Recent street demonstrations against corruption in the Gambling Commission have once again revealed the inability and futility of elected officials to represent the people. In the past, the Gambling Commission was formed as an independent administrative body that was created to regulate the industry of sports in Jordan. Its mission was to safeguard the interest of punters and to encourage the expansion of casinos in Jordan. In recent years, 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. Many more participated in a third demonstration organized by the Muslim opposition in Amman, which also demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister Ali Makhsoos and the removal of the current government. The Al Qaeda-linked Islamic Action Center in Amman hosted the largest number of protesters. They wore banners that said “the people want the end of corruption in Gambling”. Some of them carried placards with pictures of Ali Baba (the former king of Jordan and currently the Gambling Commission Chairman).
Recently Ali Makhsoos was quoted as saying that he had no plans to quit and would remain the head of the Gambling Commission until his term expires at the close of this year. He claimed that he took the decision to stay in the job despite numerous requests to step down. Naturally, there are many who believe that the allegations that are made against him are political motivated and are a sign of an attempt to undermine Jordan’s fragile democratic system. Many of those who believe that the charges are motivated by politics are based on the fact that Makhsoos is an active member of the minority National Guard that is protecting the regime. Many view the Gambling Commission, in addition to this accusation as a huge business lobby group trying to promote Jordanian casinos and develop its own sector.
Many of the locals I spoke to were not concerned about the political aspects of the whole thing and instead focused on their disapproval of Makhsoos and the way the Gaming Commission was run. One resident shared how much she disliked Makhsoos and claimed that he would sneak into her hotel room when she was playing in the casino and take money from her. Another person said that, even before he stole her money, the Gaming Commission was letting her pay him in cash. It appears that these residents believe that all of the allegations against Makhsoos are true, but are reluctant to speak up because they fear what they might be. They are therefore hesitant and let the Gaming Commission do what it pleases.
The current situation in Jordan is making life difficult for those who run the country’s casinos. They are facing serious threats from members of the Al Qaeda linked Islamic Party and other groups which are believed to be backed by Osama Bin Laden. Anyone who is associated with Jordan’s gambling industry is also at risk. The tourism sector in Jordan is at risk, as will the livelihoods and jobs of Jordanians.
There are also worries about the future of the current Jordanian slot machines. The majority of these casinos are controlled by foreign companies from countries like India and Ireland and are run out of casinos and hotels. Many of these casinos do not have connection with the Jordan Lottery Commission or the Al Qaeda linked groups.
These casinos, which are illegal, and their associates have taken control of many hotels and motels across the country’s gambling and slot machines areas. They are demanding huge amounts of money from their patrons and have very little or no regulation of their operation. This allows an illegal business to manage one of the largest industries in the nation. This is causing millions of dollars in tax revenue to be lost every year to the government and private sector as well as the native American gaming communities.
Native American casinos earn profits by processing passports and visas for travelers prior to their travel back home. These businesses also handle visitor’s visas and passports for tourists to the country. These businesses are a major source of income from video poker and other gambling. Native American casinos are especially rich in the field of video poker and slot gambling. This kind of business is vital for many of these companies.
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