You have probably had a problem with ticket bots. The automated software — though it is more fun to imagine them as actual robots — allows individuals to purchase oodles of tickets to a show, concert, or game the millisecond the sale begins. No matter how quick your clicking finger is, you’re no match for that Ex Machina-lite technology in the hands of sneaky scalpers.
Fortunately for non-robot ticket-buyers, the New York State Assembly just passed legislation to criminalize ticket bots. A statement from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie explains that the civil penalties for using ticket bots will be “strengthened.” The legislation also creates “a new criminal penalty for the use of ticket purchasing software.”
Ticket bots are already illegal and can be punished with civil sanctions; this legislation ups the ante, making ticket bot usage a criminal violation.
Under the proposal, civil penalties would be increased and expanded to include any individuals who knowingly resell or offer to resell tickets that were purchased with ticket bot software. The measure would also classify the use or control of ticket purchasing software and the reselling of such tickets as a class A misdemeanor, which could result in imprisonment and fines.
The announcement arrives just weeks after Lin-Manuel Miranda — this is where I’d typically explain who he is but I feel quite confident you already know his story — published an op-ed in the New York Times, “Stop the Bots From Killing Broadway.” He issued a plea for lawmakers in Albany to help, as his Hamilton, an already-impossible-ticket, is made even more out of reach for theater fans by bots.
Miranda cited an investigation from earlier this year led by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. His report, “Obstructed View: What’s Blocking New Yorkers From Getting Tickets,” found that “Ticketing, to put it bluntly, is a fixed game.”
Tonys Show The Oscars How It’s Done: Actors Of Color Win All 4 Musical Acting AwardsSomething was missing from Hamilton at last night’s Tony Awards, where the show which was nominated for a record…thinkprogress.orgThe report described how one broker purchased over 1,000 tickets to one U2 show at Madison Square Garden in just one minute, even though the ticket vendor had a four-ticket limit. “By the end of that day, the same broker and one other had together amassed more than 15,000 tickets to U2’s shows across North America.”
“Brokers sometimes resell tickets at margins that are over 1,000 percent of face value,” the report went on, and added fees on those tickets “regularly reach other 21 percent of the face price of tickets and, in some extreme cases, are actually more than the price of the ticket.” That’s how even a zero-dollar ticket can go for hundreds or thousands of dollars. That’s what happened when Pope Francis, during his visit to the United States, made tickets to see him free and available only through a lottery. Some lottery winners immediately flipped the tickets, charging hundreds.
This, Miranda elaborates in his piece, is why heightened penalties are necessary: Even though ticket bots were already illegal, “the markup on resale tickets is so lucrative, earning brokers millions of dollars per year, that they happily risk prosecution and treat civil penalties as the cost of business.”
Tickets are taken out of circulation, punishing people who can’t afford to pay more than face value. The extra money doesn’t provide a better concert or show experience for you, the fan. Instead, it goes straight to the broker’s bottom line.
The problem will persist until we strengthen the existing law and make this recurrent illegal behavior a felony.
In part as a response to the obscene number of Hamilton tickets going for well over a thousand dollars on secondary markets, the show’s producers announced that the best seats would start to go for $849 a pop. (The show is sold out through next January anyway, but American Express cardholders can score tickets for the following four months.)
Lead producer Jeffrey Seller explained that he landed on the $849 figure “by continually monitoring the secondary market and finding out where the average is.” He also said that he believed only 25 percent of Hamilton tickets were being purchased by bots after the price hike, down from an estimated 78 percent.
It’s a record high for Broadway, but at least the money will go to Hamilton and not to scalpers. An analysis by the Times found that resellers were raking in $60 million a year on Hamilton tickets.