Bella Cummins has been operating Bella’s Hacienda Ranch, a Nevada brothel, for nearly four decades and during that time period, she has encountered difficulties with the banking industry. She has been refused a mortgage and several other loans, while many of her employees have had to wait up to two weeks for their paychecks to clear.
“Despite being a legal establishment, there is still a stigma attached to the work,” Ms. Cummins, 74, said from Wells, Nev., the only state where prostitution is legal in certain counties. “There is no bank in Nevada that will lend money to a brothel. So, unlike other businesses, we actually have to make the money to spend the money.”
Workers in sex-related industries often face safety and employment discrimination, as well as difficulties maintaining basic bank accounts and financial relationships. Financial institutions are responsible for monitoring the nation’s cash flow for potential criminal activities such as human trafficking and money laundering. These institutions have also become responsible for deciding who can keep banking and who cannot based on their own assessment of risk.
Having a bank account is a basic human right, says Pierre Whatley, a former bank examiner. Over two-thirds of people working in the adult industry have lost access to a bank account or service, according to a May report by the Free Speech Coalition, a nonprofit trade group for the adult entertainment industry.
For many sex workers, electronic payments are safer, but payment platforms like Square prohibit transactions related to adult entertainment products and services. Banks and financial institutions don’t want to shoulder the potential risks and extra monitoring that may be required to ensure the activity is lawful, even if the work itself is legal.
Workers in sex-related industries have often experienced financial disruption and uncertainty. While some states are moving toward decriminalizing prostitution, the threat of eviction from mainstream bank accounts continues to be a significant issue.