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History of Brothels in Nevada

History of Brothels in Nevada


Legal and illegal prostitution is as old as life itself. Ergo, it should come as no surprise that a state like Nevada with all its rural and small towns would be one of the first, if not the first state, to legally or openly tolerate and loosely control prostitution in any form. That said, if you like numbers, here are a few for you readers to digest:
* Thirty-three brothels are in rural small-town Nevada, which contains somewhere between 225 and 250 prostitutes that ply their trade via state rules, state statutes, city and county ordinances, and local rules. Twenty-two of those brothels are in areas where populations vary between 500 to 8,000; the remaining eleven are located in rural areas.

The Verdict

Even though many brothels operated openly and regulated by local governments, in the state of Nevada before the year 1971, they were actually tolerated but not yet legal. The legal part didn’t come about until January 1971 when Joe Conforte’s Mustang Ranch brothel was officially sanctioned by the Storey County Commission. The Mustang Ranch was located just north of the small community of Pahrump, Nevada near the California border.

The History

Nevada’s history is or was strongly rooted in what was called the “Wild West.” Cowboys, train robberies, and, of course, gold was the carrot-on-the-stick that produced the major influx of people heading west during the mid-1800s. This is also the time when early brothels and the business of prostitutes thrived in many of the areas. Yet, even though the “Wild West” was really noted for its lawlessness, there were local and public laws in place that loosely governed how working brothels operated. Some welcomed all this type of “business” action; some not so much. If you readers are wondering how brothels approached the healthcare situation in those days, in terms of HIV, AIDS and other serious diseases, research shows that brothels existed totally unregulated from a healing perspective. However, in the early 1930s, venereal disease was being diagnosed as a very serious public health concern. So, in 1937, Nevada introduced laws requiring all prostitutes in the state’s brothels to have weekly health checks to eliminate the spread of disease. In 1986 a new Nevada law required the use of condoms during all sexual activity. The fact is that according to the Nevada State Health Department, there has never been any cases of HIV or AIDS found in a legal Nevada brothel.

The Myth Of Brothels In Nevada

Probably, one of the biggest fallacies that permeates the state of Nevada is that prostitution is legal in the major cities like Reno and Las Vegas. As far back as 1951, these two large cities passed a law to close their “red light” district and used the public nuisance laws to enforce the law. Today, as the current law states, prostitution is only legal in the counties of Nevada that have a total population of less that 400,000. Actually, prostitution is illegal anywhere outside the licensed brothels and that includes “prostitute hustlers” walking the street. It’s also a known fact in Nevada, that women, as well as their customers, can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to six months in jail for a first time offense.

The Claim: Who Was First

Readers may not know the name Joe Conforte, but he, as the owner of the famous Mustang Ranch, became the first legal brothel in the state of Nevada. The date was 1971. However, prior to the entrance of Joe Conforte, a man named Lance Gilman had already dipped his fingers in a lot of pies. His business empire included the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center that was involved in master planning communities in Nevada and California, plus a Harley-Davidson dealership. Gilman also owned the Mustang Ranch brothel east of Reno and had enough “juice” to be elected Storey County commissioner. He is the first brothel owner to be elected to public office in Nevada history. To make sure some of these statements are clear, the Mustang Ranch was actually the first location for a legal brothel, and owned at that time by the famous Joe Conforte who owned and opened the brothel in 1971. So it does make sense that there were legal brothels prior to Conforte because of the loose brothel zoning laws and fee requirements. The truth of the matter is that brothels operated openly
and not legally simply because they were zoned in the right place and called communities.

The Final End Of The History Of Brothels In Nevada

Any person with a dab of common sense and visiting Nevada and especially the area of Metro Las Vegas is, or should, be aware that the “ladies” of the evening also known as prostitutes, are alive and well in the streets, hotels, bars, casinos and most every place else and they are not legal. Also be aware that in 2003, then Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman proposed the legalization of prostitution in Las Vegas and stated his desire to turn East Fremont Street into a “Little Amsterdam.” However, he was not successful. But a survey in 2012 indicated public support of his stance with a 64 percent of voters agreeing that brothels should be legal (Fremont Street is located in the downtown area of the city.) As of the timing of this article prostitution in America is still unknown, but Nevada is only place where it’s allowed.