Bill Would Limit Non-Transferable Tickets

Professional sports and live events are big business in Texas, and a bill before state legislators today aims to ensure fans who buy tickets can resell them or give them away without interference from venues or ticket brokers. But opponents of the measure say it actually protects scalpers and the secondary ticket market — not consumers.

The Fan Freedom Project, a national consumer campaign funded largely by the ticket resale site Stub Hub, wants to cut back on non-transferable tickets such as paperless ticketing, where the ticketholder has to use the original purchase credit card to enter an event. Fan Freedom is backing House Bill 3041, by Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, which would prohibit sellers and venues from restricting the resale of event tickets. The House Business and Industry Committee will hear the measure on Tuesday. 

“People are spending billions of dollars a year on concerts and sports,” said Tony Gray, Oliveira's legislative director. “Some people spend money on a product they are then unable to use. [The bill is] trying to protect them and protect their right to use the ticket as they wish.”

Jacqueline Peterson, a spokeswoman for Ticketmaster, said some artists and sports teams request paperless tickets to get them into the hands of real fans, as opposed to scalpers intending to resell them. She said most consumers aren't affected by paperless ticketing — paperless tickets are used less than 0.1 percent of the time, and almost all events have a traditional ticket option. If a fan who purchased a ticket can’t attend an event, she said, most venues and ticket sellers will work with the fan to transfer the ticket.

The proposed bill "is really about people from out of state trying to shove something into Texas when the organizations within Texas that have the investment in Texas, they oppose this because it would have a negative impact on their fans,” Peterson said. 

Venues and sports teams across the state have voiced opposition to the legislation, including the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Peterson said. The Houston Rodeo made headlines in March when it canceled about 5,000 tickets to a George Strait concert after it found out that season ticket holders, sponsors and others were reselling their tickets for more than face value. The venue resold those tickets to other customers.

Chris Grimm, a spokesman for Fan Freedom, said such actions deny the ticketholders their property rights. In an online survey Fan Freedom commissioned, 78 percent of 500 likely Texas voters who responded said they believe they should have the right to sell or give away tickets to events after purchasing them.

“When we buy tickets we own them, and it’s our right to choose if we use them, give them to someone else or resell them — the market sets that price,” Grimm said. He added the industry should focus on stopping scalpers from acquiring tickets from companies like Ticketmaster in the first place.

Grimm's group is pursuing legislation around the country to limit the sale of non-transferable tickets. The Texas bill would prohibit ticket issuers from restricting resale or setting price floors or caps on resold tickets. Issuers that ignore the law could face financial penalties; Gray said a committee substitute to be introduced Tuesday caps that proposed penalty at $10,000.

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