- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 5, 2003

LAS VEGAS (AP) Politicians and prosecutors are trying to take some of the sin out of Sin City these days a crackdown that is turning strippers into political activists and causing some to wonder whether Las Vegas is suffering an identity crisis.
"This is an all-out assault on adult entertainment in the adult-entertainment capital of the world," said Andrea Hackett, a dancer who has helped strippers register to vote and distributed a voter guide about which candidates to support.
In recent months, the Clark County Commission has barred dancers in most Las Vegas-area strip clubs from sitting on customers' laps. Some prosecutors want to crack down on dancers who perform in guests' hotel rooms. And gambling agents who used to concentrate on catching cheaters are now patrolling casino nightclubs, watching for lewd behavior.
"I think it's a joke. It's stupid," said "Crystal," a 21-year-old dancer at the Deja Vu Showgirls club, who registered to vote for the first time because of Miss Hackett. "They should focus on real prostitution. We put Las Vegas on the map."
From showgirls to cocktail waitresses, skin always has been a part of Las Vegas. Even major casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, such as the MGM Grand and the Aladdin, feature topless shows like "Le Femme" and "X."
Among the 31 topless or all-nude clubs in Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County is the new $25 million Sapphire Gentlemen's Club, billed as the world's largest adult-entertainment complex. It offers skyboxes and 6,000 dancers.
The crackdown is coming mostly from Clark County officials. Strip clubs within the city do not fall under the county's jurisdiction. But most of the clubs and the Las Vegas Strip itself are outside the city limits.
County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates first proposed cleaning up steamy lap dances after an undercover police investigation found that sexy dancing can progress to "excessive grinding," simulated sex acts and, finally, sex for money.
The proposal led to a raucous meeting last summer when one man touted the heart benefits of a lap dance, and another accused Mrs. Gates of being sexually repressed.
"I'm not doing this for my sexual anything," the commissioner yelled, banging her gavel. "I'm doing this because I think it's right."
Before the new rules, lap dances were illegal in Clark County, but the law was so vague it rarely was enforced. Under the new law, effective last Sept. 1, lap dances are legal, but dancers are specifically barred from touching or sitting on the customer's genital area. Commissioners initially banned stuffing dollar bills in G-strings but later decided to approve the practice. Lap dances remain legal in the city of Las Vegas.
Separately, state gambling agents have begun patrolling nightclubs after getting complaints of sex acts occurring at Baby's inside the Hard Rock hotel-casino. The Hard Rock agreed to a $100,000 fine.
"Young people have a lifestyle that needs a little bit more attention to what is appropriate," said Bobby Siller, Nevada Gaming Control Board member. "People are having a great time, and sometimes it gets a little bit carried away."
Earlier last year, the departing district attorney and another prosecutor called for a ban on private dancers in hotel rooms. The outcall entertainment industry long has been considered a front for prostitution, which is illegal in and around Las Vegas.
Huge billboards of scantily clad women beckon tourists to call one of the Las Vegas area's 124 licensed outcall businesses, and the Yellow Pages have dozens of advertisements for "Mature Dolls" and "College Cuties."
"There's a million and a half people that live in Clark County, and I think they are entitled to a quality of life that doesn't include having to explain to your kids what that's all about," said prosecutor Mike Davidson.
But the crackdown on strippers doesn't make sense to many tourists.
"That's why people come here," Drake Hanson of Palm Springs, Calif., said as he watched the strippers at Deja Vu. "They think of it as Sin City. I think it's asinine to try and regulate it. Vegas is Vegas."

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