Bill sought by ticket resellers appears dead
A bill sought by Internet ticket brokers that would allow event patrons to opt out of the up-and-coming paperless ticket market is near death in the General Assembly.
Paperless tickets are akin to an airplane reservation and require attendees to display an ID and credit card at the door, so they cannot be resold at prices above face value.
Paperless tickets are advocated by some as a way to combat the growing market of Internet brokers -- critics call them scalpers -- who frequently corner the market on tickets to popular events.
Although the trend to paperless tickets has been slow to catch on in Connecticut, businesses built around resales, a so-called secondary market, asked legislators to draw an early line in the sand and guarantee customers can request tickets in the future.
"I think it's actually a pretty good bill, but given the context of everything that's happened I don't think anybody wants to touch it," Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, a chairman of the General Assembly's commerce committee, said. "This is a `poison bill.' "
That is because the proposal was generated by one of LeBeau's constituents, South Windsor based-TicketNetwork Inc., which underwent a management shake-up this month after the arrest of its chief executive officer.
Although some accuse such online exchanges of being nothing more than high-tech scalpers, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy elevated TicketNetwork's legitimacy in July, offering the company $7.75 million in subsidies to create 200 jobs.
The deal unraveled last month when CEO Don Vaccaro was arrested for allegedly kissing a woman, grabbing her breasts and using a racial slur against the head of security after an Oscar party in Hartford.
Vaccaro on Feb. 28 announced he was taking an indefinite leave for counseling and treatment for alcohol abuse. A day later, the company said it was leaving Malloy's subsidies on the table to preserve a future relationship with the state.
LeBeau had already asked the paperless ticket bill be drafted, and in an interview a few days after Vaccaro's announcement said he intended to move forward with a public hearing despite the bleak outlook for the bill.
"Let it be heard. People like it, come in and say so. People don't like it, come in and say so," he said at the time.
A LeBeau spokesman Friday said the bill was still being drafted, and the senator would likely meet with legal staff early this week to discuss its future.
Asked if TicketNetwork intended to actively lobby for its passage, Daniel Pullium, the company's director of government relations, in a statement Thursday said, "We will continue to work with the Legislature to make consumer rights and choice in ticketing a priority." However he indicated it is an issue that will "play out" over several years.
Pullium claimed paperless tickets restrict choice and circumvent customer rights.
"TicketNetwork believes strongly when consumers buy tickets they should own and control them," he wrote. "New laws that guarantee protections for consumers and preserve competition in the market should be a priority we all share."
The state Department of Consumer Protection recently studied the secondary ticket market, weighing pros and cons.
"Professional resellers may utilize automated systems -- bots -- or a legion of employees to reserve and purchase large quantities of tickets (and) may crowd out consumers from being able to make those purchases. These disappointed consumers may then turn to the secondary market to purchase tickets from the same brokers," read the report.
DCP said the secondary market place also lacks transparency, can mislead with websites that appear to be connected to venue box offices, and sometimes sells "speculative" tickets to customers before actually having them on hand.
But DCP also cited benefits. Consumers who have not decided whether to attend an event when tickets go on the market or cannot make the purchase at that time are not shut out and have access to competing sellers, DCP said.
And the agency found some venues/promoters like having several tickets purchased at once, assuring their event is a financial success.
DCP recommended tougher laws at the federal level, rather than action by the Legislature at this time.
"Although there will likely be occasional paperless ticket events in Connecticut as the experiments continue, we do not see a swift influx that would necessitate a legislative solution," read the report. "Allow the marketplace to work."
Michael Marion is general manager of the 18,000-seat Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark., and president of the Fans First Coalition. Marion has for the past three years been selling paperless tickets for the best seats in his venue.
He said his goal is to keep ticket costs down to encourage fans to attend more shows.
"For me, scalpers are scalpers," he said. "Any of these people selling tickets above face value I lump all in one group."
Marion said he has been monitoring the Connecticut debate.
"We recently did a survey at a Taylor Swift (concert)," he said. "We sold 4,000 paperless tickets. We surveyed those people and about 90 percent of them said they would do it again to get tickets at face value."