Prostitution policy: Criminalised / Nevada legalised
Nevada is the only U.S. jurisdiction to allow legal prostitution–in the form of regulated brothels.
A Ballot on the Brothels of Nevada
The history of legal prostitution lies in the American towns that sprang up in Nevada in the late 1800s with the silver- and gold-mining boom. The male-dominated nature of mining work created a parallel industry for women who came to sell sex, whether pimped by a third party or out of economic desperation. This historical precedent eventually led to the Nevada State Assembly’s passing a bill, in 1971, to give any county within the state the right to host legal brothels. More than thirty brothels were in operation at the height of the legal trade in the 1980s.
Legalization in limited areas creates a climate that helps to normalize prostitution in general: pimps become businessmen, prostitutes become independent contractors, and the men who pay for sex become clients. And what goes for legal brothels dictates norms even where the trade is criminal. Despite the fact that brothels are illegal in Las Vegas, that city is a major sex tourism destination, and accounts for some 90 percent of the prostitution that takes place in Nevada. While an estimated 1,000 women are working in Nevada’s twenty-one legal brothels, approximately 30,000 women are thought to be operating in the Las Vegas area alone.