Ticket-selling giants push for Florida legislation to help squash industry competition

Big-money ticket-selling companies like Ticketmaster are on a mission to control the industry, and they’ve found a powerful ally: Florida legislators.

A bill, HB 1003, filed by Plant City Republican Daniel D. “Dan” Raulerson, would restrict resales of tickets to sporting and entertainment events, squashing free-market principles and effectively choosing winners and losers by giving an unfair advantage to mega-ticketing companies, opponents say.

The 11-page bill is aimed primarily at “ticket brokers,” defined as anyone who buys and resells more than 60 tickets or one-third of all tickets purchased from a professional sports entity during any one-year period.

ticketmastermerger1Season-ticket holders and sports fans, beware: By setting up an arbitrary threshold, the proposed law would require you to register with the state as a broker if you want to sell a certain amount of your tickets.

But what the bill really seeks to do is eliminate all competition in the ticketing market. The unintended consequences of such an overreach would harm one class of consumer: the average Joe.

The Ticketmasters of the world want to manipulate the industry to allow resale of tickets on the secondary market only if you use their system to do it. And they would be allowed to charge fees not just on the first sale, but on the secondary sale, too. Since paperless tickets require the ticket holder to show proof of ID and purchase, consumers would be stuck if they need to resell, or even give away, tickets to games or concerts. The real game here has the ticket giants lobbying to define tickets as licenses, rather than as property to be bought and sold, because it allows them to control the lucrative resale.

Supporters justify the bill by saying it protects consumers from unscrupulous brokers that use automatic software, or “bots,” to purchase large blocks of tickets. But ticket sellers have long had measures in place to prevent such mass purchases. They are focused more on a state-by-state power grab than on fixing the problem by targeting bad apples, opponents say.

Raulerson argues that proponents don’t want to disrupt the free market. But that’s exactly what the bill does, according to Christian Camara, Florida director for R Street, a Washington-based think tank that specializes in free-market issues.

Camara said the bill uses government regulation to dictate “how private citizens can sell tickets to each other.”

Restrictions on ticket resales are best left to individual venues without the interference of government involvement, he said. If a venue wants to impose resale restrictions, that should be its choice.

“Tickets are essentially a contract between the buyer and the seller,” he said. “We don’t mind private sellers attaching any conditions to the sale.”

Venues experiencing problems with outside ticket purchases for resale “could be solved on their own,” Camara said. “I just don’t think the government needs to be mandating conditions on tickets.”

The Senate version of the bill, SB 1136, is being sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah.

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