Recent demonstrations in the streets against corruption within the Gambling Commission have once again shown the ineffectiveness and inability of elected officials to represent the people. The Gambling Commission was established in the past as an independent administrative entity to oversee Jordan’s sports industry. Its purpose was to protect the interest of punters and encourage the growth of casinos in Jordan. In recent times, however, it has become an instrument of political control to marginalize or control the population.
Just a few days in the past, more than 2,100 residents protested against an alleged corruption case regarding a high-rolling casino, in central Amman. Thousands more participated in a separate demonstration held by the Muslim opposition in the capital city, 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 said “the people want the end of corruption in Gambling”. Some of them carried placards featuring images of Ali Baba, the former king of Jordan who is currently the Gambling Commission chairman.
Recently Ali Makhsoos was quoted as declaring that he had no plans to quit and would continue to be the head of the Gambling Commission until his term expires at the close of this year. He justified his decision by stating that he was the person who decided to stay in the post despite calls for him to quit. Many people believe that the allegations against him are politically motivated. They are intended to undermine Jordan’s fragile democratic system. Many believe the charges are politically motivated because Makhsoos is part of the minority National Guard protecting the regime. Many view the Gambling Commission, in addition to this accusation, as a large business lobbying group that is trying to promote Jordanian casinos and develop its own sector.
Many of the locals I spoke to did not care about politics and focused instead on their displeasure for Makhsoos, and the way the Gaming Commission was run. One resident told me that she was adamant about her dislike for Makhsoos who claimed that he would sneak into her hotel room while she was at the casino to steal money from her. Another person said that, even before he took her money, the Gaming Commission was letting her pay him in cash. The residents believe all of the allegations against Makhsoos to be true However, they are scared of what they could be. They will therefore remain silent and let the Gaming Commission do what it will.
The current situation in Jordan is turning out to be extremely difficult for the people managing the country’s casinos. They face serious threats from Al Qaeda-linked Islamic Party members and other groups believed to be backed Osama bin Laden. Anyone associated with the gambling industry in Jordan is also in danger. The tourism sector in Jordan is at risk, along with the livelihoods and jobs of Jordanians.
There is also some doubt over the future of the slot machines that are currently operating in Jordan. The majority of these casinos are run by foreign corporations from countries such as India and Ireland and are run out of casinos and hotels. A majority of these casinos are not affiliated with the Al Qaeda-linked groups or the Jordan Lottery Commission.
These illegal casinos and their associates have taken over the gaming machines and betting areas of many of the nation’s hotels and motels. They charge patrons massive fees and their operations aren’t controlled in any way. This allows an illegal industry to manage one of the largest industries of the country. This is causing millions of dollars in tax revenue to be lost every year to the government, the private sector and the native American gaming communities.
The native American casinos make money from processing traveler’s passports and visas prior to the player making their way back home. They also handle tourist visas and passports. These businesses have a significant source of income from video poker and other gambling. Gaming on slots and video poker is particularly profitable for native American casinos in this tense economy. This type of business is vital to a lot of these businesses.
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