Nevada Brothel History (Past and Present)

Author: Jeremy L

Many people assume that prostitution has always been legal in Nevada in the form of numerous brothels scattered throughout the Nevada rural areas. However, this is not the case.

While brothels have operated in Nevada since the mid 1800’s and were regulated and tolerated by local governments they were not the fully legal establishments they are today. Actual legalization didn’t occur until 1971 when an ordinance was passed providing for the licensing of brothels and prostitutes. That same year, in order to suppress red light districts in large urban areas, officials passed a law stating that prostitution is prohibited in cities above a certain population threshold. To this day, prostitution is NOT legal in Clark County, which includes the city of Las Vegas. The nearest legal Nevada brothel to Las Vegas is Sheri’s Ranch in Nye County.

The following timeline highlights notable events in Nevada’s brothel history…

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Nevada Brothels Tolerated

Brothels are tolerated and zoned in Nevada, operating in a gray area
of the law but not in a legalized or regulated manner.

Health Checks

Weekly health checks of all prostitutes is required by law.

Licensing of Brothels

An ordinance is passed which provides for the licensing of brothels and

Mustang Ranch Legalized

Storey County legalizes the Mustang Ranch brothel.

Law Enacted Prohibiting Urban Brothels

Law is passed prohibiting the legalization of prostitution in counties with
a population above 400,000 so that brothels cannot be legally established
in Las Vegas and Reno.

Brothels Open for Business in Lyon County

Lyon County legalizes it's brothels.

Mid 1970's
Nye County Legalizes Brothels

Nye County, where Sheri’s Ranch is located, legalizes its brothels along with
Churchill, Mineral and several other counties.

Prohibiting Advertising of Brothels

A state law prohibiting the advertising of brothels in counties which have
outlawed prostitution was enacted.

Former Madam of Sheri’s Ranch Publishes a Book

Lora Shaner, a former madam of Sheri’s Ranch, publishes a book about her
experiences there: Madam: Chronicles of a Nevada Cathouse later reissued
and extended as Madam: Inside a Nevada Brothel.

Chuck Lee Purchases Sheri’s Ranch

Chuck Lee purchases Sheri’s Ranch and begins an extensive remodeling of
the property, creating the first and only full service adult sex resort.

Cathouse Premieres on HBO

Cathouse, a popular documentary and subsequent reality series centered
around the Bunny Ranch, premiers on HBO.

“Stud Farm” Attempted

Heidi Fleiss attempts to create an establishment that would employ male
prostitutes and cater exclusively to female customers, a first in Nevada.
In 2009 however, she said that she had abandoned her plans to open
such a brothel.

Brothel Owners Lobby to Be Taxed

Brothel owners lobby to be taxed in order to increase the legitimacy of the
business. While brothels and prostitutes are subject to federal income tax
and local fees, brothels are exempt from the state entertainment tax and
don't pay any other state taxes.

Sheri’s Ranch Launches “Sheri’s Playland”

Sheri’s Ranch launches “Sheri’s Playland”, an unprecedented suite of
bungalows devoted entirely to immersive sexual fantasy role playing.

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