The recent upsurge of street demonstrations against perceived corruption within the Gambling Commission has once again highlighted the futility of elected leaders and their inability to be representative of the people. In the past, the Gambling Commission was formed as an independent administrative entity to regulate the sport industry in Jordan. Its mission was to protect the interests of gamblers as well as to encourage the growth of Jordanian casinos. In recent years, however, it has been transformed into a political instrument to further reduce or control the population.
More than 2100 protesters gathered against corruption in a case involving an extremely wealthy Amman casino. Many more took part in a separate demonstration held by the Muslim opposition in the capital city, demanding the demise of the current government as well as the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Makhsoos. The largest gathering of protesters was from the Al Qaeda linked Islamic Action Center in Amman. They carried banners that read, “The people want to stop corruption in Gambling.” Some of them carried placards with pictures of Ali Baba, the former King of Jordan who is currently the Gambling Commission chairman.
Ali Makhsoos, who was reported as saying recently that he did not intend to resign and would continue as the head of the Gambling Commission until the end of his term. He claimed that he made the decision to remain in the position despite numerous requests to resign. Many people believe that the allegations against him are politically motivated. They are intended to weaken Jordan’s fragile democratic system. Many of those who believe that the charges 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 accusation as a major business lobbying group that is trying to promote Jordanian casinos and create its own sector.
A majority of the people I spoke to were not worried about the political aspect of the whole thing and instead focused on their disapproval of 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 in the casino and steal money from her. Another claimed that even before he took her money the Gaming Commission was allowing her to pay him in cash. It appears that these residents believe that all of the allegations against Makhsoos are true, but are unwilling to speak out because they are afraid of what they might be. They are therefore hesitant and let the Gaming Commission do what it pleases.
The current situation in Jordan is turning out to be very difficult for the people who run the country’s casinos. They are facing serious threats from Al Qaeda-linked Islamic Party members and other groups believed to be backed Osama bin Laden. Anyone who is involved in the gambling industry in Jordan is also at risk. The tourism industry will suffer , and with it the jobs and livelihoods of the people in Jordan.
There are also worries about the future of the current Jordanian slot machines. The majority of these casinos are owned by foreign corporations from countries such as India and Ireland and are operated from hotels and gambling casinos. A lot casinos do not have direct connection to the Jordan Lottery Commission or the Al Qaeda linked groups.
These illegal casinos and their associates have taken control of many motels and hotels in the country’s gambling and slot machine areas. They charge patrons huge amounts of money and their operations are not regulated at all. This is allowing an already illegal industry to take control of one of the largest industries in the nation. This is causing millions to be lost in tax revenue every year to the government, private sector and the native American gaming communities.
The native American casinos earn money by processing traveler’s passports and visas before the player makes their way home. They also handle visitor’s visas and passports for tourists to the country. These businesses have a significant source of revenue from video poker and other forms of gambling. Native American casinos are particularly wealthy in video poker and slots gambling. This type of business is crucial for many of these companies.
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