Legislators Debate Reselling Electronic Tickets

By Andrew Tellijohn

The Minnesota Legislature is discussing bills that would prevent teams and entertainment venues from blocking the resale of electronic tickets.

Supporters of the bills say that when they buy an electronic ticket they should be able to sell it or give it away just like they can with paper tickets. Opponents, however, claim the existing sale restrictions prevent scalpers from buying big blocks of seats and current law allows the average person to attend events at fair prices.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, the House bill’s co-sponsor, said when consumers buy tickets they should be able to use them or pass them onto others as they please.

“When you buy a ticket it is yours,” the Farmington Republican said. “It is not Ticketmaster’s or some corporations’. You buy a ticket, you own it. What I do with a ticket I bought, it is my business.”

Garofalo said he believes the proposal has broad bi-partisan support, but testimony on a Senate version of the bill this month showed it also has plenty of opponents.

Representatives from many of the state’s sports teams and event centers testified against making it easier to resell electronic tickets. They say loosening restrictions would make it easier for scalpers and harder for fans who want to attend events to get their hands on tickets at reasonable prices.

Bill opponents said some performers will skip Minnesota if the bill is approved.

The proposed change “protects the scalper’s ability to scalp tickets,” said Bill Huepenbecker, senior director of planning and public affairs for the St. Paul Arena Co., a subsidiary of the Minnesota Wild.

Fewer than 1 percent of tickets sold right now are done so electronically, he added, making this “a solution in search of a problem.” He said Wild management is willing to work with ticket buyers who cannot attend events at Xcel Energy Center.

“Our box office has always accommodated fans who could not attend events for legitimate reasons,” Huepenbecker said. “Right now there is no problem in the marketplace.”

The bills remain in committees, short of a full House and Senate vote.

Minnesota is one of about a half-dozen states considering similar legislation, said Jon Potter, president of the Fan Freedom Project, a consumer rights organization promoting the issue nationally.

These proposals follow legislation passed last year in New York that required ticket sellers who accept electronic tickets to give buyers the option of purchasing traditional paper ones, he said.

“This is a property rights issue,” Potter said.

Besides making it easier to transfer tickets, Potter said, the bill would create greater competition for companies like Ticketmaster, which also own their own reseller companies, thus creating a greater market and improving service for fans.