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News of Porn Industry's Move to Vegas is Flat-Out Wrong

News of Porn Industry's Move to Vegas is Flat-Out Wrong
File photo by Nate "Igor" Smith/LA Weekly.

News of the porn industry's flight to Las Vegas is premature, to say the least.

The evidence is scant. Porn's not actually legal in Vegas. And the one production facility at the center of the false headlines, Mission Control Studio, has booked only four productions since opening this month, its owner told us.

That's hardly an exodus.

That's not to say some business isn't threatening to go to Sin City:

The buzz is based on an Associated Press article published during last week's industry retreat in Las Vegas, the AVN Awards and AVN Expo. It focuses on Lee Roy Myers' new facilities, which he's offering up to adult producers.

The piece also offers up this: Derek Hay, owner of adult talent agency LA Direct Models, estimates that 20 percent of the industry will have moved here by the end of the year.

Remember, though: it's January. And he's guessing. And, the piece says, "Several producers ... are talking about moving to Las Vegas."

Sounds like a lot of talk - yet news outlets from coast to coast ate it up.

The backdrop, of course, is L.A. County's mandatory condom law. It requires prophylactic use and health permits for porn productions in most of the county. The industry hates it: Permits to shoot porn in L.A. County have plummeted more than 90 percent since the law's passage.

See also: Mandatory Condoms in Porn Becomes Law in L.A. For Location Shoots.

But the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which spearheaded the voter-approved law, says condoms are actually required by federal law - and therefore would be necessary in Nevada, too. While such rules weren't enforced, federal workplace safety rules have been interpreted by California authorities as requiring condom use on-set. The rules say employees shouldn't be exposed to blood-borne pathogens at the workplace.

See also: California, Federal Laws Already Mandate Condoms In Porn.

Would Nevada enforce federal statutes that way? It's hard to say. And in any case, even some of the condom rule's staunchest critics say a move to Vegas has yet to happen.

That's partly because Vivid Entertainment, the biz's most prominent production house, is behind a lawsuit, now on appeal, challenging the constitutionality of L.A. County's condom rule.

News of Porn Industry's Move to Vegas is Flat-Out Wrong
File photo by Nate "Igor" Smith for LA Weekly.

Steven Hirsch, the company's CEO, told us that his brethren are thinking seriously about moving out of town, but that Vivid is not shooting in Vegas for now, while the challenge to the law continues:

L.A. is where we want to be. It's where our talent and production staff lives and where we're established. We want to win the lawsuit and start over again with being able to shoot in L.A. County.

Diane Duke, executive director of the industry trade group known as the Free Speech Coalition, appears to agree.

Duke says porn moguls are waiting on two things: Resolution of the lawsuit challenging the county condom law and renewed legislation by state Assemblyman Isadore Hall that would codify condom use for porn statewide.

"There are a number of factors that will determine the level at which the adult industry will migrate to Vegas or anywhere else," Duke told us. " ... Our industry pays living wages, supports our local businesses and contributes greatly to the tax base. Vegas is friendly to industries that will bring jobs and support to their local businesses as are many other areas."

She continued:
 

We will have to wait for the outcome of the litigation and the legislative session to determine if California will continue to be an option for adult production.

Longtime industry observer Michael Whiteacre says ...

 ... the tide is rolling toward the Las Vegas area becoming the largest production hub next to L.A. Several production companies have solicited and/or engaged attorneys and other support services in L.A."

So where are productions taking place?

Duke says there's action outside of L.A. county and in San Francisco, Miami and, yes, Las Vegas, where there have always been some shoots.

Whiteacre says some producers got with the program and started using condoms in order to continue shooting in L.A. Some have gone to the city of Long Beach, which is outside the county rule because it has its own health department. San Diego, Big Bear and San Francisco are happening, Whiteacre said. And some productions are just staying under the radar, he said.

News of Porn Industry's Move to Vegas is Flat-Out Wrong
Courtesy Mission Control Studio

That last observation - that production is happening outside the purview of regulation - was long a threat of the industry in light of mandatory condoms:

Things could get less safe for performers if producers decided to unplug from the industry's social contract, some argued. That contract basically says that players in the porn business will adhere to a twice-a-month STD testing. The industry believes it works. Without such testing - if the industry moves underground -  some in the biz have argued there will be anarchy and potential disease.

Lee Roy Myers, meanwhile, says his studios just opened this week. He says he offers a clean, safe, professional environment at competitive rates, with no health permits required, and with Nevada's business-friendly tax rates.

"I think that California, through health and political issues, has raised the cost of shooting there," Myers told us. "Considering adult is competing with free websites now, it's not ridiculous to say that people are thinking about moving to Nevada."

See also: Porn Defends the Money Shot.

One thing California has that Las Vegas doesn't, however, is explicitly legal porn production, which would otherwise just be prostitution.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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