City considers tougher ticket-scalping regulations

The city of Indianapolis wants to limit the number of scalpers hawking tickets near sports stadiums and concert venues by requiring them to purchase an annual license.

Members of the City-County Council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee are set to vote on a proposal Wednesday evening. If passed, the full council could consider the measure at its Aug. 15 meeting.

Long unregulated—and legal—in Indianapolis, ticket scalping typically draws dozens of so-called brokers who linger along the streets and sidewalks in front of Conseco Fieldhouse before basketball games and concerts.

But it’s Indianapolis’ hosting of the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium Feb. 5 that prompted city leaders to craft a proposal. An ordinance regulating scalping is a National Football League requirement for any city vying for the game, said Susan Williams, president of the Indiana Sports Corp.

The aim is to protect visitors from buying counterfeit tickets and to reduce the throng of scalpers who can congregate for an event as large as the Super Bowl.

“You see big crowds of people trying to get into venues, and you’ve got scalpers,” Williams said. “It’s really uncomfortable. Some people don’t come downtown except for Colts games, and they’re kind of wigged out [by scalpers].”

Under the proposal, scalpers would need to purchase a yearly license from the city’s Office of Code Enforcement to sell tickets within one mile of a venue.

Annual fees for a license to sell tickets would be $57. Exceptions have been made for those who have permission to resell tickets from the event organizer, or who resell tickets for face value or less.

Inspectors from the Department of Code Enforcement or officers from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department will have the authority to seize unlicensed property, according to the proposal.

City-County Councilor Michael McQuillen, chairman of the Rules and Public Policy Committee, supports the measure.

“When people are approaching a venue, whether it’s a basketball game or football game, we don’t want our visitors being harassed by umpteen different ticket brokers or scalpers,” said McQuillen, a Republican.

McQuillen, a business owner who deals in antiques and collectibles, said he usually favors a person’s right to sell their products freely. But, in the case of scalpers, he thinks there at least needs to be some sort of city control over the practice.

An estimated 150,000 people are expected to visit Indianapolis for the Super Bowl. An ordinance, however, also could limit scalping for the inaugural Big Ten football title game in December, which also will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis will host the conference football championship at least through 2015.

In addition, Indianapolis will host the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament in 2012 and again in 2014 and 2016. Games have been played at Conseco Fieldhouse since 2002.

Indiana Pacers officials haven’t taken a formal position on the proposal, said Greg Schenkel, the team’s vice president of corporate and public relations. Yet, he acknowledged that “you want good business practices no matter who’s selling.”

Officials say most scalpers selling tickets from the street work independently. Larger, more organized brokers, notably national giant StubHub, sell tickets online rather than at the venue.

The convenience of purchasing tickets with a click of a mouse or by mobile phone has led to explosive growth within the industry. Local firms such as SportsEvents LLC have carved out a piece of the market and could benefit from additional sales if the City-County Council passes the ordinance.

The law could drive up ticket prices for some events because organized ticket brokers would face less competition from scalpers.

However, more local regulation would improve the overall reputation of the ticket-brokering industry, said Kyle Kinnett, chief operating officer of SportsEvents.

“There are a handful of guys that you can trust,” he said. “And the other guys are out there trying to feed themselves.”



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