It’s Memorial Day again in Atlantic City, NJ and the local businesses and casinos wonder how business will be this summer. While this makes the headlines, what is more rarely talked about is the illegal enterprise of prostitution that fills Atlantic City’s streets and casinos.
Walk through a casino as a man and see how long it takes to be approached by a lady of the evening. If you go into one of the casino bars it could be less than five minutes. The casino of course has the issue that some of their patrons that spend big money come to Atlantic City to gamble because of the “additional amenities” readily offered. So the casinos who are desperate for business with increased competition face the dilemma of turning a blind eye or trying to identify and remove prostitutes from their properties.
Then there is the Internet. Websites like backpage.com have entire sections dedicated to what they call “escorts”. These ads are nothing more than offers for prostitution. The girls are scantily clad in the photos and bold about their services while providing phone numbers to contact them. They quote prices from about $80 to $350 and seem to not worry or care that they are doing something illegal or that there could be legal ramifications.
So the debate comes down to several questions. Does Atlantic City turn a blind eye to attract more business to the struggling casino town? Is prostitution a victimless crime like some say? Or is a town that lost its moral compass years ago allowing the exploitation of sex and women and are they inadvertently helping to promote human trafficking?
Some of the statistics are alarming. According to one report, 30% of men that are single and over the age of 30 have paid for a prostitute. According to Senator Richard Blumenthal’s website, “Experts estimate that 300,000 children are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States, and that girls and boys are forced into prostitution at the average ages of 12 to 14 and 11 to 13, respectively. A chilling report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 40 percent of incidents investigated by federally funded task forces on human trafficking between 2008 and 2010 involved the sexual exploitation of a child. Unfortunately, these numbers only continue to rise.” In addition, many more of these women are strung out on drugs and their only means of paying for their addiction is to sell themselves. Some of them are strung out of drugs to forget that they were forced into this trade as a young teenager.
So how can Atlantic City turn a blind eye? How can anyone turn a blind eye? The victimless crime argument just does not work. It is time to find a solution and end this industry in our area and in the country.