LITTLE ROCK — A House panel on Thursday endorsed a bill that would repeal the state’s law against scalping tickets to music entertainment events, though some members said they worried the measure would make it difficult for Arkansans to obtain tickets to some events.
House Bill 1404 by Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, cleared the House Judiciary Committee in a 12-6 vote.
Under the bill, it would no longer be illegal in Arkansas to sell a ticket to a music entertainment event at a price greater than the box-office price or the price printed on the ticket, plus a reasonable credit card or handling charge. It would remain illegal to sell a ticket to a high school or college athletic event at a greater price than the price on the ticket.
House said he decided to file the bill after reading last year about a lawsuit in which the state Supreme Court ruled that Ticketmaster is subject to the state’s anti-scalping law and therefore cannot legally mark up ticket prices just to make a profit.
House also said the current law is inconsistent because it does not prohibit scalping of tickets to non-school-sponsored athletic events such as professional wrestling matches, and that he disagrees with it philosophically.
"I think it is paternalistic of the sate of Arkansas to tell someone that they cannot sell their own property for whatever the market will bear," he said.
Rep. Nate Steel, D-Nashville, asked House if he was concerned that the bill would open the door to incidents similar to one that occurred in 2007 when scalpers used computers to buy Hannah Montana tickets the moment they went on sale. Tickets for the concert in North Little Rock sold out in about four minutes, and the scalpers who bought them charged as much as five times the box-office price for them.
House said he believes it is not the state’s business to tell a concert venue how or to whom it can sell tickets.
"They have the right to sell their services to anybody they want under any conditions they want," he said.
Steel asked House if he could think of a solution that would allow scalping but prevent what happened with the Hannah Montana concert.
"We had a Justin Bieber concert here recently," Steel said. "I would think the same thing’s going to happen. You’ve got a demand that far outweighs the supply, and I think that there’s some policy interest in seeing that folks in Arkansas that want to take their kids to see something like that are able to do that."
House told Steel, "I think this is the solution: Stay out of the market. There is no one that has to go to a Justin Bieber concert. If they want to pay the price to Ticketmaster or Verizon or on eBay, that’s their business."
No one from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office testified on the bill. Contacted later, McDaniel spokesman Aaron Sadler said in a statement, "Our office is monitoring the bill because of the effect it may have of denying Arkansans a fair opportunity to buy tickets to their favorite events."
The bill goes to the House.