This past week, Colorado Governor Jared Polis vetoed SB23-060, An Act Concerning Consumer Protections in Event Ticket Sales. The title, like so many other pronouncements in government, was anything but a bill protecting consumers. In fact, the final bill ignored several consumer protections, prompting the governor to conclude that the provisions in the bill “would harm consumers and put our entertainment ecosystem at risk.”

Polis, who stated that the overriding interest to his administration and key to his decision to veto the bill was protecting consumers and “the right to a fair, competitive marketplace”.

The governor, as a former congressman, and a billionaire himself, is well known for his principled support of consumer issues and defense of the free market.

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But it was no small feat to veto the bill, he was lobbied by the most powerful and influential entities in the live entertainment business from Colorado and nationally -Ticketmaster/Live Nation, AXS and local event venues – who were represented by the most influential lobbying firms in Colorado.

And clearly, he knew from his previous experience fighting as a congressman against the merger of Live nation and Ticketmaster that this bill would lead to an even larger and more strengthened entity controlling the market.

“I am also concerned that this legislation strengthens an existing entity with too much market power.” He said it without saying it, Ticketmaster/Live Nation has too much power in the market. That is a powerful statement, one that we have been hearing from politicians in Washington DC over the last year or so. But this time, someone put action to their words.

He was also up against one of the more influential politicians in the legislature, Senator Robert Rodriguez, who leads the powerful Business, Labor & Technology and Judiciary committees, and almost always gets his way at the capitol.

It was Rodriguez who managed to change the bill after it was passed by both the senate and house through an arcane legislative process, stripping the bill of several key consumer protections. While the Senator was retweeting the consumer group’s Project Ticket Rights tweet thanking the house and senate for including consumer protection measures such as holdbacks transparency, he was busy striping holdback transparency from the bill:

Retweet of CTF by Robert Rodriguez

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In fact, the governor highlighted that backdoor procedure when he stated in the veto letter that several key consumer protections that were supported by votes in the senate and house were removed before the bill arrived at his desk.

Polis raised some very important points in his veto letter which should be highlighted in future consumer rights fights on live entertainment issues. He began by highlighting the cultural event successes in the state and the need to continue to support those successes, leading to increased tourism and “spending in our main street businesses.” That includes making the bar to changing live entertainment industry laws “very high,” and taking seriously the comments and suggestions raised by consumer advocacy groups.

What the governor supported in the bill:

  • Providing protections for fans who buy tickets through other sources other than the primary seller to ensure those fans are not denied access to events by primary sellers.
  • The expansion of the definition of deceptive trade practices to include software bots buying tickets in excess of authorized limits, as well as a crackdown on bots using multiple email addresses.
  • Prevents internet websites from displaying a trademarked or copyrighted URL.
  • Required all in ticket pricing when the ticket is listed for sale.
  • Required full refunds for fans not allowed access to an event.

What provisions the governor did not support in the bill:

  • New conditions on resale that limited consumer access.
  • Open-ended ambiguous language regarding unfair trade practices
  • Ambiguous language related to ticket transferability.
  • Confusing and too broadly written language related to tickets for charitable events.
  • Key consumer protections removed, including holdback transparency for primary sellers and venues.

Who were the winners and the losers in this fight in Colorado?

The Winners

The ticket buyers and fans in Colorado.

Consumer protection groups including the National Consumers League and the Consumer Federation of America, were highlighted in the governor’s veto letter as well as the Sports Fan Coalition, Fan Freedom Project and Protect Ticket Rights.

Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ), who served in congress with Polis and personally called him to outline reasons why this bill should have been vetoed.

Secondary market sellers like Vivid Seats, TicketNetwork, SeatGeek and StubHub, as well as small online sites like MEGASeats, which stated was “the best place to buy concert tickets in 2022.”  If this bill passed, it would have given Ticketmaster carte blanche to cancel any tickets sold through these platforms.

The Losers

StubHub, who has many partnerships with venues and teams in Colorado and would probably have emerged as the strongest secondary seller because of those relationships. Side note, StubHub hedged its bets by making sure to contribute to Senator Rodriguez’s PAC, the Rodriguez Leadership Fund.

Ticketmaster/Live Nation, and AXS, who had a powerful senator in their pocket and who had a winning hand until a consumer-friendly governor dealt the hand killing card.

Senator Robert Rodriguez, the powerful senator who seemed to be invincible. His card up the sleeve trick of being able to change the bill AFTER it was passed by the house and senate was a master stroke of genius and ingenuity.

What’s Next

Fans were saved this year by the courage of Governor Polis, and the market will be able to work freely like it is designed to do. But the win is probably short lived, Ticketmaster/Live Nation have tasted victory, though short lived, and they are sure to return next year with lessons learned. Senator Rodriguez has shown through his other legislative activities like his perpetual battle to institute rent control that he does not consider a loss the end, and will surely be back next year, especially if the likes of LNE and AXS are bankrolling the effort. advertisement