Stimulating Idea from Nevada’s Brothel Proponents

images-21.thumbnail.jpgLike every state in the union, Nevada faces a financial crunch, but that state has a unique revenue stream: Brothels. In-house prostitution is legal in counties with fewer than 400,000 residents. Currently 11 counties allow licensed brothels.

 While the $50-million-a-year industry–which has an economic impact of about $400 million on the state–pays hefty taxes to the rural counties in which they operate, individual bordellos only pay $100 a year to the state for their business licenses.

Las Vegas’ mayor, the outspoken Oscar B. Goldman supports legalizing prostitution in Sin City, pointing out that many travelers believe sex-for-sale is legal throughout the state anyway:

They tell me we’re missing tens of million of dollars that could be used for the school system, to keep jail guards employed, to provide mental health services.

Currently Nevada faces a $1.8 billion shortfall caused by flaccid tourist trade and a limp housing market. This month Republican Governor Jim Gibbons submitted a budget that included 6 percent pay cuts for teachers and a 36 percent reduction in all higher-education financing. The budget was rejected by the Democratic-dominated House and Senate.

Sen. Bob Coffin, chairman of the Senate Taxation Committee, is willing to hold a hearing on a proposal to legalize and tax prostitution in Las Vegas and other urban areas of the state. Coffin, a  Las Vegas insurance broker and book dealer, is also open to taxing strip clubs and escort services. And he has harsh words for critics of the proposal:

When you’re talking about cutting funding for the mentally ill and increasing class sizes for little kids . . . and someone tells me they don’t want to tax prostitution, I’m going to call them a hypocrite to their face.

But as fiscally exciting as the idea seems, some brothel owners–several who claim business is down so much so they’ve been offering incentives (though the Bunny Ranch boasts they’ve seen a rise in action) and that they already pay plenty in county taxes and to the local health departments to certify their employees–and the mayors of other cities are opposed to the idea. Sparks Mayor Geno Martini told the Reno Gazette-Journal:

We’re too much of a family community for that. We went through a lot of generations just getting rid of the topless bars. It wouldn’t be the right thing for us.

Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell is also opposed to statewide legalization:

There’s no appetite on my part and I don’t think there’s an appetite in Carson City.

Actually, brothels are illegal under Carson City’s municipal law, so it’s sort of moot point anyway.

However, there has been a surge in applications to existing brothels, with arguments that legalizing prostitution statewide could provide legitimate safe employment for women who are so inclined. (No county allows brothels to have men who sell sexual services as there is no way for a male prostitute could meet the requirement to submit weekly cervical specimens, and the language of regulations refer to prostitutes in the feminine only–more reasons why Heidi Fleiss’ Stud Farm never achieved lift off…).

All women working in bordellos are licensed and must submit to an criminal background check and sign a waiver of release of medical records.  Condom use was mandated by law 1988 for all forms of sex; since 1986, when HIV mandatory testing began, not a single brothel prostitute has tested positive for the virus.

Says Las Vegas’ Mayor Goldman about statewide legalization:

I also believe that by regulating and controlling this business, we could make it much safer for the customers as well as the prostitutes. We kid ourselves and we’re very disingenuous if we pretend that there isn’t rampant prostitution now that is unsafe for which we get no tax revenue.

How noble.

And while the state of Nevada debates their financial future we can look forward to radical vs liberal feminists and moralists debating the pros and cons of the sex trade.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.