State weighs bill for ticket scalping

Bill supporters call prosecuting scalpers inefficient and say it distracts police from other crime.

Alex Amend

A bill to repeal the current law prohibiting ticket scalping is heading through the state Legislature.

The current code makes reselling a ticket for more than the face value a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $700 fine or both.

Republican Rep. Chris DeLaForest of Fridley, chief author of the bill, said, “To criminalize selling tickets is a stupid idea. You have a willing seller, a willing buyer and that’s a legitimate contract.” A legitimate contract, he said, that the government has no reason to interfere with.

The bill has bipartisan support with Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who started challenging this law when the Twins went to the World Series in 1987.

“I remember being outraged at the misuse of police labor,” Kahn said.

According to a 2005 Minnesota House of Representatives release, undercover officers were put to work making 30 arrests in the four home games.

“Enforcing this law is an intensive process,” Kahn said. “And the law is just ineffective.”

DeLaForest also added that the Minneapolis Police Department has a “full plate” of other crime to deal with.

More importantly to DeLaForest and Kahn is that the law’s legitimacy is undermined by ticket reselling outfits across the state border and on the Web.

Outfits like Ticket King, based in Hudson, Wisc., where there is no statute outlawing the scalping of tickets, resell tickets to Twin Cities’ events, often above face value.

“Repealing this law might encourage businesses like Ticket King to relocate to Minnesota,” DeLaForest said, where the business could be of help to the state’s economy rather than a drain.

At the Capitol, opposition to this bill has been relatively non-existent, he said.

“This is my third term in office and not one person has yet to explain to me why this law should still be enforced,” DeLaForest said.

On the street

Sunday outside Williams Arena, ticket sellers didn’t know about the action taking place in the Legislature.

“I only sell at men’s and women’s basketball because they are the only tickets I can sell at face value and make a profit,” said Brian Uhlenhopp, a University alumnus. “There’s a demand for it.”

He said the campus police are tough, but only at big games for sports like Gopher football and hockey.

Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson of the UMPD found only two arrests for scalping since January of 2005.

“Most of our enforcement occurs when the ticket office complains of season ticket holders being harassed or when the sellers step out into traffic,” he said.

Uhlenhopp went on to say not much would change in his niche if the bill were to pass.

“I guess it would improve the image of the seller,” he said.

Terry, a veteran ticket scalper and ex-stock trader who asked the Daily to withhold his last name to avoid legal repercussions, voiced reasons similar to those of Kahn and DeLaForest for supporting the bill.

“The Internet has changed everything, and the police have better things to do,” he said.

Terry broke down what he called the “market of last resort.”

“If the Twins have 81 home games a year, do you think a season ticket holder will attend all 81?” he said. “Someone has a product to unload and someone else wants a good seat.”

In response to the claim teams and giant ticket sellers make that scalpers often fabricate or steal tickets, Terry said it would hurt him more than his accusers if that actually were the case.

“Of course there are a few bad apples out there,” he said. “But I can’t make money if I sold bad tickets. I know the season ticket holders.” He also said he had regular buyers as well.

If the bill passes into law, Terry said he welcomes the “average Joe” to try his luck in a business he’s spent years mastering.

“But I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses his shirt,” he said.