Recent street demonstrations against corruption in the Gambling Commission have once again revealed the inability and futility of elected leaders to represent the people. In the past, the Gambling Commission was formed as an independent administrative body to oversee the sports industry in Jordan. Its purpose was to protect the interests of punters and encourage the growth of casinos in Jordan. In recent times, it has turned into an instrument used by the state to restrict or marginalize the population.
More than 2,100 people protested against corruption in a case involving the high-rolling Amman casino. More than a thousand people participated in a second protest organized by the Muslim opposition in the capital city, demanding the demise of the current government as well as the resignation of the Prime Minister Ali Makhsoos. The Al Qaeda-linked Islamic Action Center in Amman was the venue that hosted the largest number of protesters. They held banners that read, “The people want to end corruption in Gambling.” Some of them were carrying placards that featured images of Ali Baba, the former King of Jordan who is currently the Gambling Commission chairman.
Recently Ali Makhsoos was quoted as saying that he did not have plans to retire and would continue as head of the Gambling Commission until his term expires at the end of this year. He justification for his decision was that he was the one who decided to remain in the post despite calls for him to quit. Many people believe that the accusations against him are politically motivated. They are designed to undermine Jordan’s fragile democratic system. Many of those who believe that the accusations are politically motivated are based on the fact that Makhsoos is an active member of the minority National Guard that is protecting the regime. In addition to this accusation many view the Gambling Commission as a big business lobbying organization, trying to promote casinos in Jordan and expand its own sector of the economy.
The majority of the locals I spoke with were not concerned about the political aspect of the whole thing and instead focused on their disapproval of Makhsoos and the way in which the Gaming Commission was run. One resident said that Makhsoos would often enter her hotel room when she was at the casino and steal money. Another said that even before he stole her money, the Gaming Commission was letting her pay him in cash. These residents believe all the allegations against Makhsoos to be true however they are scared of what they could become. In the same way, they’ll remain silent and allow the Gaming Commission to do whatever it wishes.
The current situation in Jordan is making life difficult for the people who run the country’s casinos. They are facing serious threats from Al Qaeda-linked Islamic Party members and other organizations believed to be associated with Osama bin Laden. Anyone associated with the Jordanian gambling industry is also at risk. The tourism sector in Jordan will be affected as will the livelihoods and jobs of Jordanians.
There are also worries about the future of the current Jordanian slot machines. Most of these casinos are managed by foreign companies including those from India and Ireland. They are operated from gambling casinos or hotels. A lot casinos do not have direct connection to the Jordan Lottery Commission or the Al Qaeda linked groups.
These illegal casinos and their affiliates have taken over many hotels and motels in the country’s gambling and slot machine areas. They charge patrons huge amounts of money and their operations aren’t restricted at all. This allows an illegal business to control one of the most important industries in the nation. This is causing millions to be lost in tax revenue every year to the government, private sector, and native American gaming communities.
The native American casinos make money from processing traveler’s visas and passports prior to the player making their way back home. These companies also handle tourist visas and passports. These businesses have a significant source of revenue from video poker and other gambling. The gambling on video poker is particularly profitable for native American casinos in the current tense economy. This kind of business is essential to a lot of these businesses.
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