Several Nevada casino companies have started earning a larger chunk of income from China than Las Vegas but that didn't stop the state's senior senator -- U.S. Majority Leader Harry Reid -- from describing China's president as a "dictator" during a discussion Tuesday on Senate Democratic objectives for the 112th Congress.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is also general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and therefore has powers bestowed on him by the National People's Congress, is in Washington for an official state visit hosted by President Obama. As head of state, Hu is the face of the nation's movement toward market-oriented, but state-controlled economic policies.
Reid, who represents a state that relies on the revenues of its primary industry -- gaming tourism, smilingly retreated from the characterization nearly as soon as the words left his mouth Tuesday. Still, that's what came out in an interview with "Face to Face" host Jon Ralston, who is also a columnist for "The Las Vegas Sun."
Ralston asked Reid whether he thinks the tax rate agreement reached by Republicans and the White House at the end of last year was the "best deal for this country."
Reid responded by saying that with a smaller Democratic majority in the Senate, he is in a tougher position to accomplish as much as was done in the last Congress, which he called "the most productive in history." Reid then tried to compare the two nations' ability to get things done.
"I'm going to go back to Washington tomorrow and meet with the president of China. He is a dictator. He can do a lot of things through the form of government they have," Reid said before digressing. "Maybe I shouldn't have said ‘dictator' but they have a different type of government than we have, that's an understatement. So we have to work within the system we have, the best system ever devised."
No telling whether Reid, who was also discussing the role of tourism as the primary agent in revitalizing Nevada's economy, read the Bloomberg news report out Tuesday that noted the Chinese region of Macau has surpassed Las Vegas as the world's biggest destination for gamblers, and is experiencing rapid growth while Las Vegas receipts fall.
Casino revenue in Macau were $2.4 billion last month, Bloomberg reported, equivalent to almost half the Las Vegas Strip earnings for the entirety of 2010.
Among the top American casino owners in China are Sheldon Adelson and the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which own the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas as well as the Venetian-Macau and Sands-Macau; Nevada-based MGM Resorts International, which runs the MGM Grande, Bellagio and Mirage hotels in Las Vegas as well as is a half-owner of the MGM Grand Macau; and Steve Wynn, owner of Wynn-Las Vegas and Wynn-Macau. Last year, Wynn threatened to move his operations to Macau to protest the Obama administration's handling of the economy.