News Story

Little Guy Faces Jail For Scalping A Ticket, Corporations Do It Every Day

House-passed bill would level the playing field in Michigan

Polling shows widespread support in Michigan for decriminalizing ticket scalping.

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, would do exactly that. It passed the Michigan House this month by a vote of 71 to 36 but faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Michigan law currently prohibits a person from reselling event tickets above their face value unless the venue hosting the event grants permission, and the ban is supported by some sports and entertainment venues. Business websites such as StubHub can get around the ban by getting permission from the venue, however. That is what StubHub has done with the University of Michigan.

But someone who sells a U-M or other event ticket to another person without the venue’s or operator’s permission commits a misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. The law is rarely enforced, however.

Kelly said the ticket resale market is dominated by venues and corporations that make money from the practice. Criminalizing it when individuals do the same thing is wrong, he added.

The bill that passed the House would delete all these prohibitions and exceptions from state law.

Kelly indicated he isn’t sure why the Senate has not acted, and said, “I am concerned about passage in the Senate but believe it will get a fair hearing.”

NetChoice, an eCommerce association that includes several online companies, such as StubHub, eBay and Google, supports the legislation.

“NetChoice supports [the bill] as it updates an 80-year-old law that restricts Michigan fans’ ability to sell at market prices,” NetChoice Vice President Carl Szabo said. “Michigan stands virtually alone with this restriction that harms the ability of fans to recoup their ticket expenses.”

Szabo said the proposed law would put Michigan on equal footing with the rest of the country by allowing Michigan residents to sell their tickets at market price, which can sometimes fluctuate above the face value of the ticket.

“And to address the problem of unscrupulous ticket sellers, HB 4424 helps ensure that one group doesn’t use ‘bots’ to grab hundreds of tickets the minute they go on sale by making the use of technology illegal and empowering the [Michigan] attorney general to enforce,” Szabo said.

This refers to a provision Kelly’s bill that would authorize penalties for using software to interfere with a venue’s own ticket sales and ticket allocation systems.

Kelly's bill was supported by 54 Republicans and 17 Democrats in the House, where it was opposed by nine Republicans and 27 Democrats. Two Democrats did not vote. Republicans have a 27-10 majority in the state Senate.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.