A careless remark by President Barack Obama about Las Vegas has triggered a furious backlash from Nevada’s cash-strapped gambling mecca and a key Democratic ally fighting a tough re-election battle in the state.
Speaking about the economy yesterday at an event in Nashua, New Hampshire, Mr. Obama told Americans: “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices.”
The economy of Las Vegas, the world’s most famous gambling and entertainment destination, is heavily dependent on tourism and Las Vegans were already incensed by a crack from Mr. Obama a year ago that companies should not use federal bail out money for trips to the city. The city is still reeling from that comment, trying to keep bookings and revenues up on conventions and other events.
Mr. Obama’s latest remark about Las Vegas prompted a swift and angry retort from Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, who is fighting an extremely uphill battle to win re-election in Nevada, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. – a whopping 13 per cent.
Mr. Obama hurriedly dispatched a letter to Mr. Reid. “I hope you know that during my Town Hall today, I wasn’t saying anything negative about Las Vegas,” he wrote.
Oscar Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas and an independent, also got into the fray, raising his voice and describing President Obama as “a real slow learner” who has a “psychological hang-up” about Las Vegas.
Mr. Goodman added that this time an apology from Mr. Obama wouldn’t be enough. “I’ll do everything I can to give him the boot.”
Last year, Mr. Obama apologized for his prior gaffe and during a visit to Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas said that it was good to get out of Washington and “there’s nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week.”
Repercussions surrounding the current incident are not nearly over. In a couple of weeks, Mr. Obama is planning another visit to Las Vegas, which surely will cause sparks to fly anew.