Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) has vetoed a controversial bill that the state legislature had passed despite significant concerns raised by consumer advocates in the state. In his veto letter, Polis lauded some parts of the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 23-060, but criticized others, indicating his hopes that legislators could come back in the next session with similar ideas for improving the industry, minus some of the flaws that drew his and consumer advocates’ scorn.

“I remain convinced that on balance the provisions in this bill in their entirety woudl harm consumers and put our entertainment ecosystem at risk,” says Polis. “I appreciate the sponsors’ work and encourage them to work with consumer advocates, online ticketing platforms, and resellers, and my administration in future legislative sessions to draft an unambiguously pro-consumer bill that holds both primary and secondary ticket sellers accountable without unintended consequences that hurt innovation and hamper the marketplace.”

The decision to strike down the proposed bill and ask lawmakers to return to the drawing board to work on stronger and more pro-consumer bill drew immediate praise from others looking to reform the ticketing ecosystem.

“We applaud Governor Polis for recognizing that fans in Colorado deserve real reform that begins to fix a broken live event industry,” said John Breyault, Vice President Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud for the National Consumers League in a release from the Protect Ticket Rights advocacy group. “This legislation would have handed disproportional new power to Ticketmaster, AXS, and event venues over the consumers who already pay too much to attend live events. We look forward to working with all stakeholders in the Colorado live event ecosystem to craft a bill that puts fans first.”

Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) also lauded the veto, as he advocates for his own set of pro-consumer measures at the federal level in the BOSS and SWIFT Act – measures that are opposed by the same industry lobby that were pushing hard for SB23-060 in Colorado.

“With his veto, Governor Polis has shown tremendous leadership and courage standing up for live event goers in Colorado,” said Congressman Pascrell. “My former House colleague and baseball teammate has been a stalwart advocate for the consumer. As I reminded the Governor when we spoke last month, I appreciated how was part of our group trying to convince the Obama Administration to stop the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger back in 2009, a deal that has made a bad situation even worse for fans.”

From its introduction, SB23-060 was a lightning rod for controversy – due in large part to its initial draft serving as something of a laundry list of problematic measures that many felt were directly pushed by Ticketmaster and its parent Live Nation, as well as Colorado-based AEG. Referred to as a Trojan horse bill driven by Live Nation’s attempt to “neuter [Colorado’s existing] key pro-competition protections” for consumers in the state by Vivid Seats, the initial draft would have allowed event operators to effectively eliminate consumer ticket resale rights entirely by empowering them to declare any ticket sold outside of their systems as “fraudulent.”

Consumer advocacy groups worked with lawmakers on the bill, switching to support after some language was toned down and amendments added, only to see almost all of the suggested changes rejected before the bill was passed by the legislature. Once passed, groups including the National Consumers League and Consumer Federation of America asked Gov. Polis to veto the bill, as it would have led to even more concentration of market power with companies already dominating the industry – a critical component of the Governor’s eventual decision to do just that.

“Throughout my administration, consumer protection and the right to a fair, competitive marketplace have been paramount,” Gov. Polis wrote. “I am concerned that consumer advocacy groups such as the National Consumers League and Consumer Federation of America have asked for a veto of this legislation because of its potential to discourage competition in the sector, ultimately harming consumers. I am also concerned that this legislation strengthens an existing entity with too much market power.”

While using his veto, Gov. Polis was clear that there were many aspects of the bill that made its way to his desk that he could support. These included guarantees that individuals who arrive with a valid ticket cannot be turned away from an event on the basis that the ticket was resold, an expansion on the state’s ability to crackdown on the use of “bots” and its requirement for the use of “all-in” pricing inclusive of all fees for consumers. But failures of the bill to address other serious concerns were too much for Governor Polis to overlook.

Specific issues mentioned as in need of remedy included the introduction of “problematic provisions” that limit consumer access to innovations in the resale space, ambiguous language that could allow for an overly broad interpretation of what constitutes deceptive trade practices, and a failure to include proposed requirements for the reporting of “bot” usage to authorities for enforcement.

On balance, the negatives were simply too much for Gov. Polis to ignore, leading him to side with consumer advocates over the industry lobby and use his veto power.

The full veto letter from Governor Jared Polis of Colorado is available here (PDF opens in a new window)

Last Updated on June 7, 2023