Ticket brokers and other ticketing professionals this year should expect state and local governments to try to make changes to the laws governing ticket selling and taxes, as politicians look for ways to balance budgets in these tough economic times, according to a panel of experts at Ticket Summit NYC this week.
During a panel discussion session called “Suit Up! Legislative Education & Advocacy Issues,” speakers urged ticket executives to become involved in government because if they don’t, laws that could hurt their business could be written without their input.
“These are incredibly frightening times, and a lot of public policy makers don’t know what to do,” said New York State Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, a self-described “free-market Democrat.”
Morelle was instrumental in crafting the state’s repeal of its anti-scalping legislation, and he was able to ensure that sports franchises could not monopolize ticket resale, a landmark decision that allows anyone to resell a ticket in New York without going through the team.
But currently, both New York State and New York City are each considering imposing new 4 percent taxes on event tickets, which could raise ticket prices by a total of 8 percent at a time when the industry is vulnerable and consumers are already worried about high prices.
“It’s a regressive tax,” Morelle said, adding that he opposes it in part because it makes tickets more expensive, hurts ancillary businesses, like restaurants, and hurts “the little guy.” Wealthier people can afford to buy tickets regardless of the price. But, he and the other panelists said that without the input of brokers and other ticket professionals to stop it, such a law could squeak by, especially when the government is so strapped for revenue.
“We are not in favor of the entertainment industry being taxed any more than it already is,” said Joe Freeman, Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Ticketmaster Entertainment, adding that all around the country the emphasis is on how governments can figure out ways to generate tax revenue.
Braden Cox, policy counsel for the advocacy group NetChoice, said that it’s rare for politicians’ minds to be changed based solely on testimony from constituents, what does work is being cordial, persistent and helpful when dealing with elected officials. “You can exert influence at various stages.”
Dustin Brighton, Senior Manager of Government Relations for eBay, agreed. “Maintain relationships, and make sure legislators know who you are.”
Chris Barnes, Managing Partner of the research firm Pulsar Research & Consulting said another high-profile situation is also driving the issue.
“[Accused investment swindler Bernie] Madoff, and the failure of the Security and Exchange Commission to catch him earlier, has set off a firestorm that re-regulation is on the way in a lot of sectors,” Barnes said.