Industry News

TAX US! Says Brothel’s Lobbyist. Dennis Hof Disagrees


Excerps from an article on the NYTimes.com (Thanks Kay)

LAS VEGAS — It is virtually unheard of for any legal industry to ask to be taxed. And it would seem even more unlikely for any government, especially one facing down a nearly $2 billion budget gap, to hesitate when a business is willing to pay up.

Yet such is the case for Nevada’s brothels, a $50-million-a-year industry that pays significant amounts of tax to the rural counties in which they operate but only a $100 business license fee to the state.

The industry’s lobbyist, George Flint, director of the Nevada Brothel Association, has been approaching the Legislature’s leadership for months about creating an entertainment tax that would require the state’s 25 legal brothels to give the state some money on a per-transaction basis.
“I am a voice crying in the wilderness,” said Mr. Flint, who does not own any brothels himself. “It’s not going to make a hell of a lot of money, but we would be happy to pay our fair share. We can’t even get a hearing. The speaker of the House told me, ‘As bad as it is, I don’t think we want to go there.’ ”

Nevada is the only state where prostitution is legal, but by state law it also is restricted to counties with fewer than 400,000 residents. That outlaws it in two counties, Clark, which contains Las Vegas, and Washoe, which contains Reno. There are about 225 women licensed by the state as prostitutes; no county allows brothels to have men who sell sexual services.

Still, since 1971, when prostitution was legalized, Nevada has added more than two million residents and become significantly more socially conservative. The state has also lost much of its frontier mentality, so Mr. Flint acknowledges that the tax effort is “something of an insurance policy” against the Legislature’s deciding one day to do away with the industry.

“Anytime you’re going to take tax money, the state’s not going to view you as a relic of a past time and put you out of business,” explained Mr. Flint, who said he was gaining traction for a brothel tax in 2003 until he made the faux pas of joking to a reporter that he would commit to putting the governor’s portrait in every prostitute’s lair along with a note reading, “Don’t forget the governor’s share.”…

Not all brothel owners support Mr. Flint’s efforts. Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Mound House, said his brothel was the “highest private taxpayer in Lyon County” and questioned why anyone would “consider another layer of tax on me. It’s unbearable in this economy.”

Mr. Hof, whose brothel is the subject of the long-running HBO reality show “Cathouse,” said he paid $78,000 a year for his county business license and $25,000 a year to the local health department officials. “The legislators are saying they’ve got bigger issues to deal with,” said Mr. Hof, who has long disassociated himself from Mr. Flint and the brothel association. “The state needs $1 billion. The money they would get from a brothel tax is a small amount of money. So why bring it up? If the Legislature thinks they need to get some more money from us, we’ll deal with it on our own.”…

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