Toronto is considering repealing its anti-scalping bylaw that makes it illegal for anyone to resell a ticket on city property.
The Licensing and Standards Committee last week recommended that the City Council look further into the bylaw and its effects. Canadian attorney John Weingust, who often defends those charged with violating the bylaw, brought the matter before the committee.
Weingust calls the bylaw “discriminatory and unnecessary,” citing an already existing provincial law that prohibits someone from selling a ticket higher than its face value. That law was meant to curb ticket scalping, but under Toronto’s bylaw, says Weingust, “any person can be prosecuted just for saying, ‘Who needs a ticket?'” He believes the bylaw is in place to protect corporations like Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which hires police officers to patrol the areas around its venues and arrest violators.
“The practice of people coming to events to sell or exchange tickets is a North American custom that has gone on for decades,” Weingust said. “The call of ‘who needs a ticket’ is a refrain as popular as the National Anthem sung before sporting events.”
Committee chairman Howard Moscoe (who said he worked his way through college by selling tickets outside Maple Leaf Gardens), echoed Weingust’s sentiments. InsideToronto.com quotes Moscoe as saying, “Why can’t people in a free market be able to sell tickets freely? All we’ve done is created a virtual monopoly on the sports groups.”
Other committee members, however, were more cautious about repealing the bylaw. Councillor David Shiner is also quoted by InsideToronto.com as saying, “Scalpers are called scalpers for a reason. It’s because they often charge substantially more than face value. If it’s hitting the people who are making an excessive profit, then it’s doing the right thing.”
Russ Blacklock, president of the Canadian Ticket Brokers Association, told TicketNews that Toronto is a traditionally “wide open street” and a vibrant market. He agrees that while there might be security concerns with respect to tickets being stolen or reprints being sold on the street, he doesn’t see the bylaw as much of a threat to the secondary market.
“While it was more important years ago to have a vibrant street activity for tickets, the way the world has turned vis-à-vis electronic mechanisms for selling tickets, the street seems to return less of our dollars when we send product there,” he said.
The committee is expected to issue a staff report analyzing the bylaw and its effects for its June meeting.