Anti-scalping bill spurs controversy

Anti-scalping bill spurs controversy

Senate Minority Leader, Stephen Hershey, R-Caroline, Cecil, Kent, and Queen Anne’s, speaks in the Senate chamber on opening day of the 2024 legislative session. (Angelique Gingras/Capital News Service)

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By ANGELIQUE GINGRAS

Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md – Season ticket holders are pushing back against an anti-scalping bill in the Maryland General Assembly they say would harm their right to transfer tickets and make a profit when they miss a game.

The bill – which calls for greater transparency in ticket pricing and restricts the secondary market – has sparked the most debate in its provisions regarding resale, especially when it comes to ticket packages, like season tickets for sports games.

Del. Christopher Adams, R-Caroline, Dorchester, Wicomico, and Talbot, who says he holds season tickets for the Washington Commanders, is one of several legislators to push back against this bill in committee for this exact reason.

“I can’t go to all the games so I go to a few games and the way I handle it is, we’ve got games like the Cowboys that are high-demand tickets, and sometimes I sell them and they help me offset the cost of the season tickets,” said Adams. “With this bill, I lose that ability to go out into the market and do that.”

Adams could still sell his tickets, according to proponents of the bill, but the cost would depend on the going rate and availability of nearby seats.

The bill includes a provision for season-ticket holders, where a single ticket in a package could not be sold for more than a comparable ticket. In other words, it means that if a seat were worth $80 when bought in the season-ticket package, but at the time of the game, nearby seats were going for $100, that ticket could be sold for $100 at that time, but no more, according to Spencer Dixon, legislative director of the bill’s lead sponsor.

That lawmaker, Sen. Dawn Gile, D-Anne Arundel, and Del. C.T. Wilson, D-Charles, another sponsor, argue people shouldn’t be allowed to charge outrageous ticket prices.

“If you’re doubling and tripling just so you can make a profit, then you’re definitely part of the problem, not part of the solution,” said Wilson, adding that’s “the exact reason we have ticket scalpers. It’s just another form of ticket scalping. You’re literally just inflating the price because you can.”

The legislators behind this bill say the restrictions on resale are for the purpose of creating a fair market.

But this argument has been met with opposition from lawmakers who have concerns over capping the secondary market.

Senate Minority Leader Stephen Hershey, R-Caroline, Cecil, Kent, and Queen Anne’s, argued the consumer should be able to choose the ticket they want to buy.

“My concern is there are several reputable firms out there that are doing an excellent job of putting a willing seller together with a willing buyer,” said Hershey, who says he’s a season-ticket holder. “At the end of the day, consumers have the right to look around at some different platforms and make their decision.”

Several organizations also raised concerns about the legislation as it stands, arguing it would take away from a fan’s right to transfer a ticket as they wish, including setting the price, in turn eliminating the incentive for people to afford season tickets.

Baker Koppelman, senior vice president of ticket sales and operations for the Baltimore Ravens, wrote in testimony, “This limitation eliminates a means to offset the costs of a season-ticket package which, in some cases, allows the buyers to afford that commitment … Some potentially could not afford to be season-ticket holders or even be interested without their current right to re-sell above face value.”

Del. Pamela Queen, D-Montgomery, added: “We’re not buying up the tickets and trying to artificially sell them to people. I’m a season-ticket holder because I like the team and I want to go to them, but I can’t always go to a game … I’m not trying to price gouge, I’m just [selling] what the market is asking for.”

The lawmakers backing this bill say it’s an attempt to rebalance the scales to give every consumer a fair chance of getting their tickets. The sponsors say they are open to further consideration on season-ticket provisions.

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Capital News Service

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Capital News Service is a student-powered news organization run by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. With bureaus in Annapolis and Washington run by professional journalists with decades of experience, they deliver news in multiple formats via partner news organizations and a destination Website.

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