Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Advertising Nevada's Brothels
Brothel prostitution is legal in some rural counties in Nevada,
though the brothels are subject to a host of state and local
regulations. Among them is a ban on advertising, and Vice
Squad supports both the brothel legality and the ad ban.
The brothels, however, are hoping to have the ad ban
rescinded, and are even willing to support a tax increase
in exchange, according to this article in the Las Vegas
Review-Journal. I think that this is short sighted of
the brothel owners, as I believe that free advertising will
threaten the continued legality of brothel prostitution in
The lobbyist for the brothels believes that the courts will
soon overturn the advertising ban in any case, and I tend to
agree with him. Nevertheless, even if the ad ban ends in
this fashion, I still believe that it will reduce public toleration
for legal prostitution.
Why are the courts likely to overturn the brothel ad ban?
Because Supreme Court decisions have been moving in
the direction of protecting advertising (as free speech) for
legal vices. Here's a brief excerpt from "Vice" Advertising
under the Supreme Court's Commercial Speech Doctrine:
The Shifting Central Hudson Analysis, by Michael
Hoefges & Milagros Rivera-Sanchez, Spring / Summer, 2000,
22 Hastings Comm. & Ent. L.J. 345*:
"...the Court has completely reversed its position on "vice"
advertising. Originally, "vice" advertising was effectively
excluded from First Amendment commercial speech
protection. The [Hoefges and Rivera-Sanchez] article argues
that after 1999, the Supreme Court has virtually eliminated
the "vice" advertising distinction and now requires equal
treatment under the First Amendment of all truthful,
non-deceptive advertising for lawful products and services."
As Vice Squad has argued before, full First Amendment
protection for commercial speech should not be assumed
to be a win for those with a libertarian bent.
Incidentally, the ad ban does not exactly pose much of a
barrier for those who are interested in learning more
about "Nevada brothels", as a web search on that phrase
will quickly confirm.
*Thanks to primo research assistant Ryan Monarch for unearthing
the Hoefges and Rivera-Sanchez article.