For the first time in its 25-year history in Las Vegas, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) is requiring season ticket holders only use...

For the first time in its 25-year history in Las Vegas, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) is requiring season ticket holders only use an as-yet established proprietary ticket exchange to resell their tickets, a move that has drawn the ire of the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB).

In a ticket policy statement document released earlier this year, the WNFR said it plans to launch the “2010 Official Online Wrangler NFR Ticket Exchange” sometime in May, and the organizers make clear that they will not tolerate season ticket holders reselling their tickets anywhere but through the group’s exchange.

“This online ticket exchange will be the only official, secure and authentic website for all Wrangler NFR Ticket(s) to be exchanged,” the statement reads. “NFR account holders who attempt to sell their tickets on any unauthorized website will risk having their tickets revoked for all future years.”

Las Vegas Events produces the rodeo each year, and the group handles the ticketing.

“Las Vegas Events has a very strict policy on the resale of NFR Tickets. Tickets can only be sold online at the NFR Ticket Exchange or in Las Vegas at the Ticket Exchange located at the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show,” the policy statement reads. Street scalping around the Thomas & Mack Center, which is located on the UNLV campus, is also not allowed.

The statement continues, “All NFR online ticket sales must take place through the Official NFR Ticket Exchange. If any account holder tickets are found for sale on any unauthorized online resale website then these tickets will be immediately revoked. The account holder is responsible for all tickets listed under his account that are not sold through the online NFR Ticket Exchange. The account holder is aware that all NFR tickets are a revocable license, and any unauthorized use of these tickets including the unauthorized resale or attempted resale of NFR Tickets are grounds for automatic revocation of NFR Season Tickets.”

The annual December rodeo, which is held over a ten-day period, is the sport’s season-ending championship event, drawing close to 200,000 fans each year.

Officials from Las Vegas Events did not return messages seeking comment, but the move echoes the strict stand against ticket resale that the Wynn established last year when it announced the Garth Brooks residency at the Las Vegas resort.

The resort requires ticket buyers identify the recipients of the tickets who will be attending the Brooks show, and it warned buyers that resold tickets will be revoked. The resort will buy back tickets a customer cannot use, and it will resell them.

The Wynn’s decision prompted the NATB to pull its annual trade show and conference from the resort in an act of defiance, though the move has had little impact on the popular singer’s residency, which has sold out.

This month, the NATB’s counsel, Gary Adler, fired off an angry letter to Las Vegas Events President Dan Christenson condemning the rodeo’s new ticketing policy, and asking the event to reconsider the ban. Due to the annual event’s popularity and length, it has been solid money maker for some ticket brokers, who now face being shut out.

Adler could not be reached for comment, but the text of his letter is below:

Dear Mr. Christenson:

On behalf of the National Association of Ticket Brokers (“NATB”), a non-profit association devoted to consumer protection in the ticket marketplace, I am writing to express concerns about changes instituted by Las Vegas Events as to the National Finals Rodeo (“NFR”) held by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (“PRCA”). The NFR has been a Las Vegas staple since 1985 and has generated a legion of loyal fans, season ticket buyers, and a 25-year stretch of sold out rodeos. The event is certainly a big draw, yet recent attempts by Las Vegas Events seem designed to disadvantage the very fans and the loyal season seat holders that have made it so successful.

Las Vegas Events’ new policy to block the transfer of tickets among fans unless a total fee of 25% is paid is misguided. According to Colorado law, which is where the PRCA is located, tickets are considered a bearer instrument or, in other words, an asset of the holder. See C.R.S.A. § 6-1-718. The wordage used in the contract you sent to season holders that the tickets will be revoked if sold through any other resale site is a clear violation of this statute. Indeed, the law was enacted in response to the Denver Broncos’ attempt to enforce such a policy.

If a season holder does not sign off on the terms their season seats will be revoked, giving them no choice but to sign. By requiring consumers to use its own secondary market “for profit” exchange as an intermediary, Las Vegas Events is essentially holding ticket owners hostage – repealing their right to do what they please with their purchase. This serves as a major barrier to access and creates unfair competition to other licensed brokers or ticket exchanges. In addition, it is unreasonable to expect ticket holders to sign a new contract containing these terms when there is no running program or new system yet in place.

The measures being introduced to ticket holders essentially change the rules in the middle of the game. For 25 years season holders have been able to use the tickets on the days they would like to attend and then sell the “extra” days in the free market to any individual, business, broker or travel agent. They are now forced to only sell on your secondary market exchange with no other choice. Many of the ticket exchanges that have been set up recently by major sports teams and other live events have worked well for the team or entity, however none of them have forced the holders to use that exchange. Many holders are comfortable selling off their extra tickets to licensed resellers thus bearing no risk if they are unsold. Ticket exchanges are usually a consignment type exchange where the ticket holder will get reimbursed if and only if their specific seats sell. This creates more risk for the seller and requires them to monitor the activity and market value constantly, which many of them do not want to do. NATB does favor competing ticket exchanges, just not one that is forced upon ticket holders as yours does. To be clear, we would not be against Las Vegas Events setting up their own ticket exchange, but it should not be mandatory, and ticket holders should not be threatened to lose their seats if they choose to use a different ticket exchange to sell their tickets.

It is irresponsible to introduce standards that present access problems for dedicated loyal ticket buyers. NATB urges Las Vegas Events to reconsider its stance, take a look at the law that exists in Colorado which is where PCRA is located, and to uphold the highest standards of consumer interest for the NFR and all future events. Please inform me as to whether Las Vegas Events will reconsider its decision and change its policy.

Sincerely,

Gary C. Adler