vegas handbiller

“In the ‘90s, Clark County banned handbillers. They were threats to public safety, and geysers of litter. Lieutenant Todd Raybuck, who has been involved in policing on the Strip for more than 20 years, said handbillers used to “form lines across the sidewalk, almost cordons or walls of individuals… probably the easiest way to describe it is a gauntlet.” To avoid them, some tourists would step into traffic. The ones who remained on the sidewalk were problematic, too. They would take handbillers’ cards blindly, then look at them and drop them in disgust, creating an issue the AP called “X-rated litter.”

Outcall promoters S.O.C. and Hillsboro Enterprises—owned by Richard Soranno and Vincent Bartello, respectively—fought the handbiller ban in court. Allen Lichtenstein, the ACLU general counsel at the time, assisted them, and explained the stakes of the case like this: If outcall promoters were trying to advertise in the pre-internet era, “their options were fairly limited.” They weren’t allowed to advertise in hotels, and “it took them years to get into the phone book, back when phone books were important.” They were fighting for their best available marketing strategy.

Overall, Vegas outcall promoters have remarkable luck with the law. Prostitution is illegal in Clark County, and the Las Vegas Police Department runs a steady stream of stings on escorts that rarely end well; a LVPD detective made a recent, general complaint that, while escort services claims they only offer private nude dances, they really “depend on prostitution as their main source of income.” Only the escorts themselves get punished for this, though. To work with outcall promoters, they sign independent contractor agreements, in which they promise not to solicit prostitution; this clears the promoters of responsibility if, or really when, prostitution takes place.”

The Curious Persistence of the Vegas Handbiller