The recent upsurge of protests in the streets against perceived corruption within the Gambling Commission has once again highlighted the futility of elected leaders and their inability to represent the people. The Gambling Commission was established in the past as an independent administrative entity to oversee Jordan’s sports industry. Its mission was to protect the interests of gamblers as well as to encourage the development of Jordanian casinos. However, in recent years it has increasingly become a political instrument used to further marginalize and control the population.
Just a few days ago, more than 2100 residents protested against a rumored corruption case regarding a high-rolling casino, in central Amman. Many more participated in a second protest organized by the Muslim opposition in Amman, which also demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Makhsoos and the removal of the current government. The largest gathering of protesters came from the Al Qaeda linked Islamic Action Center in Amman. They wore banners that read, “The people want to end 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 declaring 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 quit. Naturally there are many people who believe that the charges levelled against him are politically motivated and reflect an attempt 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 a member of the minority National Guard that is protecting the regime. In addition to this accusation, many see the Gambling Commission as a big business lobby group, trying to encourage casinos in Jordan and to expand its own sector of the economy.
Many of the locals I spoke to were not interested in politics, and instead focused on their dislike for Makhsoos, and the way in which the Gaming Commission was run. One person told me how much she disliked Makhsoos, claiming that he would sneak into her hotel room when she was at the casino and take money from her. Another claimed that even before he stole her money, the Gaming Commission was allowing her to pay him in cash. They believe all the allegations against Makhsoos to be true, but they are afraid of what they might become. In other words, they will remain silent and allow 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 are facing serious threats from Al Qaeda-linked Islamic Party members and other organizations believed to be associated with Osama bin Laden. Anyone who is associated with Jordan’s gambling industry is also at risk. The tourism industry will suffer and along with it, the jobs and livelihoods of the people in Jordan.
There is also some doubt over the future of the slot machines that are currently operating in Jordan. Most of these casinos are operated by foreign companies which include those from India and Ireland. They are operated by gambling casinos or hotels. A majority of these casinos are not associated with Al-Qaeda-linked groups or the Jordan Lottery Commission.
These casinos that are illegal and their associates have taken control of many hotels and motels across the country’s gambling and slot machine areas. They charge patrons massive fees and their operations are not regulated at all. This allows a criminal industry to control one of the most important industries in the nation. This is causing millions of dollars to be lost in tax revenue each year to the government, the private sector and the native American gaming communities.
The native American casinos make money from processing passports and traveler’s visas before the player makes their way home. These companies also process visitor’s visas as well as passports for visitors to the country. They also have a substantial source of income from gambling on video poker and other games. The gambling on video poker is especially profitable for native American casinos in this troubled economy. This kind of business is essential to many of these businesses.
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