Nevada brothels that cater to long-haul truckers are offering gas cards and other promotions after seeing business decline as much as 25 percent from a year ago, industry officials said.
Geoffrey Arnold, president of the Nevada Brothel Owners' Association, said truckers account for up to 75 percent of business at the state's rural brothels along Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 95.
He said business is down about 19 percent at his two northern Nevada brothels along I-80: Donna's Ranch in Wells and Donna's Battle Mountain Ranch.
"We're being affected by the economy like everybody else," Arnold said. "Times are tougher ... and truckers have less money to spend. They're not high-rollers anymore."
Diesel fuel costs roughly $4.70 a gallon, up 67.5 percent from a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Of Nevada's 28 legal brothels, 16 are located in rural areas that are being hurt by truckers' higher diesel costs, Arnold said. Whorehouses closer to Reno and Las Vegas, which rely more on tourists and conventioneers, say business is up this year.
In response to a 5 percent drop in business, the Shady Lady Ranch along U.S. 95 about 150 miles north of Las Vegas plans to offer $50 gas cards to clients who spend $300 and $100 gas cards to those who spend $500.
The brothel also offers special monthly discounts, including an offer of 45 minutes of services for $175 instead of the usual rate of $200.
"Anything that has to do with discretionary income is down," owner Bobbi Davis said. "Instead of spending $500 out here, they might only spend $300. I see it every time they raise gas prices."
Under a promotion under way at the Moonlite BunnyRanch near Carson City, the first 100 customers who arrive with government stimulus checks receive twice the services for the same regular price.
"We're calling it double your stimulus," said BunnyRanch owner Dennis Hof. "The brothel industry is having to get more creative just like all consumer products in America. Everybody has got to deal, and we're doing the same thing."
Sue's Fantasy Club in Elko doesn't need to extend any promotions because it doesn't rely on truckers, said the brothel's manager, who would identify herself only as Victoria.
Business is up from last year because of a booming local economy driven by mining and rising gold prices, she said.
"We would be hurting, too, if we had to depend on truckers," she said.
Hardest hit are independent truckers, who must pay for their own fuel, said George Flint, a lobbyist for the brothel owners' association.
"So there goes your disposable income to have a little fun," Flint told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Since January, the number of long-haul trucks based in Nevada has dropped by 4,100, or 12 percent, said Paul Eons of the Nevada Motor Transport Association.
Arnold predicted the industry would weather the slowdown.
"The customers won't be spending as much, but the brothels will still be there," he said. "After food, the most important activity, at least for men, is sex. Sex is not going away."
The downturn also has affected brothels by leading to an increase in the number of women seeking jobs as legal prostitutes, Arnold added.
As business for escort services and strip clubs goes flat, "more women are interested in joining the (brothel) industry," he said.
Nevada is the nation's only state that allows brothels. Prostitution is legal in 10 of Nevada's 17 counties, but it's illegal in the Reno and Las Vegas metropolitan areas.