Freedom Hall, BMS back regulation of online ticket scalpers

Hank Hayes • Feb 7, 2013 at 8:45 AM

An entertainment coalition that includes Bristol Motor Speedway and Johnson City’s Freedom Hall is backing state legislation to rein in online ticket scalpers and illegal Web ticket sales.

The 70-plus member group, called the Tennessee Sports & Entertainment Industry Coalition (TSEIC), wants lawmakers to force online ticket resellers to register with the state, end deceptive marketing practices and tell consumers what tickets actually cost.

TSEIC does not propose to end the resale ticket market in the state but make people aware of a “very sophisticated system” run primarily by out-of-state profiteers.

“The unscrupulous scalpers ruin the ticket market for fans,” said Sean Henry, president and chief operating officer of the Bridgestone Arena and Nashville Predators, in a prepared release. “The bad actors do not participate in a free market; they manipulate a black market that raises prices for everyone. They cut ahead of fans during Internet on-sales with sophisticated and often illegal software. They drive a wedge between fans and artists, teams and venues. They hike up prices. They refuse to disclose who they are, where they operate and if they actually have the tickets they claim to sell.”

According to TSEIC, scalpers routinely purchase tickets the second they go on sale by using illegal so-called “BOT” software. They track touring shows and sporting events — wherever ticket demand exists.

The Federal Trade Commission hasn’t made an attempt to regulate online ticketing, according to TSEIC.

In addition to scalping, TSEIC said counterfeit and speculative tickets are being sold online. Scalpers also use Web sites masquerading as being “the official seller” affiliated with events or recording artists.

Kevin Triplett, vice president of communications at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS), said the track got involved in the TSEIC effort to protect its customer base.

BMS, Triplett also stressed, does not want race fans to have a bad experience.

“We’re not in the situation we’ve been in the past where we were selling out and we had waiting lists,” Triplett said of BMS’ ticket demand. “We hope to get back to that (sold out) point one day. ...We spend a lot of time and sweat equity trying to take care of our fans and add value. Our customer service agents are on the phone 15-18 minutes a call. ... If there’s an opportunity to protect people who are our bread and butter in our industry, then we’ve decided to take a stand. ... Our biggest concern is people buying tickets that don’t actually exist.”

Triplett said BMS sells tickets through its website (www.bristolmotorspeedway.com) and also through Ticketmaster, its Internet ticket partner.

The proposed TSEIC legislation, called the “Fairness in Ticketing” Act, calls for online ticket resellers to register with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance; maintain an in-state street address; certify they are not interfering with the original ticket seller; and pay state sales tax.

The bill also requires the reseller to tell consumers the difference between the ticket’s face value and actual online price.

TSEIC said the Tennessee Attorney General’s office would be involved in the legislation’s enforcement, although illegal online scalpers would only face a misdemeanor offense.

For more about the legislation, go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The TSEIC bill is SB 609.

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