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If Nevada taxes brothels, can statewide legalization be far behind?

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Nevada is truly a state in conflict. Exhibit A: This year’s proposed 8 percent sales tax on legal brothels. That this is even being discussed is somewhat of a modern marvel. Up until a few weeks ago, Nevada’s legislators refused to even acknowledge the state had brothels, let alone legitimize them by taxing their, uh, goods and services.

In 2009, Bob Coffin, then a state senator, mentioned the possibility of legalizing and taxing prostitution statewide as—gasp!—a revenue generator. It died. Speaker Barbara Buckley was blunt: “I just don’t support the idea.”

What’s been most bizarre is that the biggest proponents of the tax appear to be the brothel owners, including Moonlite BunnyRanch owner Dennis Hof. This despite a downturn in business and a declining number of brothels—in the 1980s there were 40 statewide, today there are 18.

Hof says taxing brothels is only part of the solution; legalizing prostitution statewide is the logical next step. “People are making billions on the sex trade in America, and no government is making any money off of it, except in some places in Nevada,” Hof said. “You can’t stop it. Prohibition doesn’t work, and legalization can solve a lot of our problems.”

Heads up, Nevada legislators: If you tax brothels, you could be opening up a seriously big door.

Tags: News, Opinion
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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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