I first became aware of the prostitution problem when I was making annual visits there in the late 1980s. However, I didn’t really understand it until I was researching for my book The Battle For Las Vegas in 2005, when I became aware that the world’s oldest profession was illegal in Clark County.
I also found a November 3, 1981 article from The Valley Times newspaper stating that tourists were unable to walk the Strip without being confronted by the working girls. There had been 15,000 prostitution-related arrests so far in that year, with a scant 48 convictions. The girls tended to be aggressive and didn’t like to take no for an answer. They sometimes physically grabbed onto a male and tried to take him along with them. If he had a female companion with him, she’d be invited to either come and watch or join the action.
The District Attorney said he couldn’t do much with bad arrests and weak cases. The judges argued that they were only able to impose sentences based on the laws currently on the books. Whatever the reasons, prostitution was a major problem in Sin City.
That was interesting to me, but because the primary focus of Battle was the Vegas reign of Chicago Outfit enforcer Tony Spilotro (1971 – 1986) and his myriad crimes, I didn’t delve into the prostitution issue any deeper.
In the years since Battle was released in 2006, I have given many talks about the Spilotro days and a common question from my audiences is, “After Tony was murdered in 1986, has organized crime left Las Vegas?”
My stock answer has pretty much been, “I doubt it. There’s too much money here for them to not want a part of.” I wasn’t able, however, to be any more specific. That changed when I was contacted by long-time Las Vegas investigative reporter Glen Meek. I knew of Glen and his work through my 19 years as a snow bird, splitting my time between central New York and Vegas. I had never met him, though. Glen said he was doing a project about the sex trade in Vegas and its connections to organized crime. Would I be interested in participating? Yes, very much.
During subsequent conversations and emails, I was in awe of the tremendous amount of material Glen had amassed. The more I learned, the surer I was that I now had an answer to the question about what happened to organized crime in Vegas post-Spilotro.
I think that after reading this book you will be as enlightened and impressed with Glen’s work as I have been.