Originally created 02/11/99

Legalization of scalping moving on



ATLANTA -- The Georgia House overwhelmingly voted Wednesday for the third time this decade to legalize ticket scalping, hoping a new governor will let the bill become law this time.

Former Gov. Zell Miller twice vetoed scalping bills, most recently in 1997. However, his replacement, Gov. Roy Barnes, supported the legislation while he was a member of the General Assembly.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Alan Powell, D-Hartwell, passed the House 159-14 with little debate. Its next stop is the state Senate.

"It has lingered in the Legislature the past several years," Mr. Powell told colleagues. "This is a good piece of consumer legislation."

State Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, voted against the bill because of opposition from officials with the Masters Tournament, which is held at Augusta National Golf Club.

"People wait years and years to be on that (ticket) list. Allowing people to sell their tickets circumvents that process," he said.

But not all of Mr. Williams' Augusta colleagues agreed.

"I don't have any problem with scalping," said state Rep. Ben Allen, D-Augusta. "Let the market decide (the price)."

Glenn Greenspan, director of communications for the Masters and Augusta National, said the club did not have a comment on the legislation.

Augusta National prohibits holders of Masters Tournament tickets, called badges, from selling the tickets to anyone on the black market. However, badge holders are allowed to sell their badges back to Augusta National at face value if they can't use the badges themselves.

The push for a scalping bill started before the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Scalpers have sold tickets for years along streets leading to major sporting venues, such as the old Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta.

Periodically scalpers, and individuals trying to resell tickets they don't want to use, have been rounded up by local police.

Under Mr. Powell's bill, ticket brokers in Georgia would have to have permanent offices, be able to put up a $150,000 bond and be required to provide refunds under certain circumstances.

They could not sell more than 1 percent of an event's tickets unless they had an agreement with the organizers. If brokers guarantee seats to an event and can't deliver, the buyer can get back triple the price.

Ticket holders could resell up to four of their tickets on the property where the sports or entertainment event is being held for whatever they can get. Off site, there is no such limit as long as the original buyer bought the tickets "for personal use."

Several lawmakers called scalping nothing more than free enterprise at work.

Officials at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta have complained the bill would allow hawkers to sell the best seats to events in front of their facility and penalize companies like TicketMaster by placing a $3 ceiling on service charges.

James Salzer is based in Atlanta and can be reached at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.