Although many visitors to Las Vegas think prostitution is legal in the city, the fact is it isn’t. The world’s oldest profession can legally be found in eight of the 16 counties in Nevada, all of which are rural.
Two of those counties, Nye and Lyon, are home to various brothels, many of them owned by self-proclaimed pimp Dennis Hof. Hof said he has 540 contracted working girls and 230 employees across his establishments in the state.
Star of HBO’s “Cathouse,” Hof has been in the limelight over the years, most recently when former NBA and reality-show star Lamar Odom overdosed at Hof’s Love Ranch South, just outside of Pahrump. But now he’s getting attention for the solution he sees to curbing sex trafficking in Las Vegas: legalizing prostitution.
Why did you publicize your views on trafficking?
There are more than 3,000 active pimps and somewhere around 32,000 girls who come to Las Vegas every year to apply their trade. ... It’s been estimated that there are 300 girls under the age of 16 that are being trafficked all the time. You’ve got pimps having shootouts on the Strip killing each other. You have a pimp kill a couple of girls right in a casino parking garage. It’s out of hand. Las Vegas is the sexual cesspool of America.
What other issues does illegal prostitution cause?
Sexually transmitted diseases in Las Vegas are way up, partially due to illegal prostitution. There’s also millions of dollars a year in property crimes. More interestingly, studies say that only 20 percent of the people involved in property crimes or identify theft with prostitution report it to the police, because most of them don’t want any trouble in their life. It’s disgusting, and something needs to be done about it.
What do you believe can alleviate these problems in Las Vegas?
There’s two answers: Enforce your laws and give law enforcement the budget they need to arrest the girls and put the pimps in prison. Or you can legalize prostitution.
Do you think one solution would work better?
Well, the first way is the right way to go, but they’re not going to do it. So, that’s why I’m suggesting legalization. By the way, former Mayor Oscar Goodman suggested that, too.
What would be the best way to go about legalizing prostitution in Las Vegas, and what benefits would the city see because of it?
It’s a multimillion-dollar-a-year business in Las Vegas, and nobody gets any taxes off of it. All you would have to do is open up 10 Bunny Ranches there in a red-light district. It would have to have a close proximity to the Strip and the tourists, without having a huge cab fare to get there. There’s some industrial areas that are close to the Strip that would be perfect for it. The city and the county could probably make about $25 million a year in taxes off of legalized prostitution.
So you would model it off the Red Light District in Amsterdam?
Yeah. Create a red-light zone so people know exactly what it is; I wouldn’t want to offend any of the people who live in Las Vegas, you know, the God-fearing folks. But there’s an enormous opportunity. Right now they spend a lot of money policing vice. Why not eliminate that and turn it into a revenue maker, instead of having to pay to police it? Once you legalize it, you’re going to take out most of the illegal prostitution.
Why are you so confident that legalized prostitution would deter illegal sex operations?
If a consumer has a choice between a legal place of business and an illegal criminal operation, he’s going to go to the legal place. That’s because he knows there’s no problems waiting to happen there. In a legal environment, you know who’s not invited to the party? Pimps. Because you have to have a squeaky-clean criminal record to get a license. Underage girls aren’t invited, because the police department would scrutinize them and make sure they have proper identification and they are who they truly say they are, and that they’re 18 years of age.
How many prostitutes do you imagine would work in a red-light district in Las Vegas?
If you had 10 brothels, you could probably have around 500 girls working.
Have you ever had any former street girls come to work for you? If so, what have you heard about the unregulated conditions?
It’s terrible. It’s a horrifying experience. A lot of the time, it’s underage girls who are victims. But when they’re arrested, they’re not treated like victims, they’re treated like criminals, and that’s even more disgusting.
Do you have a model in mind for how Clark County could legalize?
Lyon County. They protect the public but also make it more conducive for a girl to work than Nye County. It’s more working-girl friendly.
Nye County has been trying to update codes regarding prostitution for the past six months. What’s the update on that?
All that is pretty much worked out. The bottom line is, (municipalities) always want more money. They look to the brothels as a cash cow. My take on it is, whatever you raise all the businesses in Nye County, whatever percentage that is, raise the brothels the same thing.
Have you had any talks with officials in Las Vegas about legalizing prostitution?
I have, but I signed a confidentiality agreement that won’t allow me to talk about it.
Can you say how far along these talks are?
All I can say is we’re moving along as fast as we can.