Ticket scalpers will be able to come out of the shadows and yell "tickets" outside of events without fear of arrest this August if Gov. Pawlenty signs the bill into law. The bill repeals Minnesota's decades-old law forbidding ticket scalping.
Supporters of the measure, like Rep. Chris DeLaForest, R-Andover, say the market should determine the price of tickets.
"I've always thought for a long time it was kind of a dumb idea to criminalize this secondary market," DeLaForest said. "We don't criminalize stocks, bonds, art. You pick your secondary market and it's legit. Why would we criminalize this secondary market?"
DeLaForest says Minnesota is one of only nine states that forbids ticket scalping. He also says the proliferation of online ticket brokers has made the law more difficult to enforce.
The current penalty for selling tickets above face value is up to 90 days in jail or fines of up to $1,000.
State lawmakers have debated legislation to legalize ticket scalping since 1988. Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, says she started pushing for the law change because it was expensive for the city of Minneapolis to enforce the law during the 1987 World Series.
"The issue that brought it home to me at the point was the whole concept of a waste of police resources because it's not an easy crime to enforce. It's usually done with undercover policeman and things like that." Kahn said.
Several lawmakers opposed the bill, saying it would increase ticket costs for consumers. Rep. Larry Haws, DFL-St. Cloud, says tickets will become unaffordable when scalpers buy tickets and resell them for a profit.
"Why is it called scalping? Scalping is not a pleasant term. That means you're going to take somebody's scalp and in my opinion, the scalp you're going to take is of the poor person that can't afford the game," he said.
Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lak,e said he was concerned that ticket scalpers would buy up huge numbers of tickets with the goal of making a massive profit.
"When there's a big venue coming, couldn't they just buy up all of the tickets out there and set the price for the World Series or certain games? Doesn't that open it up to being a rich person's event?" he asked.
But the owner of a Wisconsin based-online ticket broker says it's possible scalpers may take a bath. Brian Obert owns TicketKing.com. Obert, who lives in St. Paul, sells tickets to Twin Cities events from Hudson, Wisc. Wisconsin doesn't have a law forbidding scalping. He says scalpers in Minnesota may have to sell below cost, if the Twins, for example, have been knocked out of playoff contention. Either way, Obert says he isn't worried about seeing more competition from new scalpers.
"With the Internet, right now anyone can pretty much enter the marketplace, so I don't see that the law change is really going to effect us too much from a competition stand point," he said.
Obert says he will probably set up a Twin Cities store so his customers can pick up their tickets if they want.
Officials representing Minnesota's pro sports teams didn't oppose the bill but they do want something from local governments. Twins spokesman Kevin Smith says he hopes cities and counties will set up scalping-free zones so fans don't have to walk a gauntlet of ticket hawkers. He says too many scalpers can ruin the overall experience.
"That doesn't start with the first pitch. That starts with how you get to the Dome. The things you enjoy out on the plaza. We want the experience to be a positive one for our fans and we thought that keeping the scalpers at bay, at least in certain locations, would help provide that," he said.
Smith says the Twins will closely monitor if any major changes occur when the law takes effect on August first of this year. Team officials should have a front row seat since the Twins have a home game that night.