Barack Obama tells Americans ‘don’t go to Las Vegas’
A careless remark by President Barack Obama about Las Vegas has triggered a furious backlash from Nevada’s cash-strapped gambling city and a key Democratic ally fighting a tough re-election battle in the state.
(TELEGRAPH) Speaking about the economy at an event in 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 prioritise. You make tough choices.”
The economy of the world’s most famous gambling and entertainment destination is heavily dependent on tourism and Las Vegans were already incensed by a comment from Mr Obama last year that companies should not use federal bail out money for trips to the city.
Tourism and casino officials said the comment hurt the city after companies cancelled meetings in Las Vegas and re-arranged them elsewhere.
Mr Obama’s latest remark about Las Vegas prompted a swift and angry retort from Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, who has an uphill battle to win re-election in Nevada, which has an unemployment rate of 13 per cent, in the November mid-term elections.
“The President needs to lay off Las Vegas and stop making it the poster child for where people shouldn’t be spending their money,” he said in a statement.
“To truly re-energise our economy, we need people to travel to Las Vegas. I would much rather tourists and business travellers spend their money in Las Vegas than spend it overseas.”
Before the day was out, Mr Obama had 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.
“I was making the simple point that families use vacation dollars, not college tuition money, to have fun. There is no place better to have fun than Vegas, one of our country’s great destinations.”
It was the latest political blow to Mr Reid after the failure to pass the health care bill and controversy over statements that Mr Obama had been an attractive presidential candidate because he was a “light-skinned” black man “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”.
Oscar Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas and an independent, described Mr Obama as “a real slow learner” who had a “psychological hang-up” about the city.
“He has to step up right away and say, you know, he wasn’t thinking.
Sometimes when he’s not using his monitors and reading what he says, he doesn’t think. And this is one of those times he didn’t think, and he should straighten out the record because he’s been here, he knows Las Vegas is a great place.”
Last year, Mr Obama apologised 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”.
But Mr Goodman said that this time an apology wouldn’t be enough. “I’ll do everything I can to give him the boot.”