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Nevada Prostitution in 2024: Is It Legal in Your County?

Prostitution is legal in 10 counties in Nevada; however, there are strict regulations and laws governing the operation of brothels, and engaging in prostitution outside of licensed establishments is illegal.
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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

According to the Nevada Independent, in Nevada, brothels have a long history dating back to the state’s early mining days in the 19th century [1]. Unlike in other parts of the country, where the sale of sex was not widely prohibited until the 20th century, there were restrictions such as vagrancy and “streetwalking” bans that limited prostitutes’ activities to indoor brothels.

The movement against prostitution gained momentum after the Civil War and was closely tied to the abolition of slavery. Efforts to combat the licensing of houses of prostitution in many states began, leading to a wave of laws from 1911 to 1915 aimed at those who profited from putting women and girls into prostitution.

But Nevada was a holdout, and brothels were openly operated and “tolerated,” if not explicitly allowed, for decades. Still, it wasn’t until the Storey County Commission officially sanctioned Joe Conforte’s Mustang Ranch Brothel in 1971 that the state had its first legal brothel, historian Guy Rocha told the Reno Gazette-Journal – Nevada Independent

According to SCLG, legal, regulated brothel prostitution is permitted in Nevada, but only in specific counties [2]. Here is a list of the counties where regulated brothel prostitution is legal:

  • Churchill County
  • Elko County (only in incorporated Elko, Carlin, Wendover, and Wells)
  • Esmeralda County
  • Humbolt County (only in incorporated Winnemucca)
  • Lander County
  • Lyon County (only in Mound House)
  • Mineral County
  • Nye County
  • Storey County
  • White Pine County (only in incorporated Ely)

Prostitution outside of these licensed brothels is prohibited in these counties. Workers in licensed brothels must be at least 18 years old, have work cards, receive fair wages, use condoms, work willingly, and undergo regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and HIV.

Illegal prostitution includes activities such as streetwalking, escort services, and “happy ending” massage parlors.

Currently, about 21 brothels operate throughout seven rural Nevada counties. At one time, there were 35 operating brothels in Nevada. Brothels may not be located on principal streets or within 400 yards of schools or places of worship. Nor may they advertise in public theaters, on public streets, or in any city or county where prostitution is illegal – SCLG

The closest legal brothels to Las Vegas are in Pahrump, located in Nye County. State law now permits licensed brothels to employ both male and female sex workers, although this is uncommon.

Illegal Prostitution in Nevada

Illegal prostitution is prevalent in Nevada, with the offense classified as a misdemeanor. Efforts to expand tourism in cities like Las Vegas and Reno have led to measures to combat street prostitution, making it illegal in Clark County. Despite these efforts, illegal prostitution remains widespread, particularly in metropolitan areas like Las Vegas and Reno.

In Las Vegas, illegal prostitution is estimated to make up about 90% of all prostitution activity, compared to only 10% that is legal. This illegal activity generates approximately $5 billion per year in the Las Vegas area alone, significantly more than the legal prostitution industry, which grosses about $75 million annually.

Unfortunately, Las Vegas has also been identified as a city with high rates of child prostitution, with roughly 400 children rescued from prostitution each year. Additionally, the city has been named among the 17 most likely destinations for human trafficking by the U.S. Justice Department.

Nevada Prostitution Statistics

  • Nevada’s commercial sex market is the largest per capita in the United States.
  • An average of 5,016 individuals are sold for sex each month in Nevada.
  • Legalized prostitution in Nevada has not reduced victimization within the illicit sex trade.
  • Over 13% of prostituted persons in Nevada are advertised as under the age of 21.
  • More than 10% of prostituted persons in Nevada are too young to buy alcohol.
  • Phrases like “fresh meat” and “daddy’s little girl” are used to advertise the youth of sex workers in Nevada.
  • Youth is a sought-after characteristic among sex buyers in Nevada.
  • Prices for younger females are higher in Nevada’s sex trade.
  • Nevada ranks in the top ten states in the country for the youth of prostituted persons.

Source: [3].

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