New law cracks down on ‘bots’ that snap up concert tickets

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – President Barack Obama signed the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, a bipartisan legislation (S. 3183), into law on Wednesday making it illegal for online ticket sites or “ticket bots” to buy large amounts of entertainment tickets and then resell them for a much higher price.

“It basically comes down to it’s a form of scalping tickets, so they are buying these large amounts of tickets and then they’re basically increasing the value and scalping them on different sites,” said Wichita Intrust Bank Arena General Manager AJ Boleski, who is in support of the bill.

The so-called “bots” rapidly purchase as many tickets as possible for resale at significant markups, and are one of the reasons why tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert or “Hamilton” performance can sell out in just a few minutes.

For example, tickets are on sale for the Neil Diamond concert in July at Wichita Intrust Bank Arena. The arena is selling upper level tickets for $39.50 and lower level tickets for as much as $149.50. KSN found one online site reselling the same upper level tickets for $232 and the same lower level tickets for as much as $499.

“It’s not really a fair way to operate and it’s not fair, obviously to the fan, who has been wanting to see their favorite act for years and then they have to compete with that.” Boleski said.

The bill would make using the software an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act and allow the FTC to pursue those cases.

Boleski said the new bill will improve the overall experience for guests at Intrust Bank Arena.

“It’s a great thing. It makes buying tickets online much more fair for all of our patrons,” he said.

“Hamilton” producer Jeffrey Seller testified at a Senate hearing in September. He said the bots invade the Ticketmaster system the moment tickets go on sale and electronically purchase almost all the available inventory — one of the reasons tickets to the hit musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton have sold for $1,000 or more.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the Republican sponsor of the bill, said the legislation will “level the playing field” for people buying tickets.

“The BOTS Act… levels the online playing field and makes ticket prices fairer so a greater number of everyday folks can go to that big football game, see the musical in town, or attend a concert their son or daughter is longing to see. I appreciate the support of the president and my colleagues in Congress to get this done in a bipartisan manner.”

Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena General Manager A.J. Boleski added, “This bill is a step closer in helping make the purchase of tickets more fair to all of those fans going to shows. Preventing BOTS allows patrons in Kansas equal access to ticketing inventory. We greatly appreciate the steps taken by Senator Moran to introduce and get this bill passed in the House and the Senate.”

In a report earlier this year, investigators in New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office cited a single broker who bought 1,012 tickets within one minute to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden when they went on sale on Dec. 8, 2014, despite the vendor’s claim of a four-ticket limit. By day’s end, that broker and one other had 15,000 tickets to U2’s North American shows.

The report said third-party brokers resell tickets on sites like StubHub and TicketsNow at average margins of 49 percent above face value and sometimes more than 10 times the price.

New York’s review also found that, on average, 16 percent of tickets are reserved for various industry insiders like the venue employees, artists and promoters, while 38 percent are reserved for presales to certain groups like holders of a particular credit card.