Recent street demonstrations against corruption within the Gambling Commission have once again shown the futility and inability of elected officials to represent the majority of the population. The Gambling Commission was established in the past as an independent administrative body that was created to oversee Jordan’s sports industry. Its mission was to safeguard the interests of punters and encourage the development of casinos in Jordan. In recent times, however, it has become a political instrument to further reduce or control the population.
More than 2,100 people demonstrated against corruption in a case that involved the high-rolling Amman casino. Thousands more took part 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 protestors. They carried banners that read, “The people want to end 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.
Recently Ali Makhsoos was quoted as declaring that he had no plans to retire and would continue to be the head of the Gambling Commission until his term expires at the end of this year. He claimed that he had made the decision to stay in the job despite numerous requests to resign. Many people believe that the charges against him are politically motivated. They are meant to undermine Jordan’s fragile democratic system. Many of those who believe the allegations 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. In addition to this charge many view the Gambling Commission as a big business lobbying group, attempting to encourage casinos in Jordan and expand its own sector of the economy.
Many of the locals I spoke to were not concerned about politics, but instead focused on their displeasure for Makhsoos, and the way the Gaming Commission was run. One person said that Makhsoos used to come into her hotel room while she was at the casino and steal money. Another resident said that before he stole her money, the Gaming Commission was letting her pay him in cash. They believe all the allegations against Makhsoos to be true however they are scared of what they could become. In the same way, they’ll remain silent and allow the Gaming Commission to do whatever it wishes.
The current situation in Jordan is making life difficult for those who manage the casinos in the country. 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 industry is going to suffer and as a result, the jobs and livelihoods of the residents of Jordan.
There is also a concern about the future of slot machines that are currently operating in Jordan. The majority of these casinos are owned by foreign companies from countries like India and Ireland and run from hotels and gambling casinos. Many of these casinos have no direct connection to the Jordan Lottery Commission or the Al Qaeda linked groups.
These illegal casinos and their associates have taken over many hotels and motels in the country’s gambling and slot machine areas. They are demanding huge amounts of money from their patrons and have very little or no regulation of their operations. This allows an illegal industry to manage one of the most important industries in the nation. This is causing millions to be lost in tax revenue each year to the private sector, the government sector, and native American gaming communities.
The native American casinos make money from processing traveler’s visas and passports prior to the player making their way home. These companies also process visitor’s visas and passports for tourists to the country. Gambling via video poker is a significant source of income for these companies. Gaming on slots and video poker is particularly profitable for native American casinos in the current tense economy. This kind of business is vital to a lot of these businesses.
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