Bill would give fans more freedom to sell, give away game tickets

Posted Sunday, Apr. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Should ticket sellers and venues be allowed to restrict the resale or gifting of tickets?

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AUSTIN -- A Texas-size battle over tickets is brewing at the state Capitol.

Rep. Rene Oliveira has filed a bill to make sure that Texans can do whatever they want with tickets they buy for sporting, entertainment and other live events -- and that ticket sellers and venues can't restrict the resale or gifting of tickets.

"When I had a ticket, I thought I owned it," Oliveira, D-Brownsville, said during a recent committee hearing. "If I want to give it to my children, I should be able to do that. ... Why do these groups and venues make it so hard for us to enjoy and be good fans?"

If someone buys a ticket but then can't attend the event, Oliveira said, "Should that person have the opportunity to resell that ticket? Or should they be left holding the bag?"

In North Texas, sports teams like the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys are a big draw, not to mention the flood of concerts and other live events that pass through the region.

Some states are considering putting more restrictions on ticket buyers and holders.

But Oliveira's bill takes the opposite approach, trying to guarantee that Texans can sell or give away tickets without restrictions such as price limits or ticketless tickets.

"This has nothing to do with me interested in protecting brokers ... or protecting scalping," he said during a recent House Business and Industry Committee meeting. "If I want to give [tickets] to my children, I should be able to do that.

"We need to rein in these restrictive practices," he said. "I want our venues and our teams and artists to have great success. ... But let's be fair to fans and consumers and people who want to enjoy this, as well."

Supporters say that Oliveira's bill is the right way to go and that Texans should be able to do whatever they want with their tickets.

Opponents say adding restrictions -- such as requiring buyers to show identification or produce a credit card -- is the best way to keep prime tickets out of the hands of scalpers, who can make it nearly impossible for many Texans to afford these events.

"It's a bit of a can of worms," said Jeff Daniel of Broadway Across America. "We don't want to be regulated in how we sell tickets."

Reselling tickets

The issue of ticket sales -- and the rights of ticket holders -- arose this year in Houston when the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo found out that some people were reselling their tickets for thousands of dollars.

Rodeo officials decided that doing so violated the terms of the ticket and canceled thousands of tickets. Officials then resold those tickets, outraging some of the original holders.

Issues with ticketless tickets are also generating concern among lawmakers.

Ticketless tickets are typically bought online and claimed when the purchaser and guests show up at the event -- often concerts -- and swipe a driver's license or credit card linked to the buyer.

No paper tickets are associated with these transactions, and some say that keeps scalpers from getting the tickets and selling them at much higher prices.

Oliveira, who heads the House Business and Industry Committee, has filed House Bill 3041 to prevent restrictions from being placed on Texans who want to resell their tickets to games or other live events.

It would prevent the primary seller of tickets -- teams, venues, concert promoters or businesses such as Ticketmaster and Live Nation -- from printing any resale terms or conditions on the ticket.

It would also prevent venues, teams and performers from issuing only nontransferable electronic tickets that require people to present ID or the credit card used to buy the ticket to gain admission to the event.

They also couldn't set a minimum or maximum price for which a ticket may be resold.

Coby Wooten, a Fort Worth attorney, said fans should be able to use tickets however they like.

"It's my ticket. I should be able to resell it if I want to," he said.

He said the ticketless method poses all kinds of problems if you can't make a game or a concert -- or if you're going with friends.

Once when he had to replace a credit card, he had to scramble to find the old card number to get into an event.

Johnny Arrellano of Fort Worth said ticket brokers have too much of an advantage over their customers.

"It's not like the old days when you can stand in line and get front-row tickets to Journey. Those days are gone for little guys like me," he said.

Arrellano agrees that ticket holders should have a right to resell their tickets, and he said brokers should face controls.

"They need to do something about Ticketmaster or StubHub," he said. "Those guys control the marketplace."

'Building a firewall'

Now is the time to address the issue, said Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation, a Dallas-based public policy research organization.

"It's perfectly appropriate for the Legislature to draw a line," he said. "There are reasonable terms and there are unreasonable terms.

"No one is harmed by secondary sales. You are building a firewall and you are protecting and preserving secondary markets, which we believe are under threat these days."

The proposal is supported by the Fan Freedom Project, a national consumer campaign that calls for reducing tickets that can't be transferred to others, such as paperless tickets.

"We believe that when we buy tickets, we own them and we can do with them what we wish," said Chris Grimm, communications director for Fan Freedom. "This bill guarantees us that right."

He said more than 4,000 Texans have signed a petition supporting this effort.

"Venues and sports teams don't want to stop scalping," Grimm said.

"They want to be the only ones doing it. Restricted tickets are a way to gain control and create mini-monopolies."

Ticketless tickets tend to drive up the price of any paper tickets that exist for the same event, said Jim Barr, an official with the Texas Ticket Brokers Association.

"Those who do get the tickets are going to double the price," he said.

Barr said he and other ticket brokers are glad that Oliveira is taking a stand.

"We appreciate you taking this on ... and making it fair," he said.

Others who registered with the committee as supporting the bill include TicketCity, the Texas Conservative Coalition, eBay and the Texas Consumer Association.

Pro teams opposed

Professional teams such as the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Astros, Houston Rockets and Houston Texans registered opposition to the bill, as did SeaWorld San Antonio, the Texas Travel Industry Association, Texans for the Arts and Live Nation/Ticketmaster.

The issue is simple, said Dave Brown, vice president and general manager of the American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks.

Creating a ticketless ticket or putting restrictions on tickets "is the most effective method to keep tickets out of the hands of scalpers," said Brown, who opposes the bill. "The ticketless system levels the playing field.

"I have never seen anything more effective," he said. "I appreciate the intent, but the effect [of this bill] is not going to benefit the fans."

Some teams or performers request paperless tickets to make sure that more fans than scalpers get tickets.

Take the Mumford & Sons concerts to be held in Austin, Dallas and Spring this summer.

The only tickets available are nontransferable electronic Ticketmaster tickets, which require the buyer to present ID and a credit card to get in.

"Had we had this legislation in effect ... Mumford & Sons probably wouldn't have picked Texas," Brown said.

Protecting fans

Daniel, of Broadway Across America, said customers have requested paperless tickets.

"The theme of this bill is a theme of unintended consequences," he said.

Most venues and performers offer a variety of tickets, many of them on paper and transferable, said Vicki Hawarden, president and CEO of the Coppell-based International Association of Venue Managers, who also opposes Oliveira's bill.

"Our venues have found the best way to protect the fans is ticketless tickets and [tickets left at] will call," she said.

"Our venues have in many ways protected fans."

Staff writer Bill Hanna contributed to this report.

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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