Bills aimed at ticket scalping

Two potential Hannah Montana laws aimed at making concert tickets more accessible and affordable have found their way onto the list of new bills introduced in Nebraska's Legislature.
2008-01-21T18:00:00Z Bills aimed at ticket scalpingJoANNE YOUNG / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
January 21, 2008 6:00 pm  • 

Two potential Hannah Montana laws aimed at making concert tickets more accessible and affordable have found their way onto the list of new bills introduced in Nebraska’s Legislature.

One, sponsored by Sen. Kent Rogert of Tekamah, would make it illegal to use a computer or software to go around ticket issuer security to purchase entertainment or sports tickets.

The other, introduced by Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha, would make it illegal to attempt to sell a ticket for more than 25 percent over face value.

The computer software targeted by Rogert’s bill allows ticket brokers and scalpers to tie up large blocks of tickets on a ticket issuer’s Web site and buy them up faster than individuals can. The tickets can then be resold for sometimes large profits.

Use of the programs has been particularly frustrating for consumers trying to get tickets to such hot concerts as Hannah Montana, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones.

Rogert said the bill makes more sense and is less intrusive than some other attempts at a solution.

Howard said her bill would reduce incentives for reselling the tickets. And it would allow artists and promoters to bring a civil suit against ticket scalpers, lessening the burden on Attorney General Jon Bruning’s office.

“I always feel better when there’s a shared solution,” she said. “I think this is a real way to look at the problem.”

It’s a matter of fairness, she said.

Howard’s bill would apply to Husker football and other sports tickets.

Randy York, University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s associate athletic director for communications, said university policy prohibits resale of tickets at a price higher than the face value. If a person sells a game ticket that is part of a season ticket book, it can be canceled without refund.

Lincoln has no anti-scalping ordinance.

It’s against city ordinance to sell items from a public right of way without a permit. But nothing regulates the amount for which items such as tickets can be sold.

“I can’t speculate as to whether a person could get a permit to sell tickets on a public right of way,” said John McQueen, the city’s chief prosecutor.

Ticket scalping is illegal in Omaha within a half mile of the Qwest Center, Rosenblatt Stadium, the Orpheum Theater and Civic Auditorium.

Roger Dixon, president of Omaha’s Qwest Center, said there’s a trend in the country’s lawmaking bodies to go away from anti-scalping laws. Missouri and Illinois rescinded their laws.

“You can’t enforce them,” he said.

His argument against Howard’s bill is that if the state imposes any restrictions against how tickets can be sold, artists will just bypass the state.

“Senator Howard’s bill won’t help,” Dixon said. “It won’t stop it either. (Ticket scalpers) are very resourceful.”

Although Howard had good intentions, the Qwest Center and other entertainment venues don’t need the state Legislature telling them how to do business, he said, and putting them at a competitive disadvantage.

Rogert’s bill wouldn’t impact the center, but it also wouldn’t improve the ticket situation, Dixon said.

“They would do it anyway and just wait for someone to come after them,” he said.

Normally the center imposes an eight-ticket limit, unless the artist specifies no limit or a smaller limit.

For the first 15 minutes that tickets are on sale, the Qwest Center restricts sales to buyers in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and South Dakota, he said.

Ticketmaster blocks the software Rogert’s bill refers to, he said.

It comes down to an issue of supply and demand, Dixon said. And 90 percent of the shows don’t have an issue with the unfair ticket sales.

“We’re trying to accommodate everyone and their needs,” he said. “And we can do this without state legislation.”

Reach JoAnne Young at 473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com.

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