Missouri Senate legalizes ticket scalping

Thursday, August 30, 2007 | 1:18 p.m. CDT; updated 1:51 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The “regular guy” caught a major break, according to Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, when a bill that included a provision to legalize ticket scalping in Missouri passed by a vote of 25-7 in the Senate late Wednesday night.

The session was called by Gov. Matt Blunt to discuss economic development and bridge safety in the state.

Selling a ticket above face value became legal as a result of the bill, repealing a long-standing law. Previously, Missouri was one of less than a dozen states to prohibit the practice.

While the scalping industry has operated underground successfully, proponents of the provision believe its passage will bring the “regular guy” into the market by decriminalizing his participation.

“We want to make sure the guy out there that has a couple extra tickets and has to resell them is not hauled off to jail,” said Bartle, sponsor of the provision. “It makes no sense that we would turn people into criminals for simply wanting to resell a ticket.”

In Columbia, the effects of repealing the 1989 anti-scalping law might seem minimal to fans who have attended games over the years.

MU Police Capt. Scott Richardson said officers only confronted scalpers “if we received a complaint from athletics or patrons entering the stadium.”

Richardson said that in his 14 years he doesn’t recall a single arrest for scalping.

On the few occasions MU Police have received complaints, the department would ask the scalpers to move off university property, explaining that it was illegal to sell anything on stadium property without a permit, Richardson said.

Football fans that feel hassled by scalpers on the walk to Faurot Field make up the majority of complaints, Richardson said.

Under previous law, scalpers could be fined anywhere from $50 to $1,000 and serve between 15 days and one year in county jail, depending on their number of offenses.

Sports teams will benefit from the passage of this legislation, said Michael Naughton, vice president of finance and ticketing for the St. Louis Rams, because they will now be able to legally become a player in this market.

“It is going on right now, if we sit here and do nothing, we are sitting here with our heads in the sand. It’s going on,” Naughton said. “The only ones who are not able to participate in this huge, mushrooming market are the teams that are willing to abide by the existing state law, so you are excluding your major teams and your existing venues in the state.”

Naughton said new business will now be encouraged in the state, which is missing out on revenue.

“Brokers are sitting on the other side of the river in Illinois and on the other side of the river in Kansas because it is legal for them to do this business outside of the state,” Naughton said.

Naughton said ticket holders will now have a venue to resell their tickets at the true market value.

Representatives for the St. Louis Cardinals, Rams, and Blues as well as the Kansas City Chiefs spoke in support of the measure in a committee session Monday.

Opponents of the ticket-scalping bill argue that organizations such as Ticketmaster stand to gain the most, not the average consumer.

“Why is Ticketmaster so excited to get the legislation passed? I don’t think they are going to leave any money on the table,” Rep. Trent Skaggs, D-Clay, said.

Skaggs referred to a study by the New York attorney general that said scalped tickets sales, on average, were 150 percent to 450 percent higher than face value.

“Obviously, that money is going to come out of somebody’s pocket and that is going to be the taxpayers and the consumers,” Skaggs said.

Some Democrats charge that this provision should not be in the special session because the governor’s brother, Andy Blunt, is a Ticketmaster lobbyist. Blunt said he has removed himself from lobbying in the executive branch.

Sen. John Loudon, R-St. Louis County, is in support of the provision, but he said it is important to ensure that the consumer does not lose out.

“If it’s impossible for Joe Six-pack to take his family to the game because he is priced out, then I will be sorely disappointed in what has happened, and we will have to revisit it,” Loudon said.

But supporters of the provision say that ticket prices could fall as a result of the repeal, as the supply increases and the demand remains constant.

In the last legislative session, Loudon sponsored a different type of amendment to control ticket scalping. He wanted to limit the number of tickets one person could purchase, as a way of minimizing scalping by prohibiting people from buying large numbers of tickets at the same time. The bill passed but was vetoed by the governor.

“We are creating a huge ripple in the marketplace in Missouri,” Loudon said. “I hope nobody gets rolled over.”

Missourian reporter Ben Magnuson contributed to this report.

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