Any New Yorker who has furiously tapped keys on a computer or cellphone hoping to pick up a hot ticket to see Mets Hall of Famer Mike Piazza’s number retired or concerts by Taylor Swift or Bruce Springsteen understands that the game is rigged. No matter how fast our fingers dance, we always seem to be shut out. And at that point, the only option is to buy at a huge markup from the scalpers who beat us out for the tickets.
Now a report by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman titled “Why Can’t New Yorkers Get Tickets?” is providing some answers.
According to the report released Thursday, an average of only about 46 percent of tickets to top-grossing shows are available to the public because blocks are reserved for preferred buyers, like customers of a sponsoring company. But the real issue is illegal software programs called “bots,” operated by scalpers, that snap up all the available seats before everyday fans can buy.
In one example in the report, 15,087 tickets were bought by two bots on one day in 2014 for a series of 20 U.S. concerts by U2. And often such tickets are resold by unlicensed brokers acting illegally, but through legal ticket reselling platforms like StubHub.
New York used to have restrictive scalping laws, particularly on how much prices could be inflated above face value, but they were lifted in 2007. Lawmakers believed the move toward online sales would lead to a freer market and a level playing field for purchasers. Instead, scalpers began to use technology, scooping the market clean of tickets before fans could buy theirs.
Schneiderman’s report has some good suggestions, including prosecuting scalpers who use bots and making ticket dealers submit license numbers to use online resale platforms. These measures should be adopted.
The game of getting tickets to a hot event is always going to be tough, but it shouldn’t be rigged.