There's no getting rid of prostitution

During a recent address to the Nevada Legislature, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid expressed an opinion about prostitution that is shared by some people based upon their moral standards and by some others for their own nefarious reasons. His comments were directed at legalized prostitution, but did not address the issue of illegal prostitution.

Prostitution is not a subject that most people wish to discuss -- or even think too deeply about. It is out of the mainstream of social acceptance. Therein lies much of the problem for politicians and society. It is their failure to recognize that prostitution is a social issue and their failure to take the responsibility to deal with it as such.

Prostitution exists, and it always will. There is a reason it is called the "world's oldest profession." It is either legal and regulated, or it is illegal and a criminal issue. A third choice -- no prostitution -- doesn't exist.

Every person who lives in the Las Vegas area knows there is an enormous criminal enterprise operating as illegal prostitution. It operates openly and, a case could be made, with the silent complicity of the government and the community, with ugly and costly results.

The consequences to the community of this illegal activity are the proliferation of crime for which the citizens foot the bill. Millions of dollars of taxpayer funds are used for police, courts, ambulances, hospital and public health expenses on a problem that generates no income to government.

Worse yet, when a problem occurs, our most valuable asset, the tourist, goes home very angry, disgusted and with a negative image of Las Vegas. In addition, the tourist has spent money that goes "underground" instead of on gaming, restaurants, entertainment, shopping and tips for legitimate services. It is unacceptable to promote, cajole and dishonestly lead tourists to believe anything goes in Las Vegas. Then, unbeknownst to them, they may partake and commit a crime, entering a criminal environment, quite often with disastrous results.

For instance, among the crimes and situations that a male tourist could be exposed to: soliciting prostitution; using illegal drugs; being "trick rolled;" being infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and taking it home to his wife or partner; being mugged and robbed; extortion; blackmail; fines; conviction and loss of his job. All of this, because tourists are led to believe "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

Nevada does have a negative image from prostitution, but it comes from the illegal activity that is promoted and allowed to operate in Las Vegas, not from the legal, licensed brothels in the "cow counties."

Child trafficking and child prostitution represent the most heinous result of allowing illegal prostitution to operate in Las Vegas. Each year, hundreds of prostituted children are taken off our streets, but not before the abuse occurs. These children -- girls and boys -- are just another piece of merchandise for the pimps to market.

Clark County has a serious STD problem. Serious-minded people who wish to be more informed on this can contact the Nevada Department of Public Health for statistics related to this serious threat to public health. If they do, they should be sure to ask about the track record of the legal brothels related to STDs. Suffice to say, it is excellent.

The criminal enterprise of illegal prostitution generates enormous gross sales in Las Vegas. One can determine that by combining the amount of money spent on thinly disguised sex-related advertising in the yellow pages, printed materials distributed on the street, stationary and mobile billboard advertisements and Internet advertising. This is a significant amount. Worse yet, there is up to $3 billion of unreported and untaxed gross sales. If regulated, up to $600 million of vitally needed tax revenue could be generated for government.

Without question, a legal, licensed, regulated, medically tested, taxpaying, safe, discrete, low-profile brothel system is far superior to the criminal enterprise operating in Las Vegas. This enormous criminal enterprise is unregulated, it generates a wide variety of crimes, it is the source of sexually transmitted diseases, it traffics in the abuse and coercion of women and children, it diverts tourist dollars away from legitimate venues and denies the state millions of dollars in tax revenue.

The choice is clear. The time for responsible people to act to protect the health and safety of Las Vegas citizens and visitors is now.

The clock is ticking.

Robert J. Fisher is public relations counsel to and a representative of the Chicken Ranch, a legal, licensed brothel located in Pahrump.