Originally created 04/01/97

Zell: Ax scalping bill

With the Masters, Olympics, pro franchises in baseball, football and basketball, and a host of major college events, Georgia's sports prominence is growing leaps and bounds across the nation and around the world.

So what do our lawmakers in Atlanta do? They vote overwhelmingly in both chambers to legalize ticket scalping. What an appalling message that sends. Come to Georgia and be scalped.

One wonders what's in their heads? The message is hardly muted with the caveat that the scalpers must be a licensed ticket broker, have a permanent office and post a surety bond. That's just lawmakers giving the store away to ticket brokers, who could sell the tickets at any price they can get so long as they do their scalping at least a block away from the site of the event.

There's also a provision in the bill to let secondhand ticketholders scalp, providing they don't charge more than $3 above the ticket price. This opens the door to unfettered price gouging.

Do legislators really believe Masters ticket scalpers would limit themselves to a $3 markup? Be serious. But it's not the Masters we're concerned about. Tournament officials have their own anti-scalping policies and they are experienced at enforcing them.

It's the potential for ripping off other popular events that should concern local taxpayers. Patrick Cumiskey, the newly appointed Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center manager charged with rescuing that facility from a sea of red ink, points to what's wrong with the scalping bill.

"It's almost like bootlegging albums," he says. If tickets "are sold at higher prices the artist misses out (on the increased revenue and) the building also misses out."

Even the bill's original sponsor, Rep. Tom Bordeaux, D-Savannah, withdrew his support after the scalping lobby got their hands on it. "Basically, the bill (designed to allow charities to raffle off tickets and keep the proceeds) got hijacked," he says. "The end result is that scalpers will gobble up tickets. It will make it very difficult for the consumer to get tickets at face value."

Rep. Jack Connell, D-Augusta, was the only member of the Augusta delegation to see this bill for what it was and vote against it. Good for him. Our other lawmakers got suckered. In effect, they voted to make it more difficult for Cumiskey to recruit popular acts to our city and to keep the Civic Center in the red.

Two years ago, Gov. Zell Miller wisely vetoed an earlier scalping bill, saying it didn't protect ticket-buyers and was unfair to performers and athletes. It still is. We strongly urge another veto.


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