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Navigating the complex landscape of event ticket sales, one might wonder, "Is ticket scalping illegal?" In the United States, the legality of ticket scalping—where individuals, not the official venue or organization, resell event tickets often at a premium—differs from state to state.
While there's no overarching federal law banning the practice, it's outright illegal in approximately 16 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. States like Alabama and New York are among the seven that mandate a license for reselling tickets, as detailed by the Better Business Bureau. This patchwork of regulations underscores the importance of understanding your state's stance on ticket scalping to navigate the secondary market legally and ethically.
When ticket scalping laws are broken, consequences are often not enforced. As with crime in general, police officers handle the offense according to severity. Scalping is a nonviolent crime without a victim — in fact, it is a crime where both parties are agreeable to the transaction. Therefore, cops are often hesitant to get involved.
In addition to state laws, other laws make scalping illegal in raceways and the NFL. Those who can enforce the law at races or football games include box office personnel, supervisors, venue managers, ticket agents, security agents, event promoters and seat holders. At other events, reselling tickets is not illegal, but it's not permitted on stadium grounds. This is why scalping often occurs in close proximity to events, such as concerts or baseball games, but not within the grounds or stadium.
Laws became even more difficult to enforce when the practice became widespread online. Internet sites that resell tickets are regulated, tax-paying websites that capitalize on fans’ eagerness to buy tickets at any cost. If the official website for the event sells out, these sites promote themselves as a second chance. Efforts to make the practice illegal are overshadowed by such websites.
Those in favor of the legality of ticket scalping say that going through brokers creates a safe and reliable way to get tickets. They state that it creates a fair, open market that both parties are agreeable toward. Those who want to make the practice illegal argue that the system favors the wealthy and prompts scalpers to buy large quantities of tickets strictly for resale. If the reseller buys up the tickets, fans may not have the opportunity to purchase tickets at their original cost.
Ticket scalpers are motivated by different factors, including greed, the desire to prey on fans’ emotions, and a love of capitalism. When scalpers buy large quantities of tickets, they take the risk of failing to resell all of them, losing money. People who attend concerts or sporting events are usually emotionally invested in that event, and resellers take advantage of those feelings. Others see themselves as businessmen. In an effort to compromise on ticket scalping laws, licenses or permits are often required, and the decision to make scalping illegal is made by individual states or municipalities.
What Is Ticket Scalping?
Scalping tickets is the practice of mass buying and reselling of tickets by an individual who is not associated with the organization that is sponsoring the event. A scalper will generally buy as many tickets as they can, and then sell them to others at an inflated price. Often they will wait until the authorized tickets are sold out in order to create more demand for their overpriced tickets. The goal of scalping is for the seller to make an additional profit off of selling the tickets.
Events that commonly attract ticket scalpers include the following and more:
- Sporting Events
- Performing arts
If there is an extreme shortage of tickets for an event that is in high demand, scalpers may go even further than simply buying and reselling authentic tickets. Some have been known to forge tickets, selling them to unsuspecting people who will later be unable to enter into the event they believe they have paid for.
Ticket Scalping Online
While it may at first seem like the shift from purchasing physical tickets for events to buying digital versions would have dissuaded scalpers, the problem has only continued to get worse with technological advancements. Using the internet, scalpers are able to disguise themselves as more reputable ticket sellers, which can cause confusion for anyone trying to buy tickets. When looking for authorized tickets, it is important to do your research and ensure that you are truly purchasing off of a platform that is backed by the organization sponsoring the event. Scalping bots, computer programs specially designed to purchase and resale items at inflated prices, have become common for tickets as well as other items sold online.
Other Items Commonly Bought and Sold By Scalpers
In addition to ticket scalping, there is another common form of this practice called retail scalping. This is when a scalper buys items or equipment, often high-ticket items such as technology or items experiencing a shortage, and resales them at increased prices. This is common around the holidays and other times when there are scarcities of popular items.
Why Is Scalping Tickets Illegal?
Scalping tickets is illegal in many areas due to the fact that is unethical and can be harmful to the success of an event. If a scalper buys up the majority of tickets that are available and attempts to resale them for a much more expensive price the event can quickly become inaccessible to many people who would otherwise have attended.
State Laws Against Scalping
While there are no federal laws against ticket scalping in the United States, many states have their own restrictions against the practice. Additionally, organizations try to prevent the practice of scalping by personalizing tickets with the buyer's name in order to prevent resale. The laws preventing scalpers from operating can take several forms. One common form of regulation is the banning of ticket sales within a certain distance of where the event is taking place. Additional rules may limit to amount above the original price that scalpers can charge for tickets, or require scalpers to pay fees.
Is It Legal to Buy Tickets From a Scalper?
Buying tickets from a scalper is riskier and more expensive than purchasing them from an authorized vendor. Not only can scalpers set the price however they want, but it may be difficult to determine whether the tickets are real and not counterfeit. Still, if the event you want to attend has been sold out, it can be tempting to look for alternative ways to buy tickets.
It is generally frowned upon and might even be considered a misdemeanor in some states to purchase tickets from a scalper; however, anti-scalping laws are generally more focused on stopping the scalper from selling tickets rather than charging people who purchased them. As some people purchase scalped tickets unknowingly, it would be difficult to enforce many rules against individuals purchasing the tickets.
Finding Authorized Ticket Vendors
If you want to attend a ticketed event, but are having a difficult time determining where to buy your tickets, there are a few things you can do to make sure you are purchasing tickets from an authorized vendor. Firstly, avoid buying tickets from platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and eBay, as these are almost certainly being sold by scalpers. You should do some research into the event, and if possible, follow the organization's links to the authorized seller's webpage. When googling an event, avoid the first few results, which will be tagged as ads, and scroll down to find the authorized seller's webpage.
Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is ticket scalping?
Ticket scalping is the practice of purchasing event tickets and then reselling them at a higher price, usually for a profit. Scalpers can obtain tickets in a variety of ways, including purchasing them straight from the box office, online, or from those who already own them.
Is it illegal to sell tickets?
Ticket scalping is permitted in some jurisdictions but not in others. It is unlawful in several states, such as New York and California, to resell tickets for more than face value without a license. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, there are no particular laws prohibiting ticket scalping; nevertheless, certain types of scalping, such as utilizing automated software to acquire huge volumes of tickets, may be prohibited.
What are the dangers of purchasing scalped tickets?
Many hazards are linked with purchasing scalped tickets, including the possibility of purchasing counterfeit or invalid tickets, paying inflated rates, and being defrauded by dishonest scalpers. In rare circumstances, scalpers may sell tickets for seats that do not exist or have obstructed views, making enjoyment of the event difficult or impossible.
How do I prevent purchasing scalped tickets?
To avoid purchasing scalped tickets, it is best to acquire them straight from the official box office or a trustworthy ticket seller. If you must purchase tickets from a third party, pick a safe and reputable platform like Ticketmaster or StubHub, which offer buyer protections and ensure ticket authenticity. Deals that appear too good to be true should also be avoided, as they may be frauds.
What are the consequences of ticket scalping?
The consequences for ticket scalping vary according to the jurisdiction and the seriousness of the offense. Scalping may result in fines or other civil penalties in some situations, but it may also be regarded a criminal act punishable by jail in others. To prevent any legal penalties, it is critical to investigate the regulations in your jurisdiction before engaging in ticket scalping or purchasing scalped tickets.