Recent demonstrations in the streets against corruption in the Gambling Commission have once again shown 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 regulate the sport industry in Jordan. Its purpose was to protect the interests of gamblers and to promote the growth of Jordanian casinos. In recent times, it has turned into a political instrument to further reduce or control the population.
Just over a week in the past, more than 2,100 residents protested against a rumored corruption investigation involving a high-rolling casino, in central Amman. Thousands more participated in a second protest organized by the Muslim opposition in Amman, the capital city. They were demanding the ousting of the current government as well as the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Makhsoos. The largest gathering of protesters came from the Al Qaeda linked Islamic Action Center in Amman. They waved banners which read “the people want to see the end of corruption in Gambling”. Some of them carried placards featuring pictures of Ali Baba (the former king of Jordan and currently the Gambling Commission Chairman).
Recently Ali Makhsoos was quoted as saying that he did not have plans to quit and would continue as head of the Gambling Commission until his term expires at the end this year. He claimed that he took the decision to stay in the position despite numerous calls for him to resign. Naturally, there are many who believe that the allegations levelled against him are politically motivated and are a sign of the desire to weaken Jordan’s fragile democratic system. Many of those who believe that the accusations are politically motivated base their views on the fact that Makhsoos is an officer in the minority National Guard that is protecting the regime. Many see the Gambling Commission, in addition to this claim as a huge business lobby group that tries to encourage Jordanian casinos as well as create its own industry.
Many locals I spoke with did not care about politics, but instead focused on their displeasure with Makhsoos, and the way that the Gaming Commission was run. One resident claimed that Makhsoos often came into her hotel room when she was in the casino to take money. Another claimed that even before he took her money the Gaming Commission was allowing her to pay him in cash. They believe all the allegations against Makhsoos to be true however they are scared of what they might become. In other words, they will remain silent and let the Gaming Commission to do whatever it likes.
The current situation in Jordan is making it difficult for the people who run the casinos in the country. They face serious threats from members of the Al Qaeda linked Islamic Party as well as other groups believed to be backed by Osama Bin Laden. Anyone involved in the Jordanian gambling industry is also at risk. The tourism industry in Jordan is at risk, as will the livelihoods, and jobs of Jordanians.
There is also a concern about the future of slot machines that are currently operating in Jordan. The majority of these casinos are run by foreign companies from countries like India and Ireland and run from casinos and hotels. Many of these casinos are not affiliated with the Al Qaeda-linked groups or the Jordan Lottery Commission.
These illegal casinos and their affiliates have taken over many motels and hotels in the country’s gambling and slot machine zones. They charge patrons huge amounts of money and their operations aren’t restricted at all. This allows an illegal industry to take control of one of the largest industries in the country. This is causing millions of dollars in tax revenue to be lost every year to the government as well as the private sector and the native American gaming communities.
Native American casinos earn profits by processing passports and visas for travelers prior to their travel home. These businesses also process tourist visas as well as passports. These businesses are a major source of revenue from gambling on video poker and other games. The gambling on video poker is especially lucrative for native American casinos in the current tense economy. This type of business is the lifeblood of many of these businesses.
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