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April 16, 2014

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Peddlers, performers clogging the Strip are troubling to casinos

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Steve Marcus

A man hands out cards advertising outcall “entertainers” on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday July 24, 2011.

Strip disorder

KSNV coverage of peddlers and performers on the Las Vegas Strip. Discussion with Las Vegas Sun reporter Joe Schoenmann, July 26, 2011.

Sunday on The Strip

Evan Kennedy, 21, of El Paso, cools down in front of a misting fan on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday, July 24, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Concerns have escalated in corner offices up and down the Strip about smut peddlers and the X-rated litter their leaflets create along Las Vegas Boulevard as well as the proliferation of homeless people, costumed performers and unlicensed vendors.

One casino executive Tuesday called it a crisis that’s tarnishing the Strip’s image as a safe and fun place for tourists and is threatening the state’s economic engine.

“Our failure to enact comprehensive solutions in a reasonable manner is jeopardizing the image of Las Vegas,” said Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations at Caesars Entertainment. “It’s reached the point that there’s a dangerous perception of our city.”

Jones’ comments come amid suggestions by Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak to create a tax district to generate money for additional police officers on the Strip. Besides nuisance concerns, the Strip is the site of three much-publicized deaths recently — two from stabbings, one from a punch.

Resort representatives say they have long expressed concerns to county commissioners about various nuisances — handbillers of sexual entertainment in particular. Little progress has been made, however, with some critics saying the county has pursued expensive and fruitless court battles.

In 2007, a federal judge declared unconstitutional a county ordinance preventing commercial leafleting on the Strip — a law aimed at X-rated material. It’s one of multiple First Amendment victories for Strip handbillers even as resort operators field complaints from tourists about card-sized ads for erotic entertainers that often end up on sidewalks or in gutters.

County officials and Metro Police have acknowledged that recent case law protects the free-speech right of street performers to perform for tips without a business license, said Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel of ACLU of Nevada.

The ACLU has successfully argued on behalf of leafleteers, street performers and activists on the Strip and downtown over the years. There’s room for compromise, although county officials have historically been unwilling to pursue other options outside of court, Lichtenstein said.

That may be changing, however.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie recently initiated meetings with Metro Police, handbillers and the ACLU to address complaints about aggressive handbillers who tend to clump in certain areas of the Strip, obstructing pedestrian traffic “so people feel like they’re running a gauntlet,” Lichtenstein said. One proposed solution would require that handbillers are widely disbursed along the Strip and not gathering in a particular place, he said.

“I would like to see representatives of the hotels also involved in these discussions so everyone could work together to protect First Amendment rights while relieving ancillary problems that go on with such activities, like the litter on the sidewalks,” he said.

Sisolak has proposed forming a committee of resort owners, county and immigration officials and Metro Police to address growing nuisance and safety concerns.

Jones said her company hopes to continue long-standing discussions with the ACLU and the county to find a compromise solution like other tourist cities have done with ordinances that limit where and when performers and leafleteers can operate. Caesars is also open to discussion about paying for an enhanced police force to enforce such an ordinance.

Honolulu is among multiple cities that have lessened such nuisances while also protecting free-speech rights, Jones said.

After years spent discussing the problem, the Nevada Resort Association, which represents many of the major hotels along the Strip, is also hopeful.

“Any solution is going to take a coordinated effort with the property owners, the county, the district attorney, the sheriff, the ACLU and the handbillers and will take a commitment of resources for both maintenance and enforcement and possibly even some improvement projects to ... protect unobstructed pathways and aid in enforcement,” resort association President Virginia Valentine said.

Rather than spending money for more police officers, the hotels should first seek an accounting of room tax money earmarked annually for Strip improvements, an amount that totaled $34 million last year, said Las Vegas political and marketing consultant Billy Vassiliadis, CEO of R&R Partners. Budget cuts may have hurt efforts by maintenance crews to clean the Strip, for example, he said.

“These problems have gotten worse, and there’s more riding on the success of tourism now. The folks on the Strip are eager to participate in discussions with policymakers.”

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  1. "It's reached the point that there's a dangerous perception of our city."

    The reality below has finally surfaced as the perception of the same. The image of a rotting pier can't be changed until the splintered pilings and boardwalk have been replaced.

  2. If its a business soliciting to make money, then a Pedddlers liscense should be required. Why is it that only Las Vegas cannot solve this problem? Where are our brain dead news departments asking politicians hard questions, instead of just standing in front of something telling us of what happened days ago, that we already know, no thanks to them.

  3. The article states that Honolulu has worked to minimize this problem. That is *not* the case.

    Honolulu's sidewalks after dark are as much of a circus as Las Vegas's. Groups of characters and performers blocking the sidewalk, hassling tourists for tips, etc. Like Las Vegas, attempts to resolve this problem have run into free speech issues.

    Perhaps some type of anti-loitering law, although those as well need to be carefully written in order to withstand the inevitable court challenge from the ACLU.

  4. "tarnishing the Strip's image as a safe and fun place for tourists and is threatening the state's economic engine"

    I never had felt unsafe walking the strip until the past few months where the strip has become a mess. Maybe a solution could be for the casinos to place fliers in their rooms suggesting visitors NOT to purchase water from street vendors, buy club passes, take pictures and tip characters, etc...

    Whatever can be done by local authorities or casinos to clean up the streets would be greatly appreciated by tourists like myself. Informing tourists of what they can do to assist with the problem could be beneficial as well.

  5. These are the first intellegent words or comments I have heard from Jan Jones in 20 years.
    Living in Clark County Commission District A, I was suspicious of Steve Sisolak's political and personal agenda. Over the past three months, however, Sisolak's concerns and progress in and about District A and Las Vegas have made me a huge supporter. Since Sisolak is involved now, I believe there will be much discussion, visabilty of the issue and something will be done.

  6. "One casino executive Tuesday called it a crisis that's tarnishing the Strip's image as a safe and fun place for tourists and is threatening the state's economic engine"

    What? No mention of all the stabbings?

  7. I semi agree with sevenhills comment.

    The Las Vegas Strip is an international attraction, people do step on American soil for the first time in the state of Nevada. But I seriously doubt that people who have the means to fly to this country are ignorant enough to measure the entire USA based on what they see at The Strip lol

    Anyway, there is a problem at the strip and the people who will be most affected by it in the long run will be the Las Vegas residents as the organ that keeps their city alive has what seems to be an inoperable cancer.

  8. The last time I visited Las Vegas I spent some time on Fremont Street. There were several people dressed up as famous entertainers taking pictures with the tourists and all seemed to be having fun. I don't see the problem? I also didn't see any folks handing out the smut cards anywhere. On the Strip I had to walk through the gauntlet of folks handing out the cards. That seemed like a bit of overkill on their part. I have more fun on Fremont Street. Maybe it's because the Street is quite wide and doesn't have any vehicle traffic. On the Strip you are forced to walk on narrow sidewalks with a hugh amount of people crowded together. Even without the "entertainers" it's not fun.

  9. The people in costume aren't the big problem, it's the people handing out the porn flyers that get littered all over the place. The "entertainer" card and flyers have to go. Of course we would have solved that problem if not for the ACLU fighting for the smut peddlers. If they were handing that stuff out over by strip clubs I wouldn't have as much of a problem but not on the Strip where people have no chance to avoid that stuff if they walk on the Strip.

  10. While I enjoy going from casino to casino on The Strip while in town, I do not enjoy the peddlers of all sorts preventing me from going to do the thing I came to do, try my luck gambling. Porn dealers hand out the cards people leave on the ground, which is bad for the environment. Homeless and other types begging for money I am sure is used to tip cocktail waitresses in casinos to drink. How refreshing was it when I walked all the way from Stratosphere to Gold Coast with not one interruption to my stride after finishing up at 5am from a night out. No porn, no impersonators, no slow tourists that like to walk in groups across the whole sidewalk. Only the street cleaners were around and the porn cards cleaned up. It's not up to me but if I were Vegas' mayor or city council, I would figure out a way to make this type of practices illegal unless special permissions were allowed.

  11. Could the smut peddlers be contained to certain areas, where they were free to stand, but not get out of their box and bother people?
    And why don't we tell people when they get off the planes that prostitution is not legal in this county? I can't tell you the number of people I know that come here and argue with me that protitution is legal here in the Vegas area.

  12. Why not pass a law that the handbillers are responsible for the trash they create?

  13. Wow I read a whole lot of posts on this and it seems that most comments are in favor of a solution to either curb or end these practise's And I would have to agree with some I read yesterday a post about calling the numbers on the porn cards and when they show up and they seal the deal that they are selling sex then arrest them collect a fine and use that money for other officers until the ladies of the evening figure this out and they will. Then there was the post by
    JimmyKnows that seemed to touch on making it cost preventive for the promoters and it seems to be a start that could be built on for example He (JIMMYKNOWS) Suggested that Caesars Entertainment pay Their guest a penny for every pamphlet that they collect.... This could be built upon like not restricting this to guest but to any one and if the person bringing it in must give action on that amount at least 1 time, ie. If they the collector brings in say $3.00 worth they can play that on 1 hand of blackjack and if they win they can take that and there winnings. Or a spin in the slots The casino marketing could really run with this as long as they didn't become the thing they are trying to prevent.
    Could you imagine that at the end of the day if all of those cards weren't handed out that they would bring them in there for a chance to win (keeping in mind that it's supposed to cost the guy buying these pamphlets more to produce). And someone could actually start with $3.00 and parlay that to a $100.00 or more.
    All in all it's the cost prohibitive approach that will win this battle no reason for any law suits from the handbillers or the ACLU what would there claim be unfair business practices from a person who has not get a business lic.
    Keep your eye on the prize.

  14. @BobbyG
    Where you been I haven't seen a post from you in some time, I hope all is good with you.

  15. 1. Charge a 6 month license fee ( to make sure these people are NOT illegals or felons) to partake in any costume/entertainment ( mimes, singers ect..) on the strip.

    2. CITY enforce casinos ( that have bridges to their casino) pay for 2 private security guards on each end of the pass over bridges. SO NO PAN HANDLERS CAN BE ON THEM.

    3. CITY makes casinos add lights to each bridge.

    4. CITY offer a incentive to bally`s/Caesars Ent. for giving up that fairway in front of ballys to people that want to be in costumes. Make that the area for picture taking and performers. lots of room. also on the monte carlo front. be fair to both sides.

    5.let small business have costume characters. ( like the la salsa does at M&M with the 2 Michael Jacksons).

    6. During the hours the adult slappers are out on the strip working, the CITY force the owners of the business (that hire these workers) to employee 1 street sweeper per group. This will keep the streets clean of these cards.

    7. CITY NEEDS MORE UNDER COVER COPS...I see every weekend 3 card monte...that is a big NO NO. right next to PH during the day.

    8. CITY give MGM some kind of break on the property between bellagio and jockey club...make it a small park, it has trees and would be a great rest spot. and have it open at 7am close at midnight and gate it.

    9. CITY work with the casinos and ADD A RAIL TO THE WHOLE STRIP/BOTH SIDES it is so dangerous when the sidewalks are packed, one bump and your in traffic.

    10. City require city center to build a cross walk on the south west corner of the front of CC.to go to harley davidson cafe corner... too many people J walk there instead of going around the whole CC walk. Just to get to harley davison, mc donalds fat burger ect from CC...

    11. CITY force taxi cab authority to add street workers to ticket side road illegal pick ups and waiting, causing back ups.

    12. water vendors are welcome, but have a 8pm curfew. AND CAN BUY A MONTHLY VENDORS PASS to sell for 1 month in select areas. CITY approved. only so many licenses per month, first come, first in, and you must have a current NV DL.

    13. Allow casino/police to stop squatters from sitting for a prolong time on planters or curb areas.

    14. CITY add benches...co pay with casinos to add them.

    JUST A FEW IDEAS i have that i would like to see. I am a strip lover every day/weekend staying at all the casinos AND gambling as often as I am home. And I LIVE AT turnberry but still choose to go there and enjoy.

    it`s safe but it could use some improvements.

  16. as a regular vegas visitor who has walked the strip at all hours all times of the year, i think the biggest change to visitor security is actually the gang/thug life that seems more prevelant than ever.

    the porn slappers are harmless, i think they are just easy targets for people who want to complain, if you are offended by the message, then maybe you shouldnt be in vegas, if you dont want your kids to be exposed to the "smut" maybe you shouldnt bring them to vegas, it is after all "sin city". i dont think tourist really care about the litter, since when has a tourist ever really cared about another cities litter. ive never encounted an agressive porn slapper anyway! just ignore them, problem solved, if no one took the cards, they would not end up on the ground..and dont tell me that people take them then realize, "oh my gosh, i have nasty porn in my hands, i must throw it down" give me a break, if you dont take it it wont end up on the street..

    street entertainers...they add a little color to the vegas strip...just dont pose with them and take pictures, ive never had one of them ever say anything offensive to me...and if you do take pictures of them then maybe they deserve a dollar.

    water sellers...sometimes water is a good thing, it can get real hot on the strip! SO YOU WANT TO LICENSE (tax them) what do you think they do with the money they make selling water...they spend it in vegas, in business that pay taxes on the money they get from these water selling people...give me a break, i bet hundreds of dollars a day (wow) gets spent on water...

    the homless people on the bridges, now this is actually sad...most of these people are either drug addicted of mentally ill, if no one ever gave them money they would leave...how many bridges are on the strip..15 or so, put a officer each bridge, keep it safe. because what you really need to worry about on the bridges are the gang members, they are easy to spot...this is who should be targeted...

    the hookers...harmless, really, are they going to hold you down and roll you, some of they are actually attractive, but if you dont want company they are not going to give you the time of day, and if you do decide to do a little business with them, then maybe you should pay them...if you took all the working girls out of the casinos and clubs at night, you just may have a pork fest...now that wouldnt be much fun...and i must admit it makes me feel kinda good when a hot 20 year old says hi to me at 4 in the morning...even if for just a minute...once again, no transaction equals no problem...

    maybe the casinos arnt really concerned because they know all of the above, but cant say it because thats not being a good corporate citizen.

    put a strong police force on the strip to focus on the drug dealers, pimps, and gang members...keep the strip safe, thats whats needed...it is after all las vegas! if you dont like it then go somewhere else.

  17. @jaymes4u..no one says we don`t love our home (VEGAS)..we just think rules/laws should be set/followed to prevent illegals from working the strip. What is the big deal about making them pay a license fee and be legit??

    black/white/asian/mexican it does not matter to me the color as much as the laws and what would help the city by stopping bad people from doing things that are against the law. I never touched on hookers because I agree with you, no harm no foul.

    Lights on the bridges and as I said personal security guards on each end of the bridges. NEVER said metro.

    LOOK we both have passion for the city, I just think a few things would really help all of us.

  18. Maybe someone knows the answer to this question. Why can't the City,Unions,and Hotels enter into an agreement that would allow only City or Casino events and Union strikes?

  19. What the hell is going on in Vegas lately? I used to live there in the late '90's- until around 2005. There was never any of this crap going on then!! The Metro Police were EVERYWHERE!! You couldn't get away with bad behavior at all on the Strip. It seems to me ever since they built City Center, things haven't been the same. The cops need to increase their presence, and not allow the obvious criminal element on the strip. I'm not talking about the handbill smut peddlers... they have always been there, or the street performers or water vendors either... although a designated area for them to hang out in like Grand Central Station in New York or Balboa Park in San Diego isn't a bad alternative. No, I'm talking about the very obvious gangbangers and thugs that have taken over the strip at night. They intimidate tourists and are generally up to no good from the time they walk onto the strip until the time they decide to leave. I consider myself a very decent gambler and love to travel out to Vegas about 3 or 4 times a year. When I do I wager big and may not be a "Whale" of any kind but definitely in the category of a "High Roller". I am considering limiting my business to my local Casinos in Connecticut, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun until this issue of feeling safe on the Vegas Strip again can be addressed.And it better be soon... a lot of my fellow High Rollers are feeling the same way.

  20. "recent case law protects the free-speech right of street performers"

    My Uncle - a Trial Judge, and Attorney-at-law, also believes ( as I do) that "Free-Speech" is a 1st Amendment protected right.

    HOWEVER, he also says that he DOES NOT believe that such "Speech" is ACTIONABLE. That means that the "handbillers" et al, can say what they want to say - verbally - but cannot, by their ACTIONS violate law, obstruct pedistrian pathways, or in anyway obstruct, intimdate, or accost a passer-by.

    Further, it would be a violation of law for such "handbillers" to occupy physical space on the sidewalk in front of a store (business) if they were promoting another "business" (such as sex for sale), to the detriment of the business that they are standing in front of.

    Such loitering would have the (unintended?) consequence of blocking the view of the business by passers-by; while presenting harm to the business in the form of interference with unfettered access, promotion, and the conduct of business. THIS would degrade and causing HARM to the business, and to the profit earnings that would be otherwise be available if the conduct of the owner's business was unimpeded.

    Bsiness owners (stores, hotels, casinos, et al, lose customers due to the intimidating presence of "handbillers" - who, literally, confront passers-by. Such actions are perceived by tourists as a threat to their security. Thus, they might avoid that section of the sidewalk - or the entire street - and thus the business businesses where the "handbillers" are present - and typically in large numbers.

    I thought Clark County gave OWNERSHIP of the sidewalks in front of each hotel and casino - to the hotels in the late 1990's. The intention was to make the sidewalk "private property" that the Hotel Security Guards could "police" the property - because they owned it. I don't know what happenend to that but it appears it didn't work as intended.

    However, it is obvious that something has to be done to protect the RIGHTS and SAFETY of tourists walking on Las Vegas sidewalks, and also protect the rights of business owners who are LICENSED - and trying to make a living. They have paide license fees and taxes to do so.

    WHERE ARE THEIR RIGHTS WHEN ACTIONS PRECLUDE THEIR ABILITY TO CONDUCT BUSINESS?