Imagine a Las Vegas nightclub that features simulated exotic sex acts and faux drug use.
Shocking? Appalling? Obscene?
Down at District Judge Susan Scann’s courtroom these days the activities at The Act are being called a scandal, but I consider them downright refreshing.
Not the fake coitus and coke snorting. What’s a departure from the norm at nightclubs on the Boulevard is that the sexual activity and rampant drug use aren’t genuine, but part of a show that claims to be entertaining and worth the price of a ticket.
While attorneys for the nightclub and the Las Vegas Sands Corp. have been arguing the relative entertainment value of The Act’s skits, some of which involve strap-on dildos and chickens with their heads twisted off, what’s worthy of a routine at “Evening at the Impov” is how this minor skirmish pales in comparison to the real scandal law enforcement authorities whisper regularly takes place in nightclubs here.
Nightclubs have become big profit centers for casino companies. They not only attract a younger clientele, but they also generate boatloads of cash flow at a time a new generation of Las Vegas visitors is gambling less.
But real problems have accompanied that popularity in the “what happens here, stays here” era. Federal and local undercover investigators have found plenty of evidence of drug use and sales in some clubs. Other venues have been more than happy to welcome free-spending local pimps and their strings of prostitutes. From Ecstasy rings to killer pimps, there’s something for everyone.
When Metro vice detectives go looking for prostitutes working the ultra lounges and pricey pools, they usually find them. Casino corporate management has often been quick to remind skeptics that, although it takes its regulatory responsibilities seriously, it subleases the space to owners who, darn them, don’t always follow the rules.
Welcome to Las Vegas, where plausible deniability has evolved into a high science.
It would be refreshing to say bravo to Las Vegas Sands for its due diligence if it weren’t for the company’s regulatory track record and the cloud of federal investigation that continues to hang over it. Its attorney argues that The Act’s raunchy style damages The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, which are connected to the Grand Canal Shoppes.
But this is the same Venetian whose parent company just agreed to pay $47.4 million to settle a federal money laundering investigation associated with the casino and Zhenli Ye Gon, a high-rolling front for the Sinaloa drug cartel. In wisely ending the case, the company admitted its compliance officials failed to properly inform federal authorities of Ye Gon’s obviously suspicious financial activity.
It’s a bit late for Sands to start lengthening its skirts. This is the same publicly traded corporation that for years was excited to play host to the AVN pornography industry convention at its Sands Expo Center. You have to believe its security officials are well-versed in exotic sexual behavior both real and faked.
Perhaps The Act controversy is one reason the company recently plucked longtime Gaming Control Board Chief of Enforcement Jerry Markling from the regulatory ranks to beef up its due diligence image. Markling figures to earn his money.
The Act’s legal theater aside, if you’re looking for Metro to change the inside of the local Strip nightclub scene, you’re likely to wait a long time.
“I do not have enough personnel to effectively, from a criminal standpoint, deal with the clubs or the sex industry,” Sheriff Doug Gillespie said in a July interview with the Review-Journal.
He said, “I’m not saying that everybody is not playing by the rules that are out there, but we definitely have some people that are not playing by the rules. So it makes a real challenge for us.”
Styles come and go, but the real act inside nightclubs on the Boulevard remains the same.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.