Nearly a million and a half travelers were overcharged an estimated $14.8 million last year by cabdrivers and cab companies, a legislative audit of the state Taxicab Authority found.

The audit, released Monday, estimated 22.5 percent of the 6.6 million rides given by local taxicabs to and from McCarran International Airport in 2012 were deceptively long.

The practice, known as long hauling, added an average of about $10 to the typical cab fare, according to the audit. It recommended the Taxicab Authority take several steps to prevent long hauling. Auditors came up with their estimate by reviewing 2,730 airport trips and said 614 of them involved long hauling.

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They noted their estimate was conservative because they did not count a trip as a long-hauling ride unless the fare was at least $5 higher than the estimated fare to a specific destination, typically about $16 to $18.

“Although the Authority has increased its efforts to detect long hauling, more needs to be done, including the use of preventative measures,” the audit said.

Those measures include putting signs at the airport and in cabs noting the estimated fare to popular tourist resorts.

Both cabdrivers and cab companies benefit financially when a passenger is long hauled.

Authority spokeswoman Teri Williams said the agency would address each of the audit’s findings.

Biggest hotels in U.S.

Las Vegas holds the top 17 spots out of the 20 largest hotels in the United States, with MGM Grand still reigning as the largest, having 4,996 hotel rooms. Rounding out the top five are the Luxor with 4,400; The Venetian with 4,027; Aria with 4,004; and Excalibur with 3,991.

The non-Las Vegas properties that clung to the bottom of the list are: the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tenn.; Disney’s Pop Century Classic Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.; and Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu.

Las Vegas also has the largest inventory of any U.S. city, with 150,481 rooms. Orlando, Fla., is second, with 117,396 rooms, followed by Chicago, which has 107,920.

Virgin Las Vegas

When trying to gain some attention in a crowded market, what better way than to throw a party led by celebrity businessman and pitchman Richard Branson?

In the past couple of years, that has meant Branson navigating the Bellagio fountains on a water scooter and parachuting off the top of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in a stiff wind, hitting the building on the way down.

To launch Virgin America’s three-a-day flights between Las Vegas and Los Angeles International Airport on Monday, Branson was much more subdued, merely hanging out the cockpit window upon arrival and later posing in a sequin-covered pilot’s jacket and cap.

Virgin Group, which Branson heads, holds 24.9 percent of Virgin America, the legal limit for foreign ownership of a U.S.-based airline. The group also owns 51 percent of Virgin Atlantic, the first foreign carrier to come to Las Vegas a dozen years ago.

Caesars restructure

Caesars Entertainment Corp. said Tuesday that it will spin off its interactive gambling business, Planet Hollywood and a planned casino in Baltimore into a separate company owned in part by the casino operator, the company’s stockholders and private equity firms Apollo and TPG.

Apollo Management and TPG Capital are expected to invest a combined $500 million in cash into Caesars Entertainment as part of the deal, which would create a “growth-oriented entity” controlled by Caesars Acquisition Co., a company created to facilitate the transaction.

Caesars Interactive CEO Mitch Garber will serve as CEO of the acquisition company and continue in his role with the interactive division, which owns the World Series of Poker.

In a statement, Caesars Entertainment, which has long-term debt of more than $20 billion, said the transaction would allow the company to fund growth opportunities in “a less levered and more flexible vehicle.”

Macau Wynn’s winning bet

Wynn Resorts Ltd. first-quarter profit rose modestly as it reported higher occupancy and improved revenues at its casinos in Las Vegas and Macau.

The company’s success has been driven by a boom in gambling in Macau, the world’s largest gambling hub in China. Revenue from Wynn Macau operations rose 4.4 percent to $992 million in the second quarter.

The company, led by billionaire Steve Wynn, also reported revenue gains at its operations in Las Vegas. For the first-quarter, revenues from Wynn Las Vegas and Encore were up 7 percent to $386.6 million.

Overall, in the first quarter, Wynn Resorts reported net income of $203 million, or $2 per share, up from $140.6 million, or $1.23 per share, in the prior-year quarter.

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