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July 29, 2015

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ACTION! New Los Angeles ordinance likely to drive more porn industry producers to Las Vegas

Katie Kox

Adult film actress Katie Kox poses at her home in Henderson Monday, March 4, 2012. Her garage is converted into the headquarters for her website and Launch slideshow »

Angered by an ordinance requiring actors in pornographic productions to wear condoms, some in the adult industry are threatening to move their operations from the “pornucopia” of Los Angeles to Southern Nevada.

The news, first reported last month by the Los Angeles Times, has caused some to speculate on the industry’s future in Las Vegas, which is already seen by many insiders as a welcoming second home.

While these insiders say more studios are likely to move here because of the ordinance, they also note porn’s migration was under way long before the Los Angeles City Council’s January vote aimed at stopping the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Las Vegas is home to a mega-player, Brazzers, and a newcomer, Bluebird Films. Several performers live in the Las Vegas Valley. And it’s not uncommon for the Strip skyline, Lake Mead and surrounding mountains to show up in pornographic movies, insiders said.

Katie Kox, a performer and porn website operator who lives in Henderson, said she expects the ordinance to push more producers to Southern Nevada. She typically flies to Los Angeles for filming but anticipates doing more work locally as the ordinance takes effect.

“I honestly think it’s going to affect the Vegas film industry a lot,” she said. “A lot of them (performers) already live out here.”

Las Vegas and Clark County have both licensed adult motion picture studios, and within the last year, a major porn production company set up shop in Southern Nevada, according to Clyde DeWitt, an attorney who represents porn production companies and has offices in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

(A city spokesman said more than 50 video and film production companies are licensed with Las Vegas; Clark County lists more than 400 active film licenses. Neither the city nor county could determine which licenses might belong to adult film production companies.)

Craig Gross, founder of xxxchurch.com, a nonprofit Christian website that helps people addicted to pornography, said, “There is already a decent amount of porn shot there in Vegas. With this law in effect, I see more and more coming to Vegas. It just makes sense.”

The L.A. condom ordinance may seem inconsequential to the public, but Tom Hymes, senior editor at Adult Video News, an industry website, said there is evidence that it hurts business. Years ago, a company required that its performers wear condoms and sales tumbled, he said. “It kills the illusion.”

Porn Fan Show 2012

Max Hardcore poses for a photos with Bonnie Rotten at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo 2012 inside the Hard Rock Hotel on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. Launch slideshow »

DeWitt said the ordinance has made porn producers notice things about Las Vegas they might not have before. At first, talk of moving to Southern Nevada was a simple reaction to the regulation, he said.

“Now they’re saying maybe they should move to Las Vegas anyway because the economy is so much more favorable,” he said. “They get commercial space cheaper. There’s no state income tax … Housing is literally half or less than what they pay there. That’s an attractive proposition.

“It’s a legitimate industry like any other industry and one of the reasons they have come to Las Vegas lately is because this is a really hospitable business climate.”

When it comes to being considered hospitable, the bar is apparently set fairly low.

Hymes said Nevada officials’ comments to the Sun following the L.A. council vote gave some in the industry hope. A spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development said porn production is not among the “key sectors” identified by the state to help diversify the economy.

What did Hymes hear in those statements? Officials didn’t say Nevada would turn away the business.

DeWitt added that no one would expect a government official to publicly embrace the industry.

“I don’t imagine any politician is going to say, ‘Welcome, porn!’” he said. “But the thing about adult films is most people say, ‘Well, for those who want to watch it, fine, as long as I don’t have to watch it.’ ... Nevada just seems more amenable, and this industry is always willing to work with people.”

Click to enlarge photo

Chris Ramirez, owner of Lola Pictures, a film-production company based in downtown Las Vegas, poses at company's offices Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Ramirez said he would welcome the influx of business if the adult film industry in Los Angeles moves operations to Las Vegas.

DeWitt said Las Vegas “has resources ... that complement the industry,” including film production talent who work on feature films here.

Chris Ramirez, owner of Lola Pictures, a film-production company based in downtown Las Vegas, said he would welcome the influx of business.

“I hope it comes,” he said, adding that he would form a separate company to keep porn production separate from other productions. “I’ll go out and buy extra equipment if I have to.”

Throughout much of the country, the pornographic film industry maintains a low profile. Many states categorize the productions as prostitution because they involve having sex for pay.

California became home to the industry, in part, because of a 1988 state Supreme Court decision allowing the hiring of someone to have sex to produce adult films. (New Hampshire in 2008 cited the California ruling to clarify the difference between prostitution and pornography.) The industry also benefits from the proximity of Hollywood and its pool of skilled film talent.

Nevada is unique, as the only state with legalized prostitution, allowing it in counties with fewer than 400,000 people. While prostitution is illegal in populous Clark County, there’s little indication that has hampered porn productions here.

“We don’t issue permits” for porn productions, said Ed Harran of the Nevada Film Office. “But if you shoot on private property, you don’t need permitting.”

An expansion here would likely draw little opposition given the city’s high-profile adult industry, libertarian attitudes and society’s changing views on pornography, DeWitt said.

“There are certainly people against it, but there are at least as many and probably more who would be outraged to know the government is trying to stop it,” he said.

Still, Hymes said, any talk of a wholesale move of the industry from Los Angeles to Las Vegas might be premature: The fight over L.A.’s condom ordinance isn’t over yet.

“The studios are … still looking at the situation and assessing options, of which there are many,” he said. “That includes taking a stand and sending it to court and testing it there.”

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