US Senator John Cornyn came to Dallas on Wednesday with his campaign to tighten federal regulation of ticket sales and resale.
“What we’re trying to do,” Cornyn said, “is focus on predatory scalpers” to “protect the fans.”
Cornyn spoke about his proposed legislation at the American Airlines Center, as part of a panel that included Longhorn Ballroom owner Ed Cabanis along with representatives from the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Stars, FC Dallas, Texas Rangers and American Airlines Center.
The event followed a similar one in Austin on Saturday at the Moody Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
Cornyn noted that the uproar last fall over Ticketmaster’s disastrous handling of tickets for Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour drew attention to the abuses of what’s known as the “secondary market” — and to much of the rest of the country. This involves the use of automated online ‘bots’ to buy bulk tickets and resell them at inflated prices.
Kate Teston, a University of Arkansas student who called herself a “huge Taylor Swift fan,” recalled that “the waiting lists were incredibly long. And that’s even if you could get on a waiting list,” she said. “And then you wait seven, eight hours and the site goes down.” Amid all the chaos, “I know some people who bought tickets that didn’t even exist.”
Teston said she remembers being “clearly in the lecture hall and everyone was disappointed. I remember feeling like, ‘Who’s to blame for this?’
Cornyn is working across the aisle with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, to promote the FANS First Act. This would require transparency of ticket prices (including taxes and fees) and prohibit the use of bots to purchase tickets.
A panel at the American Airlines Center on Thursday, May 25, discusses ticketing abuse. From left: Brad Alberts, president of the Dallas Stars; Dave Brown, General Manager, American Airlines Center; Taylor Swift fan Kate Testone; singer-songwriter Max Stalling; US Senator John Cornyn; music venue owner Edwin Cabaniss; Doug Dawson, Senior Vice President of Stadium Revenue, Dallas Cowboys; Jimmy Smith, Chief Operating Office, FC Dallas
It would also authorize the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to impose civil penalties on ticket sellers who violate the law. They could also set up websites to report fan complaints.
Two days ago, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill called “Save Our Swifties.” It would provide penalties in Texas for using bots to buy tickets.
When Cornyn was asked how his FANS First Act fits with the new Texas laws, the senator said FANS First is encouraging just such actions from individual states.
But ticket sales are online, he added, and so federal oversight will be needed to truly combat the problem.
A 2016 federal law — the BOTS (Better Online Ticketing) Act — already bans the use of bots to buy tickets. But Doug Dawson, senior vice president of stadium revenue for the Dallas Cowboys, said the bill doesn’t provide a real penalty.
So “bad actors,” he said, are not afraid of that. “They just see the advantage.” They don’t see the downside.”
And if a fan wildly overpaid or bought a fake ticket to a sold-out show, Dawson said, the venue has “very little ability to try to help them get over that disappointment.”
In the end, Dawson said, “often the artist gets all the bad publicity.”
Dallas singer-songwriter Max Stallings agreed, noting that fan dissatisfaction over high ticket prices can take a toll on an artist.
If fans who feel cheated come to a concert, he said, “they stand there, arms crossed, at the front of the stage and give me the stink eye all night.”
He added, “Not only have I lost this fan moving forward, but they’re like, ‘You know what, I’m not going to buy any of your stupid shirts. I don’t buy any of your stupid other merchandise you have out there that generates income”.
Big sporting events are coming up
North Texas has a special reason to want online ticket sales better regulated: Next year, one of the biggest sporting events in the country is coming: Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.
And in 2026, one of the biggest international sporting events — the World Cup — is also coming to North Texas.
“I think now is the time to get this right,” said Jimmy Smith, FC Dallas’ chief financial officer. Dallas must be able to “provide not only a good experience for our residents but also for the thousands and millions of people who will come to Dallas.”
Ed Cabanis, owner of the Kessler Theater and Longhorn Ballroom, said it’s no longer just big sporting events or stadium concert tours that are being targeted for predatory sales in the “second market.”
After buying and renovating the 2,000-seat Longhorn Ballroom, he said he discovered they were “down on the market.”
“The day before we even opened and sold one ticket,” Cabanis said, “we were on the third page of ticket optimization for my search venue” — meaning automated online searches were targeting his show.
“I don’t know if there are all the answers,” Cabanis told Sen. Cornyn about Act One of FANS. “But it’s a start.”
Cornyn said that after the Senate returns from recess, he will sit down with Senator Klobuchar, work out any remaining differences and then move the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee — on which both senators sit. It would then have to pass through both the Senate and the House of Representatives before President Biden signs it into law.
“Legislation is not easy by design,” Cornyn said. “But practically, we have no other choice.” We have to work together.”
Do you have any advice? Email Jerome Weeks at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @dazeandweek.
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