X-rated handbills in Las Vegas are causing a menace as tourists strew the streets with them. Though a new ordinance has been passed against x-rated litter in the city, the menace continues to grow. The police are scared to enforce the ordinance both for the fear of legal challenges, and for fear of alienating tourists.
The ACLU, which intervened in Las Vegas’ previous effort to prohibit handbilling in 1997 and won, is also sympathetic this time around and talking with exotic dancer businesses and the police about the enforcement of the ordinance. But the x-rated litter, the pamphlets and glossy cards that sport skimpily clad exotic dancers continues to grow.
The Clark County Manager Don Burnette seems resigned about implementation of the new ordinance that requires handbillers to clean up their area of the strip every 15 minutes. Don says, “I’m not sure the police even understand what they’re supposed to be enforcing … Depending on what happens, we may be back in court again.”
Handbill distribution could not be stopped, and most tourists who accept the handbills either throw them in a trash can or usually on the sidewalk. Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the Nevada American Civil Liberties Union says, “If someone takes some material, regardless of what it is, and then walks down the street and decides to drop it, that’s the person who is littering. That’s the person that is responsible, not the person who gave it to them originally.”
So, the city can’t do anything about those who push the x-rated pamphlets, and it can’t go after tourists, for obvious reasons. As Vincent Bartello, the owner of a company that hands out some 50,000 handbills a week says, “We’re not actually littering. It’s the tourists, the people who come here. But if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here …”
Though prostitution is legal in most of rural Nevada, it is not legal in Las Vegas. As Bartello emphasizes, the girls at his Hillsboro Entertainment are absolutely not prostitutes. He says, “We do not condone that. We send out dancers, entertainers, to entertain for customers that call.”
But the handbills are mostly lacking in other details but female anatomy. As one John Marques of Winnipeg, Manitoba told the media, a card he had just thrown away advertised an almost nude woman “Giesele” with a big “$35 special” without any further details on the deal.
Court rulings have held that sidewalks along the Strip in Las Vegas are public thoroughfares where freedom of speech, and handbill distribution, are protected by the First Amendment.
Rather than pushing an ordinance which would alienate everyone, the city is trying alternative methods and attempts to clean up the Strip. Clark County Manager Don Burnette maintains “People are having to wade through some of that stuff,” so the officials are looking for strategic points to place more trash cans and places where handbillers disturb pedestrian flow.