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'Taylor Swift' bills targeting ticket bots, resellers in Arizona earn bipartisan support

A bipartisan group of Arizona lawmakers wants to crack down on the bots and secondhand ticket resellers they blame for driving up concert ticket prices.

Republican Rep. David Cook’s so-called Taylor Swift bills would ban the use of bots to purchase event tickets online and impose new rules on the resale market. They both passed the Arizona House Commerce Committee with Democratic and Republican votes on Tuesday.

Cook said the bills are needed to protect Arizona consumers from the predatory practices that led to recent, high-profile problems securing tickets to popular acts like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.

Several Democrats co-sponsored Cook’s House Bill 2040, which would also ban the use of bots to jump the line on websites like Ticketmaster and give the Arizona attorney general the power to investigate alleged violations. 

Sam Auyash, a lobbyist for Stubhub, said there’s no need for a state law because federal law already bans the practice, referring to legislation signed by former President Barack Obama in 2016.

But Cook says that shouldn’t stop Arizona lawmakers from acting.

“Well, the feds are also working on our immigration thing,” Cook said. “Maybe they’ll finish both of those things at the same time, I don’t know.”  

Attorney Howard Waltzman said those federal laws are ineffective, though, because they give the Federal Trade Commission the first opportunity to go after ticket bots on a large scale and force cases before federal courts, which are facing long backlogs.

“That freezes the state of Arizona’s ability to bring a more specific and expedited case involving the residents of Arizona,” said Waltzman, who represented Ticketmaster-affiliated LiveNation.

Both Lundy and Auyash, who represent ticket resale marketplaces, argued the bots that buy up tickets do so on primary ticket sellers like Ticketmaster, not third party sites. They called for additional reporting requirements to force those primary sellers to report bot breaches to the attorney general. An update to the 2016 federal BOTS law currently before Congress would require those companies to report breaches to the FTC.

But Waltzman said that is easier said than done.

“Even if you know the numbers of the IP address, that's an IP address that's bouncing around from Bulgaria to the Philippines to wherever else,” Waltzman said. “You can't identify who's using those bots, let alone who is paying for those bots to be used so they can sell tickets.”

Rep. Justin Heap (R-Mesa), the only lawmaker to vote against the anti-bot bill, took issue with that answer.

“And yet we’re going to task the [Attorney General’s] Office with resolving what the tech companies are apparently unable to resolve, which is who are these people,” Heap said. “I am concerned that this is all just going to be pushed off on the AG, and it’s gonna waste a lot of time and resources in cases where we can’t identify the person.”

Both Auyash and Vogel also expressed concerns that a provision banning the use of bots to gain unauthorized entry to events could be used to block entry to people who buy tickets on StubHub and similar services.

But Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), who voted in favor of the bill in the Commerce Committee, didn’t read the bill that way, saying it only prohibits the use of bots to create fake tickets to attend an event.  

A second piece of legislation, Cook’s House Bill 2194, would more directly target the second-hand ticket industry by going after predatory practices and efforts to gobble up popular tickets before individual buyers have a chance to purchase them. 

The bill would also ban the sale of more than one copy of the same ticket. It would also require companies to tell buyers about seat locations before reselling a ticket and ban them from advertising a ticket for sale unless they actually own the ticket beforehand or have a contract in place to buy it.

Jon Cavaletto, a board member at the Vista Center for the Arts in Surprise, said third-party services often upcharge customers by hundreds of dollars. He said he has also seen patrons that were sold fake tickets at nearly every event.

Rep. Analise Ortiz (D-Phoenix) said the bill will protect smaller venues like the Vista Center for the Arts and the artists who perform there. 

“I really want us to keep in mind the small venues and small artists and actors and actresses who are relying on the venue they perform at to be able to make the money that they deserve without having a [reseller] coming in and unjustly taking that money away and hurting the fine arts communities that are so fundamental to many of our Arizona cities and towns,” Ortiz said.

But the problems aren’t relegated to small venues. 

Amilyn Pierce, a lobbyist for the Arizona Diamondbacks, said the team also regularly sees fans show up that were sold fake tickets by third parties.

“I’ve seen tickets that look like ours, but it’s a section that does not exist in our ballpark,” Pierce said. 

Two third party services, StubHub and Vivid seats, said they supported bans on speculative ticket sales, but they opposed language that would ban resellers from hiring someone to wait in line to purchase tickets.

Lundy, the lobbyist for Vivid Seats, said the bill would also ban Vivid Seats’ Seat Saver service, which allows buyers to pay a seller to purchase tickets to a specific event for them in the future even if those tickets are not yet on sale.

She argued that service is above board, because Vivid Seats is clear that the seller does not yet own tickets reserved through that service and provides refunds in the event a seller is unable to provide the tickets.

But lawmakers were unmoved, and the bill passed with unanimous support.

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.