Porn Ban: Minnesota County Votes Out Hotels With Adult Movies

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Winona County, Minnesota, has declared war on hotel room pornography, prohibiting any of its employees from staying at hotels that offer adult movies.

The Winona County Commissioners just approved a new "clean hotel" policy that forbids employees from staying at such properties. The commissioners said pornography leads to sexual and domestic violence and that they hope to pressure hotels to drop these services.

The county commissioners believe Winona is the first county in the country to pass such a regulation.

"I think it just sends a message that no this it's OK," Commissioner Mena R. Kaehler told ABC News. "The way you send a message to businesses is through their bottom dollar."

Kaehler said hotels offer often violent porn that can lead to sexual assaults.

"It just desensitizes people," she said. "This [new rule] is just a small step in getting the conversation started."

Winona County employees 334 people but officials were unable to say how many nights those workers spent in hotels last year.

The new policy would not apply to hotels hosting conferences or cases when porn-free hotels cost at least 15 percent more than alternative hotels that offer adult programming.

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The county's move follows an unsuccessful push in the Minnesota legislature to pass a similar law for all state workers, also sold as an effort at "reducing sexual violence in our society." The measure did not make it out of a House committee.

There are a number of groups attempting to reduce the availability of porn nationwide, particularly in hotel rooms.

"There's more hotels that don't offer pornography than do," said Phil Burress, president of Citizens For Community Values, a group associated with Focus on the Family.

However, Burress noted the larger hotels tend to offer in-room adult films, so there are more American hotel rooms that do offer porn than those that don't.

"I think this is a little overreaching," said Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said of the Winona County policy. "If they don't want to see adult movies they can ask the hotel to switch those off. It's a choice of the guest."

Adult movies are a big business for hotels. Most major chains offer pay-per view adult movies, typically selling for $13 to $16 each, and hotels pocket 10 percent of the fee.

Nobody is saying how much that adds up to. Hotels don't break out revenues for adult movies, and neither does one of the largest movie provider, LodgeNet, which is in 9,900 properties with 1.9-million rooms. That represents nearly 40 percent of all rooms in North America and 54 percent of those in midsize and large hotels.

Pay-per-view adult movies in hotels and private homes account for nearly $2 billion in annual sales, according to the industry.

Fighting Hotel Room Porn

Burress's group surveyed 45,000 hotels nationwide to see if they offered adult pay-per-view movies. At least 25,000 did not. Burress created a website called CleanHotels.com to list those "safe" hotels.

He has also been involved in drives to get big chains like Marriott to remove the films.

"We have targeted Marriott because they put themselves forward as being a family hotel," Burress said. "They have also been the most aggressive. They have well over 100 porn movies in every room. Everything from Larry Flint titles to daddy does his daughter. Just pitiful."

In 2008, Burress was part of a coalition of 47 conservative Christian groups that met with Marriott officials to try to persuade the hotel chain to stop offering adult movies. Marriott did not remove the films but added two pop-up warnings on TV screens that state that the material is adult-oriented and only those who are at least 18 years old can view it.

"It is our practice to keep adult content out of the reach of children and unavailable to any adult who chooses not to view it. We have strong controls in place that allow guests to block these materials," Marriott spokesman Jeff Flaherty told ABC News. "Changing technology and how guests access entertainment has reduced the revenue hotels and their owners derive from in-room movies, including adult content."

Flaherty said Marriott is working with the providers of in-room entertainment on a new platform of Internet-based video-on-demand which will "provide guests greater choice and control over what they watch." However, he said, there won't be a menu category directly offering adult videos in the new Internet-based system.

Some hotel chains have either removed porn or have had long-standing prohibitions against franchises selling it.

Omni Hotels removed adult movies from rooms in 1999.

"Omni's decision to eliminate adult movies over a decade ago was based on our owner choosing to not derive revenues from this type of offering," spokeswoman Caryn Kboudi told ABC News. "It was simply a decision of conscience regardless of the financial impact."

The hotel group, now with 47 properties, lost income when it removed the movies, although it says it didn't track the losses because the decision was not about the money. Omni also said it has since gained many group meetings that specifically picked the chain because of its stance.

Hotels Without Porn

Ritz Carlton, which is owned by Marriott, doesn't offer adult movies in any of its United States hotels, according to spokeswoman Vivian Deuschl.

Best Western also doesn't offer adult movies, according to spokesman Troy Rutman. The hotel company's 2,200 hotels in the U.S. and Canada are all individually owned but as part of their licensing agreement they are prohibited from offering entertainment that "would be classified as adult, pornographic, lewd, sexually explicit or obscene." That rule has existed for more than 20 years, Rutman said.