RENO (AP) -- An attention-grabbing pimp's campaign for the Nevada Legislature has sparked an anti-brothel effort that sex workers fear could spread to parts of the state that allow legal prostitution.
A November ballot referendum is seeking to shut down four brothels in Lyon County in eastern Nevada owned by Dennis Hof, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported this week.
Hof, the owner of half a dozen legal brothels in Nevada and star of the HBO adult reality series "Cathouse," won a Republican primary for the state Legislature last month. Many leading Republicans in the state are shunning his candidacy and he has previously said the anti-brothel efforts are political retribution.
Most brothels operate in rural areas of Nevada. They're banned in the counties that contain Las Vegas and Reno. That includes the World Famous Mustang Ranch near Reno.
Proponents of the referendum say legal brothels open a door for human trafficking.
Women at the Mustang Ranch say closing legal brothels would actually mean more money for pimps and less safety for prostitutes.
Donny Gilman, son of Mustang Ranch owner Lance Gilman, wants initiative supporters to know that that their operation is a clean business.
All the women who work at the Mustang Ranch go through rigorous, annual FBI background checks, said Jennifer Barnes, a longtime madam at the brothel.
The Mustang Ranch says it employs more than 160 people on a $5.7 million payroll, including $4.3 million paid to workers called courtesans.
The brothel also donates about $150,000 every year to senior centers and food banks, while paying "more taxes and fees per square foot than any other business in Nevada," staff said.
The supporters of the initiative also have suggested that legalized prostitution harms regional economic development.
Lance Gilman, who is a Storey County commissioner and co-manages the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, laughed at this idea.
"I would tell them to look just to the east of us and tell us that this brothel has had any impact on the economic growth of northern Nevada," he said, pointing toward the industrial center where Tesla, Amazon and Google facilities are.
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