Let the free market work for sporting, entertainment tickets

By The Madison County Record | Apr 6, 2015

To the Editor:

Our St. Louis Cardinals baseball is back, but before the first pitch is thrown at the home opener (Monday, April 14), St. Louis sports fans and the teams they support should take note of a new legal development which threatens each fan’s access to tickets to live events.

Recently, the Golden State Warriors became the first NBA team to win 60 games and clinched the best record in the Western Conference, and with it, home-court advantage at least through the Western Conference Finals. But the Warriors also became the first NBA team to inform their season-ticket holders that the resale of any tickets must be offered exclusively through the NBATickets.com exchange. Any violation of this order will result in ticket privileges being revoked both for this year’s playoffs and for the next regular season as well.

The Warriors and the NBA partner with Ticketmaster and NBATickets.com, which consistently uses anti-consumer practices such as price floors and hidden fees to maximize revenue. By forcibly controlling the secondary ticket market, the Warriors and Ticketmaster are depriving fans of a free market that allows them to see the hottest team in pro basketball.

There’s no denying the success of the Golden State Warriors on the court -- but in the court of public opinion, these practices prevent the useful and convenient secondary ticket market from operating according to the well-founded principles of supply and demand.

And now, in Federal Court, StubHub, one of the leading secondary ticket companies, has filed a lawsuit against the Golden State Warriors and Ticketmaster, alleging anti-competitive actions, illegal restraint of trade and the creation of an illegal resale market by requiring season ticket holders to use only their resale platform.

While there is no evidence yet of St. Louis sports teams using such illegal practices, local fans would be advised to keep their eyes open as the St. Louis Blues head to the playoffs, where tickets will be in great demand. Professional sports teams are closely following the landmark case in California as they look for ways to capture a larger share of the resale ticket market.

For most of us, the purchase of a ticket to a sporting or any other live entertainment event assumes that we own the ticket. If our plans change and we cannot attend the event or if we want to give the ticket to a friend or neighbor or donate it to our children’s school fundraising auction, we believe we have such right. But Ticketmaster and other ticket monopolists don’t want us to have those options -- they want to control how our tickets are transferred so they can control the fees.

In fact, Ticketmaster is moving to pass legislation in several states that would give the company even more control of the ticket market. Here in Illinois last year, a bill was proposed that introduced price controls under the guise of “protecting consumers.” Fortunately, that bill died in committee.

This year, State Representative Stephanie Kifowit of Aurora is sponsoring a bill, HB 3103, which would ensure fans buying tickets to concerts, shows and sporting events have the information they need to make informed decisions. Ticket sellers would have to disclose their identity, whether they actually physically have possession of the ticket, and where the broker is located.

Requiring ticket brokers to disclose such basic information is common sense and will provide greater confidence to consumers who must wade through many websites which are run by deceptive organizations and cyber criminals.

All that glitters is not Golden for today’s Warriors season ticket holders. Controlling prices and restricting free markets as the Golden State Warriors and their friends at Ticketmaster have done pushes fans way outside the three-point arc. Let’s keep such practices out of Illinois. HB 3103 will bend that arc toward justice and give consumers more information when purchasing tickets.

Southwestern Illinois sports fans shouldn’t have to worry about Ticketmaster restricting us from buying or even giving away tickets in a free market.

Ron O'Connor

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