Anti-Las Vegas comments by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apparently carry less weight than those by President Barack Obama.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Atlantic City to introduce the new head of an agency working to revive the downtrodden seaside gaming market, Christie questioned why anyone would travel to the desert when temperatures soar past 100 degrees.
“There is no reason people should go to Las Vegas in the summer,” Christie said. “You’d have to be stupid to do that.”
“Come to Atlantic City, where there’s a beautiful beach. Gamble if you want to,” he said.
Las Vegas officials shrugged off the comments.
“Las Vegas is Nirvana,” said Mayor Carolyn Goodman. “A little heat with our state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, climate-controlled resorts, is certainly much more inviting than having to deal with some of the weather they have had to endure in New Jersey recently.”
Last month, Hurricane Irene forced a shutdown of Atlantic City’s 11 resorts over a busy weekend, denting casino revenues by an estimated $45 million.
Goodman’s comments, which included an invitation for Christie to visit Las Vegas, were tame compared to the reaction her husband, former Mayor Oscar Goodman, had in response to remarks by the President in February 2009.
Responding to a question about corporate responsibility during an appearance in Elkhart, Ind., Obama said, “You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”
The former mayor angrily called the President’s comments “outrageous,” demanded an apology and refused to meet Obama when he later came to Las Vegas.
Nevada officials brushed aside Christie’s remarks.
“Governor Christie is a friend, and he’s pushing for his state, but 37 million people can’t be wrong,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said of his fellow Republican and the number of tourists who hit Las Vegas every year.
Last year, Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority officials rolled out a tourism campaign called Camp Vegas, asserting the desert resort is fun even in the summertime. On Wednesday, tourism leaders fed Christie’s words right back to him.
“Governor Christie is right about one thing: Las Vegas is the hottest destination on the planet,” said authority president Rossi Ralenkotter. “We’ve got the hottest clubs, the hottest restaurants and the hottest entertainment.”
Caesars Entertainment Corp. Senior Vice President Jan Jones also laughed off the remarks. Caesars operates four Atlantic City casinos and has 10 Strip resorts. Jones, herself a former Las Vegas mayor, said Christie has been active in trying to rebuild Atlantic City’s casino industry, which has experienced 35 straight months of declining gaming revenues.
“You have to admire him. He’s colorful and he’s defending his turf,” she said. “He’s doing what he can for Atlantic City.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.