It’s a safe means of payment and is anti-money-laundering. However, one week ago Amsterdam’s Red Light District credit card payments were no longer an option. The last payment processor has pulled the plug from the payment terminals. “About 30% of all sex workers have such a device, both in the clubs and behind the windows.” says Eric Hamaker, owner of accounting company Red Light Tax. “They’ve been out of operation since the 16th of November”
The British supplier MyPOS has stopped the service because the company doesn’t want to be associated with the sex industry. The company wants to go public on the stock exchange in 2020 and for that reason Citibank advised them to withdraw from the sex industry. It’s a slap in the face of the sex workers in the Red Light District.
Payments via credit card have been possible for some time and Red Light District credit card payments are becoming more popular. Foreign customers of the window brothels increasingly want to pay by credit card because they have less cash on them. With credit card payments, financial flows become more transparent and exploitation can be proven more easily. Also, sex workers in Amsterdam feel safer if they don’t have to walk the streets with large sums of cash, according to the trade association for Dutch sex workers PROUD.
The new development brings back the fear in the Red Light District that cash will become the norm again. Those who want to pay with a Dutch bank card can still go to the Red Light District, but international visitors, a large proportion of the customers in the Red Light district, do not have a Dutch bank card. However, there are still plenty of ATM’s in the Red Light District of Amsterdam where one can withdraw cash with their credit card.
Large amounts of cash have always been the reason why bankers kept the sex industry at a distance. Banks don’t want their financial systems to be used for, among other things, money laundering. For this reason it’s wry that a credit card company does not want to renew contracts with sex workers. Sex workers are now being thrown back to old times. Former prostitute Metje Blaak is clear that the time of a shoebox with cash under the bed must be a thing of the past. “We laundered the money by going to the casino,” she recalls. “We bought casino chips for two hundred guilders but then didn’t not do anything with them. After an hour we left again and delivered the chips back to the cash register. Our money was ‘healthy’, as we called it at the time.”
In Amsterdam’s Red Light District it’s legal to start working as a sex worker from the age of 21 onwards. There must be a registration at the Chamber of Commerce and taxes must be paid.