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Michigan creeps closer to repealing ticket scalping ban

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan crept closer Tuesday to repealing the state's ban on ticket scalping as a six-year effort to reform the law gained steam.

State House lawmakers passed legislation Tuesday that would repeal a Michigan ban on ticket scalping while preventing software or practices that interfere with a venue’s ticket sale efforts.

The two bills passed 93-12 and 91-14. They will advance next to the Senate, where the upper chamber will vote on whether it concurs with changes to the legislation it originally approved in January.

Michigan’s ban on reselling event tickets at prices above face value has been in place since 1931. The Republican-controlled House passed legislation in 2014 and 2018 to repeal the state's rarely enforced ban against scalping tickets to games, concerts and other entertainment events but each time it died in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The issue has pitted venue owners such as pro sports teams and public universities — which support the ban — against brokers who buy and resell their tickets mostly on the Internet and want the prohibition rescinded. Scalping, or selling tickets above face value, is a misdemeanor that can lead to a maximum 90 days in jail or $500 fine.

The legislation approved Tuesday was introduced by state Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, and Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte.

The bills would allow not only individuals to scalp tickets, but also businesses so long as the firms' names and websites do not resemble the venue or event for which the tickets are being sold. The limit on names does not apply to people who are working on behalf of the venue or event.

Ticket sellers must have the ticket in their possession at the time of sale or inform the purchaser if he or she does not have the ticket 48 hours ahead of the event.

The legislative development comes as most concerts and sporting events in Michigan have stopped or been closed to paying customers. Major League Baseball, National Football League and National Hockey League games are being played without audiences, while the National Basketball Association is conducting all of its games in a closed "bubble" environment at the DisneyWorld facilities in the Orlando, Florida area.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com