Nevada Newsmakers

News - April 19, 2019 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Although a bill to outlaw Nevada's legal brothels has failed in the Nevada Legislature, the owner of two brothels in Storey County said on Nevada Newsmakers that the issue is not dead.

"No, we are not in the clear," said Lance Gilman, owner/operator of the Mustang Ranch and Wild Horse Ranch brothels and a Storey County commissioner.

SB 143, sponsored by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, failed to meet a legislative deadline of first-committee approval last week. The bill would have eliminated the system of legal prostitution in smaller Nevada counties.

Gilman told host Sam Shad that the bill could be come back later in the legislative session.

"The Hardy bill, for example, is kind of sitting on the shelf but it could be resurrected at any time," Gilman said. "The last 10 days of the session, as you know, are pretty wild and they drop the rules, so who knows what will happen with it."

Nevada's brothel system also faces a federal lawsuit that contends the industry flies in the face of two federal laws that criminalize human trafficking across state lines for commercial sex acts.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, however, filed a motion early this month to dismiss the suit. Gilman, also the partner/broker for the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, has filed a motion to intervene as a defendant in the lawsuit. The court has yet to rule if he can join.

Another brothel bill remains in play in Carson City. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Leslie Cohen, D-Henderson, ACR-6 would create a committee to study working conditions at Nevada brothels.

Gilman supports the measure.

"Our legal industry has not been looked at for approximately 40 years and it deserves oversight," he said. "I think you and I can agree that there is not an industry that does not benefit by a certain amount of oversight. We could all do better at what we do, whether it be CPAs, or attorneys or the drug industry; you name it. And so the same thing goes with the brothel industry.

"So what in the world would be wrong in having an oversight committee as long as they pay attention and focus on the ladies, the independent contractors?" Gilman said. "I just furnish a safe and healthy place to work. That is my responsibility, a safe and healthy place for both the clients and the ladies."

Gilman emphasized the sex workers are independent contractors and not employees of the brothel.

"Truly, this is not about ownership of a brothel," he said. "This is about independent contractors and that is a concept everyone needs to understand. Everyone of these ladies chose this legal industry. And they choose it primarily, for the safety it brings to them.

"They are independent contractors," Gilman continued. "They are there for a reason and they are there by choice. They can change the quality of their lives dramatically in a very short period of time. So folks (opposed to legal brothels) need to be chatting with them."

Gilman said sex work in legal brothels is a way for women to make a lot of money in a short time.

"Nothing will get them financially safe faster than this industry, especially if you come from a world where there are not a lot of options for higher earnings," Gilman said.

More than half of independent-contractor courtesans working at his brothels clear $100,000 annually with the top producers netting $150,000 to nearly $200,000 a year, Gilman said. They preferably work two weeks on and two weeks off and take two days off per week, Gilman said.

"Where else could they go apply that -- by choice -- and get themselves out of very serious, difficult circumstances?" he asked.

The brothel bills in the Legislature were proposed after voters in Lyon County overwhelming dismissed a ballot question -- with 80 percent of the vote -- to outlaw the county's brothels in 2018. A similar ballot question for Nye County failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, Gilman said.

Lyon County Manager Jeff Page has said the county generates between $400,000 to $500,000 per year from the brothels through regulatory permits

The Legislature's focus on Nevada's legal sex trade is taking attention away from a much bigger problem -- the illegal prostitution and sex trafficking -- including under-age girls -- in Reno and Las Vegas, Gilman said.

"The tragedy is they are changing the focus," Gilman said. "In the illegal industry, it is controlled by predators. It is controlled by gangs and associations and the ladies who are captured in that are treated in a horrible manner. So really, we (legal sex trade) are making something safe for a lady that would choose the (sex) industry. In the illegal industry, they don't have the choice."

Gilman was critical of Sen. Hardy's bill because its sponsor knows little about legal brothels.

"Mr. Hardy has never been to a brothel," Gilman said. "I have invited him repeatedly. He and (Reno lawyer and anti-brothel activist Jason) Guinasso, they have never been to a brothel. They may have spoken to a disgruntled employee or independent contractor in the past, and I don't know of any industry where someone isn't disgruntled in the industry. But come and talk to the ladies.

"There have been over 4,000 work cards issued in Mustang Ranch history, in my two decades there," Gilman said. "And most of those ladies are in (the business) three-to-five years and out. And the majority will tell you that it is a safe, wonderful and rewarding experience. But you have to talk to the ladies to really understand that."