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Buying tickets to concerts, sporting events in Arizona to be easier

Mexican singer Peso Pluma performs in concert.
Aurea Del Rosario/AP
Mexican singer Peso Pluma performs in concert.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- The next time Taylor Swift comes to Arizona you may actually have a chance of buying a ticket without going to a scalper.
Without debate the state Senate on Monday gave final approval to legislation designed to make it illegal to use compute "bots'' to scoop up tickets for concerts and sporting evens then reselling them to Arizonans at sharply inflated prices.
The House already has approved its own version of HB 2040. What remains is for the two proposals to be reconciled before being sent to Gov. Katie Hobbs.
Separately, the Senate also voted for HB 2194 which creates new laws enacting restrictions and prohibitions when someone wants to resell a ticket. It, too, needs final House approval.
Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, said what's behind both measure is what he heard and saw happening last year when Swift's fans found out they couldn't actually buy tickets from the official web site.
That's because they already had been scooped up by automated software designed to fool the sales site in a way to get around the limit on how much any one individual could buy. And the programs did it so fast that it actually resulted in Ticketmaster shutting down sales -- leaving fans with the only option to buy from secondary sellers who were setting their own prices.
"The fans got fleeced for a lot of money,'' the Globe Republican said. "The Legislature needs to stand up and protect Arizonans.''
HB 2040 would prohibit anyone from creating or using a bot to purchase tickets in excess of the listed limit for an online sale. It also would preclude the use of multiple internet protocol addresses, pruchaser accounts or email addresses in a way to get around the limits set on how many tickets any individual could buy.
And the legislation would make it illegal to circumvent or disable any sort of electronic queue, waiting period, presale code or any other sales volume limitation.
The measure also has teeth.
It would allow the attorney general to investigate violations and go to court to seek penalties of up to $10,000. And each ticket sold in violation of the law wold be a separate violation.
During hearings earlier this year, Randall Vogel said these bots have a great impact on ticket prices. And Vogel, who said he specializes in presentation of performances and concerts, said this isn't just about give events like Swift's Eras Tour.
"Thousands of tickets are purchased annually from medium or small venues across the state by bots,'' Vogel said. "And they are then resold at exorbitant prices at the expense of true fans, limiting access to affordable admission to a performance.''
Vogel said he has seen $50 tickets snapped up and then resold for $300.
"Without legislation, this issue will only get worse,'' he said.
Howard Waltzman, who represents Live Nation and its Ticketmaster affiliate, told lawmakers that there is as federal law that bans the use of bots. And he said that state attorneys general can enforce that law.
Only thing is, Waltzman said, is those lawsuits have to be filed in federal court, a process he said is much slower than what HB 2040 would allow with these complaints being handled in state court. He also said that the Federal Trade Commission has first priority in pursuing such cases, meaning any state action has to wait until that is done.
This measure would put the issue in state courts.
The legislation drew fire from Stubhub which maintains a web site where it offers tickets for resale.
During a hearing earlier this year, Sean Auyash who represents the company conceded that some of the tickets on Stubhub may have originated from people using bots.
But he said if there is a problem, that should be addressed by the primary sellers, meaning the venues and services that they use like Ticketmaster. Auyash said they should be the ones responsible for setting up procedures and practices to keep individuals and computer programs from snatching up more than their fair share of tickets.
That drew a sharp reaction from Rep. Analise Ortiz, D-Phoenix, who said it appears that Stubhub was simply trying to protect its profits.
"Should we make this illegal, those people using bots to get around the system who then go to your service and use your service to price gouge, those people will no longer be coming to you, which means your bottom line would take a hit,'' Ortiz said.
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