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Legalized Bordellos Thrive in Gaming State

May 24, 1985

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ From the Chicken Ranch to the Mustang Ranch to the Mona Lisa, practitioners of the world’s oldest profession continue to ply their trade at Nevada’s 35 legal bordellos.

And opponents continue to criticize Nevada for being the lone state to legalize prostitution while proponents say the state is just taking a realistic approach to an age-old controversy.

Brothels are legal in seven of the state’s 17 counties but are not allowed in the major population centers of Las Vegas and Reno.

A bill to ban brothels was unceremoniously killed in the Nevada Legislature last month after lawmakers in the rural counties where the brothels flourish told their peers, in effect, to mind their own business.

Russell Reade, a former Northern California high school biology teacher and football coach, thinks legalized prostitution is working.

Disillusioned with teaching in 1981, Reade was considering buying a catfish farm in the Sacramento Valley when he saw an ad listing the Chicken Ranch for sale and, with a Northern California investor, bought it.

″I got tired that the efforts didn’t justify the rewards,″ Reade said of his 12 years of teaching. ″I’m making three times what I made as a school teacher.″

He joked that he’s switched ″from biology to anatomy,″ and said weekly trips by the 20 Chicken Ranch courtesans to a town doctor in a ranch van ″are like going on a field trip.″

Reade said some 1,000 customers a month visit the Chicken Ranch, named after the celebrated brothel that spawned the musical ″Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.″ They arrive at the brothel 55 miles northwest of Las Vegas by bus, limousine, car and the ranch’s private seven-passenger plane.

Reade said he bought the property for $1 million and now values it at $5 million. He talked of elderly couples who have given a spouse a gift certificate for the ranch and of visitors ″from every country in the world. There’s no language problem. You can always communicate the basics.″

In Elko, about 190 miles west of Salt Lake City, five bordellos three blocks south of the downtown district ″are generally pretty well accepted although some groups, such as church groups, do not like to see them here,″ said City Manager Terry Reynolds.

″We have no enforcement problems with them,″ Reynolds said of the brothels near the heart of the town of 8,800. ″We don’t have the same problem as Las Vegas or Reno,″ where illegal prostitution by streetwalkers is a continuing problem.

″I would just as soon not have the brothels as to have them,″ Reynolds said. ″A lot of people feel that way. But given our lawful environment as opposed to the streetwalkers in Las Vegas and Reno, I would rather have our situation. I have never seen anyone able to control prostitution where it’s not licensed.″

Reade agreed.

″I think Nevada is the only state that has tackled prostitution realistically. Every state has prostitution in some form or another. It costs too much public money to try to police prostitutes. After spending all that money you still have not solved the problem. In the end you have illegal prostitutes who are outlaws, working with pimps and other people outside the law, doing trick rolls, dealing in drugs, etc.″

″Meanwhile, the money they’re receiving is tax-free money which is pyramided into other illegal endeavors. Our girls pay income tax, Social Security and a licensing fee to the county,″ he said.

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