For the first time since 1981, Oklahoma City is contemplating whether to reform its anti-scalping laws. City Manager Jim Couch wants to raise the maximum price at which tickets can be resold to $20 above face value. Currently, the maximum price is $0.50 above face value. Furthermore, Couch wants to institute a 500-foot anti-scalping zone around venues to discourage resellers.
Chesapeake Energy Arena is home to Oklahoma City’s NBA team, the Thunder, Oklahoma City’s NBA team, the Thunder and a major site of illegal ticket resale. The Thunder is one of the NBA’s youngest teams, formed in 2008 when the Seattle SuperSonics relocated from Washington State and changed their name.
According to Mayor Mike Cornett, the NCAA Big 12 Conference asked for the modified ordinance. Nevertheless, other sports teams such as the Thunder will also be effected by crackdowns on illegal resale. In addition, a TicketNews article from Oct. 2008 reveals that Oklahoma City has been pursuing scalping reform since at least that time.
In a letter to the city council, Couch argues that raising the legal price for resold tickets from $0.50 to $20 above face value “will cover the handling and mailing expenses charged on the tickets.” Chesapeake Energy Arena’s General Manager, Gary Desjardins, agrees with Couch. Desjardins made the same argument when he spoke before the city council in favor of the proposal.
Most of the city council, however, remains unconvinced. Only four of the nine members support the plan, and three have already expressed their strong concern. Councilman Pat Ryan says that the proposed modifications to the ordinance will do little to prevent scalping. “We have an unenforceable ordinance here,” Ryan said, in regards to current law, “and we’re going to make it more unenforceable.” Other opponents include council memebrs Meg Salyer and Peter White.
Police have stepped up enforcement against scalping in recent years, but there is a lack of preventative measures. For instance, there are no anti-scalping zones such as the proposed500-foot zone. Resellers frequently operate directly outside the main doors at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Nevertheless, police officers have taken it upon themselves to enforce scalping violations. Individuals who are caught reselling at a face value above $0.50 are arrested. In one particular incident, on May 3, 2011, police arrested 8 scalpers prior to the start of a Thunder game. Six were cited and released, revealing leniency for fist-time offenders. One of the remaining two, however, was arrested because of previous citations for scalping.
Fees can reach $750, as Delvin Cooks discovered. Cooks was arrested for scalping only a few days after the May 3 incident. As KMTV’s Newson6.com reported, Cooks complained that resellers escape prosecution online for selling high above the original face value yet he is arrested.
A quick search online reveals how highly Thunder basketball tickets vary. Ticket prices for each section, based on proximity to the court and the teams playing, will naturally differ. Nevertheless, such a low maximum price at which to offer tickets above face value makes violations more likely. Online price ranges are significant. For instance, on NBA.com, single-game tickets range from $10 to $275. On Ebay-owned StubHub, prices for one particular game range from $39 to $500 on the floor.
The council is scheduled to vote on the proposed reform on Mar. 13. Until then, the police have less legal recourse with which to punish illegal scalpers.