Nevada Brothels Hit Hard by Gas Prices

In 2007, 57 percent of visitors who came to rural Nevada traveled in their cars. Today gas prices are at an all-time high in Nevada and the rest of the country. Tourists and locals are paying $4.27 a gallon in Las Vegas and $4.21 a gallon in Reno, according to AAA.

The rise in fuel costs has prompted the Nevada Commission on Tourism to rethink some of its initiatives. "We're trying to get more in-state travel. People really are looking closer to home," Drysdale says. "There's a new trend called 'stay-cations' -- people vacationing in their own towns or nearby towns."

At the "world famous" Mustang Ranch and the Wild Horse Adult Resort and Spa brothels near Reno, general manager Susan Austin says she has noticed that the average tourist isn't traveling as far as he normally would.

The Mustang Ranch made headlines recently when production began on "Love Ranch," a movie starring Helen Mirren that's based on the ranch's infamous history. Austin serves as a consultant for the film.

Her reality, however, was a bit less glamorous earlier this year. After observing the sagging economy, she decided to lay off employees and trim back in the kitchen "and everywhere across the board to save one or two thousand a month." But in the past two weeks, business has picked up, partly due to "Love Ranch."

Several women have approached Austin looking for work. "When you see a huge influx of girls, you know they're not getting a lot of business," she says.

One of those women was Nyoka, 45, who was been working at the Mustang for the past three months. "This business is so unpredictable," she says. "You can be having sex all day and not having sex the next day, but it has a way of averaging out."

Nyoka, a former nurse, left the health care industry after a divorce, an ailing parent and the pressures of supporting both her daughter and granddaughter made it difficult to pay the bills. At the encouragement of a friend, she began working at the Sagebrush Ranch brothel, outside Carson City, where she stayed for four years.

"The business just died down there," she says. "There's a couple of girls there who are doing very badly, and it's a sign of the times." Nyoka says women at the Sagebrush who used to work one week, then take the next week off, now work three months in a row.

When several of Nyoka's friends decided to leave the Sagebrush for the Mustang Ranch, Nyoka followed and hasn't looked back.

"I average three grand a week," she says. "I'm a little higher than average -- I'm a very young 45, but I have the mindset of a 45-year-old and I know what guys like. I think my secret talent is drawing out their fetishes."

Austin's brothels still draw customers, who drive in from four or five hours away, but she says they're "not getting fellows from Chicago or the East Coast -- if you know what I mean." Her resort compound typically holds up to 150 men during the course of a day. "Last year was a banner year," she says. But 2008 started out slow.

Even so, she's not worried about the future.

"I've got some great smiling ladies, let's put it that way," she says. "We'll survive this. And we'll be here and smiling when all this picks back up."

"Sex is sex," says Nyoka. "So, they'll make a budget for it."

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