Thursday, June 24, 2021

Gambling in Jordan

The spread of a popular social media website and internet gambling in Jordan has ignited a debate on the future of Arab rule in the country. Two thousand people showed up in support of the removal of the “parliament of shame” during a rally in front of the country’s parliament on Friday, demanding the dissolution of the governing body. Thousands more took part in a similar demonstration organized by the Muslim opposition in Al-Gabel, also demanding the resignation of the current government. Police detained about two hundred protesters trying to enter the offices of the prime minister in Ramat and dispersing them into waiting cars. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” said one activist from Amman. “They want free and transparent societies where the people can elect their leaders without any interference from institutions and authority.”

Gaming in Jordan has been legalized since 2021 but with the spread of the internet, more individuals are taking part in online casinos and sports betting. The increased role of the internet as a medium of communication and business has also encouraged the growth of online casinos and gambling in the country. “These recent developments show that there is no end in sight to the growth of online gambling in Jordan,” says Mustafa Othman, Director of Communications at the World Bet Association. “This represents a significant change in the landscape and also poses significant challenges for governmental policies which have been attempting to curb this growth through strong legislation and licensing frameworks.”

“Gambling encompasses a wide range of activities that involve both the physical environment and individuals,” says Mr. Zaki al-Khatib, a law researcher at the University of Michigan. “One of the major concerns for governments around the world is the impact of gambling on the developing world’s youth.” Many countries have taken measures to crack down on the spread of online casinos, especially in countries where internet connections are not widely available such as Jordan. There are no clear strategies for regulating or prohibit gambling by foreigners in Jordan or by Jordanians in the country.

Some local players and even the government have criticized the lack of formal legal controls over online casino gambling in Jordan. For instance, in 2021, the cabinet of the Kingdom of Jordan drafted a bill on casinos and gaming that is still pending before the National Assembly. According to the preamble of this draft, “The government may regulate the performance of casinos and gaming establishments in its territories through licensing; impose conditions for licenses; and create duties for management and control of said establishments.” However, the preamble does not mention any type of formal legal control over the operations of individual casinos.

There are many types of traditional forms of entertainment in Jordan including horse racing, soccer, golf and other sports betting, camel racing and poker. According to industry analysts, the major attractions of Jordan include its location in the Middle East and its favorable climate. The US-based Association of International Casino and Spa has noted, “There is a huge interest in Jordan for tourists looking for both gambling and relaxation.” The association went on to say that the benefits of gambling in Jordan “go beyond the entertainment aspect, offering sports facilities and employment to the local population”. According to the same study, the development of handicrafts in Jordan has been encouraged by international casinos.

While some argue that there is a lack of regulation in Jordan over the activities of individual casinos, this claim may be disputed by US officials who are concerned about the possibility of organized crime taking advantage of the black market for gambling and gaming. The argument put forth by officials seems to be that Jordan does not allow gambling by foreigners, but allows certain activities of gambling by its citizens. According to these officials, the practice of placing black chips or single dollar bills into the slot machines may encourage terrorists to try to get access to the information that they contain. However, the recent discovery of plotters in the kingdom has led many to conclude that organized crime is taking advantage of the black market for gambling purposes. Gambling is an accepted and common phenomenon in Jordan, and thousands of visitors visit the casinos each year.