time that’s way too many,” Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom said of the 79 billboards licensed by the county.
“On a busy weekend, it could be up to 50 per night,” Kre8 Media’s Director of Operations Jamie Watkins said when asked how many of the company’s vehicles are deployed on a given evening. “It’s the busy season now.”
While some mobile billboard advertising campaigns extend to downtown Las Vegas, the majority target the core of the tourist corridor — the two-mile stretch between the Fashion Show Mall and Mandalay Bay.
“Now we know the number we should definitely look at limiting the number, day, time of day — and consider a cap,” Segerblom said in an interview.
How many are just right?
“We are not aware of any methodology for determining a number of mobile billboards. Other factors, such as circulation, operation, congestion, construction and special event closures and air quality, should all be considered in determining the appropriate number,” Valentine said in a statement to the Current.
In 2006, Marla Letizia, then-owner of Mobile Billboards of Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Sun “there should be no more than 20 to 30 such trucks operating on the Strip, but say that if county commissioners don’t take action to limit the number of mobile billboards operating, the success of the medium and the ability of fly-by-night operators to enter the business will quickly send the number to 100 or more.”
Former Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani has supported an outright ban on the vehicles.
“You don’t need trucks and mobile billboards on the Strip,” Giunchigliani told the Las Vegas Weekly in 2017 during her unsuccessful campaign to become the Democratic nominee for governor.