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By: Suzanne Lynch of The Irish Times

The US House of Representatives has voted to extend the E3 visa scheme to Irish citizens during a debate in Congress on Wednesday evening.

Though the Bill must still get Senate approval, its passage through the House marks a major breakthrough in Ireland’s efforts to secure new visa access for Irish citizens who want to live and work in the United States.

Up to 5,000 visas per year could become available under the scheme which is currently only open to Australian citizens.

Speaking in the House on Wednesday evening during the debate, Congressman Richard Neal who co-sponsored the bill with Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, described how more than a million people moved to America from Ireland after the famine. “America to its everlasting credit the land of the great, home of the brave, welcomed them.”

He said that the United States’ relationship with Ireland remains “one of the great relationships in terms of allies that we have in the history of America.”

Mr Sensenbrenner said the proposal would be a significant addition to the US immigration system, noting that it would also ease restrictions on Americans who want to live in Ireland without raising the cap on numbers already extended under the E3 visa scheme.

“The United States was built on hard work and the perseverance of immigrants, many who came from Ireland,” he said.

Senate hurdle

While the Bill only needed a two-third majority to pass in the lower chamber, the Senate requires unanimous consent in order to progress the Bill - a significant hurdle.

The E3 is a two-year renewable visa which allows Australian citizens and their spouses to live and work in the US. Australia negotiated the visa programme in 2005 as part of the US-Australia trade agreement.

The Government’s special envoy to the US Congress John Deasy and the Irish embassy in Washington have been advancing talks with senior figures on Capitol Hill and within the Trump administration about expanding access to the coveted visa scheme to include Irish people.

Concerns from Australia about the impact of the deal on their own access to the visas threatened to scupper the deal in recent weeks. However, it is understood that the Australian embassy in Washington is now on board. Among the assurances they have received is that Irish citizens will only be able to apply for visas not taken up in the first instance by Australia.

As many as 10,500 E3 visas are made available to Australian nationals each year under the 2005 deal between the US and Australia but only half of these are taken up each year.

Among the key provisions of the E3 visa is that applicants must have a job in the US to quality and have certain academic or other qualifying credentials. But the E3 is significantly easier and less costly to obtain that the traditional H1B visa for professionals. Unlike other visas, the two-year E3 visa can be renewed indefinitely and includes spouses.

Speaking on Capitol Hill on Wednesday Mr Deasy said that he welcomed the vote in the House but noted that it now needed to gain approval in the Senate.

“This is an important step for it to have passed the House, but this now goes to the US Senate where it will need to be considered under unanimous consent which will require all 100 Senators to agree for it to be signed into law. I am under no illusions how difficult that may be.”

But officials at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington were tight-lipped, cautioning that the Bill still needed senate approval.

Undocumented Irish

As it stands the Bill only applies to future flows of Irish people rather than undocumented Irish living in the United States.

As part of the negotiations, Ireland has offered to make it easier for US citizens to retire in Ireland. The Department of Justice is looking at options to change the criteria needed for US retirees, including lowering the income threshold needed and allowing retirees to work for up to 20 hours a week.

It is understood that Irish and Australian officials are working closely together on the negotiations as the Bill moves to the Senate phase, including introducing small tweaks to the initial E3 scheme. Crucially for Australia, the proposed legislation says that Irish citizens will be eligible to apply for “not more than a number equal to the difference between 10,500 and the number of applications approved in the prior fiscal year for aliens who are nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia”.

By: Ray O'Hanlon of The Irish Echo

Sharing is caring – so long as it’s the leftovers that are being shared.

Australia has relented in the face of the Irish bid to secure a portion of Washington’s annual E-3 visa allocation.

But the ground giving is on the basis of, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Almost 11,000 Australians a year will continue to have exclusive access to a prized visa that allows them to work in the U.S. following an intense lobbying campaign by Australian officials in Washington.”

The Sydney daily reported that Australia’s ambassador to the U.S., Joe Hockey, had “gone nuts” over proposed legislation “that could have seen Australians competing with the Irish for access to the plum E3 visa scheme.”

The paper stated in a separate report that “Ireland is trying to muscle in on a special United States visa class that only Australians currently enjoy and which has limited numbers.”

A bill before the House of Representatives, H.R. 7100, co-sponsored by Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin and Democratic Congressman, and Chairman of the Friends of Ireland, Richard Neal, from Massachusetts, had proposed to “add Ireland to the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program.”

That bill has since been amended and, as H.R. 7164, is listed for debate and a possible floor vote today in the House of Representatives.

Prior to the bill amending, the precise method of adding had occupied Ambassador Hockey’s mind to the point of his apparently straying from normal diplomatic wording and method and venting his concerns to, among others, House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“It seems the ambassador, Joe Hockey got a bit excited about it,” was the measured, indeed diplomatic, reaction of Billy Cantwell, publisher of the Irish Echo newspaper in Sydney.

Hockey’s reaction to the bill apparently had an effect.

Again reported the Sydney Morning Herald: “That legislation has now been withdrawn and replaced by a new draft bill that guarantees Australians continued access to up to 10,500 E3 visas a year.

“The new bipartisan bill would allow Irish professionals in the U.S. to apply for any unused visas from Australia’s annual quota in the subsequent fiscal year.

“Australia’s first preference was to remain the sole beneficiary of the E3 visa, which was created as part of the 2005 Australia-US Free Trade Agreement.

“But sources said the Australian embassy was ‘comfortable’ with the new legislation and would be recommending members of Congress support the bill.”

The paper noted that despite the advantages inherent in the E-3 visa program, (Australian) uptake of the visa “has been slow and thousands go unused each year.”

It’s these thousands of unused visas that could end up being offered on an annual basis to Irish visa hopefuls.

At the same time, however, all the E-3s in a given year could end up going to Australia if demand from there reaches the 10,500 visa ceiling.

“Roughly 5700 Australians took advantage of the E-3 scheme in 2017, leaving almost half of our annual quota unused,” the Morning Herald noted.

The report additionally stated: “Irish officials have insisted that their goal has only been to gain access to any of Australia’s remaining visas.

“But the Australian embassy was concerned that, under the wording of the initial bill, Australian and Irish professionals would be competing for the same pool of 10,500 visas.

“Australian officials pointed out that applications for the visa have been growing over recent years and Australians could miss out in the future if forced to compete with the Irish.

“Australian officials raised objections with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and senior figures in the Trump administration in recent weeks.”

The paper noted that “many members of the US Congress have Irish ancestry, and are sympathetic to the idea of making it easier for Irish professionals to work in America.”

The Visa Weekly website reported that above and beyond Australian concerns about the Irish coming on board the E-3 program, Australian officials also fear that “if the Irish succeed, other countries also might want to be given access” to the E-3 program.

E-3 visas are awarded on a two year basis and can be renewed indefinitely. An E-3 visa holder can be accompanied to the U.S. by a spouse. In many respects the E-3s are not unlike H-1B visas or the extended J-1 Visas.

And E-3 program open to the Irish will not address the issue of the undocumented Irish, or open passage to the U.S. for a broad swathe of potential Irish immigrants as the E-3s, as currently formulated, are focused on people with specific professional qualifications.

H.R. 7164 is expected to come up for debate and a vote late Wednesday afternoon.

The bill specifies that Australians will have access to not more than 10,500 E-3 visas in a fiscal year but goes on to add: “For applicants who are nationals of Ireland, not more than a number equal to the difference between 10,500 and the number of applications approved in the prior fiscal year for aliens who are nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia.”

In other words, Irish applicants will be eligible for those E-3 visas not taken up by Australians in a given fiscal year.

It is possible that there will be a call for a voice vote today on H.R. 7164. If such a call is made and there is no subsequent call for a recorded vote the bill will be considered passed. If there is a call for a recorded vote that vote will be moved forward to tomorrow, Thursday.

By: Martin Longman of Washington Monthly

If you want to get a sense for how seriously House Republicans take their oversight responsibilities, you need not look further than the comments of Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida who serves on the Judiciary Committee. He’s supporting Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio’s bid to take over the GOP’s top “ranking member” position on Judiciary despite the fact that Jordan only ranks eighth in seniority.

In truth, the Republicans serving on the committee were decimated in the midterms. The chairman, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia decided to retire. Other members who retired or sought other offices include: Darrell Issa of California, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, and Raúl Labrador of Idaho. Meanwhile, both Karen C. Handel of Georgia and Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania were defeated.

Technically, Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is next in line, but he’s already served as the head of Judiciary
and appears to be ineligible. Running instead, in addition to Rep. Jordan, are Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio and Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia. Based on seniority, the job should go to Chabot, but Rep. Gaetz thinks that Chabot and Collins are the wrong men for the job.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, said Jordan is the best choice to be the Republican face of the committee while the GOP is in the minority.

“Collins and Chabot are fine legislators. They have great skill in developing legislation and a vision for leadership. They’d make the best chairmen of the committee,” he said in a statement to POLITICO. “Neither is qualified to be ranking member now. Neither has attended the depositions of key witnesses in the committee’s most important investigations. Jim knows how to fight the battle we are facing. He has internalized the facts and timeline. If he isn’t the ranking member, President Trump will be without the most capable defense we could otherwise offer.”

“Kevin McCarthy,” Gaetz continued, “has the power to make Jim Jordan the lead Republican on Judiciary. If he doesn’t, he is actively screwing President Trump. And they both know it.”

Rep. Gaetz knows that the Judiciary Committee will handle any impeachment hearings, should they occur, as well as many other oversight hearings. He told Bloomberg News that “this committee is going to be covered like the O.J. trial.” He couldn’t be less interested in getting to the truth of how the Russians interfered in our elections or how they might do so again in the future. He doesn’t care in the slightest whether the Trump administration has acted lawfully.  He is ready to do battle and offer “the most capable defense.”

The White House sees things much the same way and is hoping to convince soon-to-be House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California to place Rep. Jordan as ranking member on Judiciary, as well as Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina in the top spot of the Committee of Oversight and Government Reform. There are six members of the Oversight Committee with more seniority than Rep. Meadows, so neither of these moves can be approved without causing some resentment and consternation within the caucus.

GOP leaders are set to informally discuss the matter Tuesday night as they begin to organize for the next Congress. The Republican Steering Committee, a group of several dozen lawmakers close to GOP leaders, is ultimately responsible for recommending ranking members. Both men would have to be elected to the positions, though lawmakers give leaders’ preferences ample consideration before voting. The Steering Committee meets Wednesday and Thursday.

Reportedly, it is David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski who are pushing this process on the behalf of Donald Trump, showing again that Chief of Staff John Kelly has little control over the West Wing.

By: Matthew Knott of The Sydney Morning Herald

New York: Almost 11,000 Australians a year will continue to have exclusive access to a prized visa that allows them to work in the US following an intense lobbying campaign by Australian officials in Washington.

Fairfax Media revealed last week that Australia's ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, had "gone nuts" over proposed legislation that could have seen Australians competing with the Irish for access to the plum E3 visa scheme.

That legislation has now been withdrawn and replaced by a new draft bill that guarantees Australians continued access to up to 10,500 E3 visas a year.

This visa class can only be accessed by Australian professionals and is the envy of many countries around the world.

The new bipartisan bill would allow Irish professionals in the US to apply for any unused visas from Australia's annual quota in the subsequent fiscal year. It is expected to be voted on before the end of the year.

Australia's first preference was to remain the sole beneficiary of the E3 visa, which was created as part of the 2005 Australia-US Free Trade Agreement.

But sources said the Australian embassy was "comfortable" with the new legislation and would be recommending members of Congress support the bill.

Unlike other visas, the E3 visa permits the spouses of Australian recipients to live and work in the US without restrictions and can be renewed indefinitely. It is relatively cheap and allows Australians to bypass the pool of hundreds of thousands of other applicants competing for the right to work in America.

Despite these advantages, uptake of the visa has been slow and thousands go unused each year.

Some 5700 Australians took advantage of the E3 scheme last year, leaving almost half of our annual quota unused.

Irish officials have insisted that their goal has only been to gain access to any of Australia's remaining visas.

But the Australian embassy was concerned that, under the wording of the initial bill, Australian and Irish professionals would be competing for the same pool of 10,500 visas.

Australian officials pointed out that applications for the visa have been growing over recent years and Australians could miss out in the future if forced to compete with the Irish.

Australian officials raised objections with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and senior figures in the Trump administration in recent weeks.

The bill has been introduced by Wisconsin Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner and Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal and is expected to be supported by both parties.

By: Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner

It is easy to threaten impeachment on cable news and even easier to promise impeachment on the campaign trail. Turns out, though, that the actual business of removing a public official from office for the requisite "high crimes and misdemeanors" is actually pretty difficult.

Ask Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., about the impeachment process, and he will describe it with just one adjective: “all-consuming.”

After four decades in Congress, the old bull should know. He has managed more impeachments than anyone since the moment the Founding Fathers decided to empower Congress with the authority in Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution some two centuries ago.

While it's a difficult job, Sensenbrenner is pretty good at using this specific check on the executive and judicial branches. He was the one who guided the House when they charged former President Bill Clinton in 1999 for perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton would get off the hook, acquitted by the Senate after a five-week trial. Others weren’t as lucky: Sensenbrenner has collected the scalps of three federal judges.

But even when the defendants were guilty as sin, like Walter Nixon of Mississippi, who was already sentenced to five years in prison by a civil court for perjury after lying to prosecutors about marijuana smuggling, kicking the bums out is a herculean task.

“You don’t know how much work it is,” Sensenbrenner told the Washington Examiner editorial board during a recent meeting, even if it is “impeaching a judge that is in jail for some type of crime, refuses to resign, and is collecting a full judicial salary while sitting in the slammer.”

What makes this constitutional power so unwieldy? The greatest deliberative body in the world, the Senate, requires an overwhelming amount of evidence. Call it constitutional prudence or call it snobbery, but that upper chamber won’t accept the verdict of any other court. The House makes the charges, and the Senate won’t accept any evidence or testimony from anywhere else. Even if the defendant has already been convicted, they make their own verdict.

This means leg work and a lot of it. Impeaching anyone, Sensenbrenner cautions, requires lawmakers “to shut down the judiciary committee for several months to get their ducks in order.”

Good news for the accused, this is bad news for Democrats who are licking their chops at the chance of impeaching anyone in the current administration. Democrats, especially Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who is slated to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee, ought to take notice.

Sensenbrenner wouldn’t be surprised if Nadler tries to impeach President Trump. He wouldn’t be shocked to see Nadler take a shot at history and try to impeach newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Congress has only ever managed to knock a single judge off the high court. Sensenbrenner says going after the newest justice “would be a waste of time” because of the careful vetting that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, undertook during the confirmation process.

Because of arrogance or ignorance, Nadler isn’t convinced. He was overheard bragging over the phone while hurtling south on the train between New York and Washington, D.C., about his plans to go “all-in” to impeach Kavanaugh on charges of perjury.

Bragging over the phone is just as easy as posturing on cable and on the campaign trail. Politicians like to talk when it comes to impeachment. Few of them can do the actual work. Sensenbrenner knows the difference.

By: Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner

Nice Republicans don’t always make the best speakers of the House. And after the better part of a decade, Republicans have little to show for their now lost majority.

There were no lasting spending decreases. There was no immigration reform. No real Obamacare repeal. Nice Republicans don't make great speakers of the House -- at least according to Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

“Well, Boehner and Ryan are nice guys,” the old GOP bull said of the last two Republican House speakers — one who is now a weed lobbyist and the other soon to be some kind of a roving public policy wonk.

A legislative veteran of four decades and the second-most senior member of the House, Sensenbrenner points instead to former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. “You know,” he tells a recent meeting of the Washington Examiner editorial board, DeLay “was called The Hammer for a reason.”

It was DeLay who helped sparked the Republican Revolution as a rank-and-file member of the minority. It was DeLay who scuttled calls for censure and settled instead on impeachment for President Bill Clinton as majority whip. It was DeLay who united a fractured GOP majority behind the legislative agenda of President George W. Bush as majority leader.

Vote against the party, and DeLay would threaten to pull your committee spot. Vote against the party too many times, and Delay would help someone primary you. Even while serving as chairman of the House Science Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, Sensenbrenner wasn’t exempt: “He hit me over the head a couple times.”

But that was over a decade ago, when party unity made twisting arms easier. As Sensenbrenner points out, Boehner and Ryan were frustrated by political arithmetic and an entirely different dynamic in the House. Of course, it should be noted that Ryan never wanted the gavel. He was happier with his spreadsheets and his policy, planning overhauls of the tax code, which he achieved, and reform of the entitlement system, which remains elusive. By circumstance and duty, Ryan was instead forced to turn from policy and more to internal politics.

That policy nerd was confronted with an ongoing and ugly church fight when he took over for Boehner. There was the majority of the majority — about “170 or 180 people” — who followed leadership, and a minority of the majority — “a group in the Freedom Caucus and a group in the moderates" — who were not so wiling. Getting legislation out of the House would now require all three camps “to agree to something.”

“This was their major frustration,” Sensenbrenner remembers, noting that both Boehner and Ryan had majorities bigger than the one Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has just built. “There was a lot of frustration on both of the speakers that in order to govern … they ended up having to push-and-pull and make deals that didn’t really work out.”

One of the casualties of this fracturing, one of the compromisers who tried to broker a compromise when the House took up Obamacare repeal, was Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J. Sensenbrenner notes that things “didn’t really work out” for that member of the so-called Tuesday Group. He lost his re-election narrowly two weeks ago.

As Republicans gripe over internal dysfunction while preparing to enter the minority, Democrats can give thanks for party unity. Assuming she picks up the speaker’s gavel, Pelosi won’t face a majority set against itself. Looking at the incoming Congress, Sensenbrenner counts “a whole lot of progressives and not many blue dogs.”

The question, then, is how incoming Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will confront unified Democrats. In opposition, there won’t be as much squabbling as the Freedom Caucus, the Tuesday Group, and the rest of the rank-and-file come together in opposition. However, as everyone knows, McCarthy is unfailingly nice.

By: Jacob Greber of the Financial Review

Washington | The US is poised to scrap a plan that would have forced professional and highly-skilled Australians to compete with workers from Ireland for an attractive visa category that experts say is being under used.

Australians will continue to have exclusive access to 10,500 so-called E3 visas per year - a unique category that no other country can claim.

However, in an amended bill reintroduced by Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT) any unused quota would be offered to Irish workers in the subsequent fiscal year.

The change, which is expected to be adopted before the end of the year, ends weeks of lobbying by the Australian embassy in Washington, which was concerned that Australians' access to the visas would effectively be halved.

It is understood Australian officials will encourage both sides of Congress to adopt the proposed change.

"We wanted very much to protect that 10,500 [figure] because we see an upward trajectory in takeup by Australians of the E3 visa, which was very hard fought during the FTA," said a source.

"They've come up with this solution, which I think is pretty neat."

Introduced in 2005 after Canberra and Washington negotiated a free trade agreement, the E3 visas provide a streamlined avenue for professionals with qualifications or high-level skills to work in the US for two years.

Department of Homeland Security figures show a steady increase in Australians winning E3 visas. In 2017 some 5657 were issued, up from 3946 in 2013.

The original draft bill introduced by Mr Sensenbrenner earlier this year would have enabled Irish citizens to apply concurrently with Australians for the limited pool of E3s, which are capped by number.

This could have resulted in future waves of Australian workers missing out.

The unused quota of E3s has drawn attention to the fact that many professional and highly skilled Australians may not be taking advantage of the program, and are effectively missing out on a US jobs and wages boom.

Experts say there is considerable demand in the US for highly-qualified workers in advertising, social media, consultancies and financial services.

Future demand for Australian workers may intensify on a dramatic surge in defence industry investment between the two countries in coming years.

New York-based immigration lawyer Zjantelle Cammisa-Markel - originally from Adelaide - said she often encounters Australians working in the UK or Europe who are unaware of the opportunities provided by the E3 visa class.

She said the category - which requires an offer of work from a US employer - can be obtained in as little as two or three weeks, and doesn't have the disadvantage of a more traditional business work visa that is subject to a lottery.

Ms Cammisa-Markel said there is a growing list of examples of Australians on E3 visas who have established businesses in the US and are now employing American workers.

One example, she said, was fintech firm Stash, which was founded by three Australians in 2015, and now employs more than 220 locals.

"It was these key Australians that were able to use the E3," she said.

Another example is Bluestone Lane, a fast-growing chain of coffee shops, which now has over 600 American employees.

"E3s are for educated people who are bright, fresh and smart - a lot of the new fintech companies are Australian-founded, and they're hiring tonnes of Americans," she said in an interview.

She insisted that employers in the US are also becoming more familiar with the category.

"They've noticed a cultural difference in the way Australians work, and that has benefited the productivity of American workplaces."

For those who apply, success rates appear high.

In 2017, when 5657 E3 visas were issued, only 668 were denied, according to Homeland Security data.

Fees are also relatively low, set at $US460 ($637 per applicant), and the visas can be renewed an indefinite number of times.

The category came about because under the FTA negotiated by the Howard government, Australia granted Americans uncapped access to its business visa program.

Because visa numbers are capped by law in the US, Republicans offered a program with a limit of 15,000. Negotiations with Democrats at the time, saw that figure reduced to the current level.

By: Nicholaus Garcia of Play USA

At least one congressman is on board with the U.S. Department of Justice weighing in on sports betting in the post-PASPA era.

Last week, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) addressed a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosensteinasking the DOJfor guidance on how to proceed in the current sports betting landscape.

ENTERING THE POST-PASPA ERA

In September, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, which Sensenbrenner chairs, heard public testimony on sports betting.

Following the hearing, Sensenbrenner declared for Congress to do nothing was the worst possible choice.

In his letter to Rosenstein, Sensenbrenner has this to say:

“As you are well aware, until 2011, the federal government consistently interpreted the Wire Act to prohibit all forms of gambling involving interstate wire transmissions – including transmissions over the internet. Revising its own longstanding interpretation, the Office of Legal Counsel issued a legal opinion stating the Wire Act only bans sports betting and does not apply to online gambling.”

Read the full letter here.

It appears the congressman is looking for the DOJ to answer three specific questions:

  • Do you support the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion that reinterpreted the Wire Act to permit online gambling?
  • What guidance, if any, is the Department of Justice providing to states that are entering the sports betting realm?
  • What issues do you foresee in sports betting, both legal and illegal, if Congress does not act in response to the Supreme Court’s PASPA decision?

OPTIONS FOR CONGRESS TO CONSIDER

Additionally, Sensenbrenner laid out three “viable options” Congress could consider:

  • Re-enact a federal ban on sports betting
  • Defer completely to states to regulate the activity
  • Adopt uniform federal standards

“After hearing from a panel of experts representing a broad range of positions related to sports betting, it is clear that Congress has work to do to ensure the public is protected, and any potential for exploitation by criminals is minimized in the post-PASPA era,” Sensenbrenner wrote.

It remains unknown what path Congress or the DOJ will take, but the conversation will continue. Next year, several states are looking to pass sports betting bills. The clock is ticking on federal oversight should it ever make an appearance.

“Because of the breath of issues involved in establishing a federal framework for sports wagering, and the number of interested parties, it will likely take Congress months, if not years, to develop and enact comprehensive legislation,” he wrote.

By: iGaming Business

A senior US politician has attempted to resurrect arguments in favour of restoring the Wire Act in a letter to US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Wisconsin Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, asked Rosenstein as to whether he believes the Wire Act, which effectively acted as a federal ban on iGaming still has legal weight.

His attempts to resurrect discussion over the act comes around seven years after the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) said that the 1961 legislation was not applicable to online gaming, in a response to queries from the New York Lottery and Illinois Governor's Office regarding online lottery sales. Recent developments in sports betting have come about despite the act still being on the statute book as legislation has been introduced at a intrastate level in states such as New Jersey.

In his letter to Rosenstein, Sensenbrenner brought up old arguments that gambling could be used to fund terrorism and said only federal oversight of sports betting would protect the public from unscrupulous operators.

Sensenbrenner told Rosenstein that evidence submitted convinced him that Congress must act to ensure “the public is protected, and any potential for exploitation by criminals is minimised in this post-PASPA era”.

Describing the option of deferring responsibility completely to the states and “do[ing] nothing” as the “worst option” for Congress, he said two alternatives were the re-enactment of the federal ban and the adoption of uniform standards across the country.

He wrote: “[Online] wagering… will allow for exploitation of internet gambling by criminal and terrorist organisations to obtain funds, launder money, and engage in identity theft and other cybercrimes.”

In the closing half of the letter Sensenbrenner asked Rosenstein a series of questions about the Wire Act – the legislation used to outlaw online gambling until the issuance of a reinterpretation by the Office of Legal Counsel in 2011.

He asked Rosenstein whether the DOJ supports the reinterpretation and whether the body was issuing guidance to states. He also asked Rosenstein if he foresees particular issues should Congress not react to the PASPA ruling.

“To protect the American public and limit the ability of nefarious organisations from exploiting internet gambling, I believe Congress will develop a legislative response to the issues created by the Supreme Court's decision striking clown PASPA,” he wrote. “Since Congress is examining the totality of sports betting in light of the Supreme Court's PASPA decision, it would be beneficial to have answers to the[se] questions.”

Sensenbrenner's comments echo those made through previous attempts to "restore" the Wire Act, including those made by North Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Utah's Jason Chaffetz. The campaign ultimately wants to disregard the OLC's 2011 ruling on the Wire Act in order to revert to a 2002 interpretation that was used by the Department of Justice to prosecute offshore gaming sites targeting US customers.

However, with the Department of Justice currently without a permanent Attorney General following the firing of Jeff Sessions by President Donald Trump earlier this month and seven states having launched sports betting, it seems unlikely that his request will lead to legislative changes.

Despite this other lawmakers have pushed for a federal regualtory framework, with US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put forward a proposal for nationwide regulations to cover the sector in August.

Aside from suggesting that sports wagering should only be open to those aged 21 and over and that sportsbooks should adopt responsible advertising policies and report suspicious betting activities, Schumer said that only official league data should be used – enabling the sports properties to benefit from a lucrative new revenue stream.

By: Jim Hall of Best US Casinos

Summary: Wisconsin Representative Jim Sensenbrenner has called upon the United States Department of Justice to review the sports betting landscape on a federal level.

Since mid-May, sports betting has been booming in the United States due to the United States Supreme Court ruling that a federal ban against the activity was null and void. State after state has either started looking into legislation or already passed laws to allow the activity to take place.

While the past few months have been good for sports betting, it seems one representative of Wisconsin is not too happy and wants the Department of Justice to weigh in regarding potential oversight of the industry via the federal government.

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner sent a letter to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein this week, stating that the Department of Justice needs to provide a fresh perspective when it comes to laws involving sports betting, including the Wire Act.

The Rep has his hands in the fire so to speak as the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. The Subcommittee recently took testimony on the subject of sports betting back in September.

When the hearing ended, as the chair, Sensenbrenner stated that intervention is necessary by Congress to harness the industry as it emerges.

The concerns of the representative involving sports betting include the striking down of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act along with the Wire Act and how it was reinterpreted. The Rep is not a fan of the changes and wants to see something done about it.

Sensenbrenner has voiced concern over terrorism, identify theft and money laundering in connection with sports betting. While there are issues with any industry, such problems have been shot down time and time again when brought up by those who are opposed to such gambling options.

By simply taking a look at New Jersey, the most successful state involved in online gaming and recently launched sports betting, it is clear to see the positive effects.

Just this past month, the state was able to record revenues via online gaming and an increase in wagers placed via sports betting operations. The state continues to do well and is a prime example as to how such gambling should be conducted in the US.

According to the letter, there are three possible solutions that Sensenbrenner thinks that the federal government should do involving sports betting. First, they could chose to re-enact a federal ban on the activity. I doubt this would happen because so many states have already passed legislation and are offering services.

Second, federal standards could be created for the industry, across the board, with each state having to follow to offer sports betting. This seems unlikely as well. Third, the Representative suggests that states will be deferred to regarding regulation of the gambling activity.

This seems the most likely in the scenarios. States have already been regulating their gambling industries for many years and do a good job of avoiding any illegal activity.

According to Sensenbrenner, the worse choice that Congress could make is to do nothing. However, he does feel that if any changes were to take place, it would be months or even years before legislation could be developed and enacted.