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Lawmakers warm up to scalping of tickets

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Selling that extra ticket to the ballgame for a pretty profit soon could become a guilt-free process. State lawmakers around the country are easing restrictions on ticket scalping, effectively making it OK for fans to sell their tickets online at any price.

New York is the latest state to approve such a measure after Gov. Eliot Spitzer yesterday signed a bill reversing an old law that prohibited anyone from selling a ticket at more than 45 percent above face value.

"It's a huge win," said Sean Pate, a spokesman for StubHub, a San Francisco-based online ticket reseller and EBay subsidiary. "We've been lobbying for this for many years. The lawmakers have realized that it's really not a benefit for consumers to have restrictions on the resale of a ticket."

The passage of New York's law comes after the approval of similar bills in Illinois, Minnesota and Florida. Lawmakers in Massachusetts and Connecticut are considering similar measures, and a bill in Missouri is awaiting the signature of Gov. Matt Blunt.

Scalping -- the act of buying a ticket and selling it for a higher price -- has been technically illegal in about a dozen states for years, but those laws have been largely ignored and rarely enforced. Sites like StubHub have thrived with fans willing to pay top dollar for tickets to major sporting events.

Lawmakers clearly took note of that, and apparently so did an increasing number of partnerships between teams and reselling sites.

The NCAA recently partnered with RazorGator, a Los Angeles-based ticket reseller, to allow fans to buy and sell tickets to its men's basketball tournament in March.

In the Washington area, the Wizards, Capitals and Redskins have official partnerships with StubHub, and several teams in the NBA and NFL partner with Ticketmaster.

"We're very happy with our partnership with StubHub because we feel it provides a service to our plan-holders to utilize tickets that would have otherwise gone unused," Wizards spokesman Matt Williams said.

He said the team approves of the online sale of tickets because it's less intrusive than trying to sell tickets on the sidewalk outside Verizon Center. And using a company like RazorGator and StubHub can prevent fraudulent tickets from being sold.

"When you're buying something out on the street, you're really rolling the dice," Williams said.

New York's law still bans people from selling tickets within 1,500 feet of large arenas and 500 feet of smaller stadiums. But it also includes a provision blocking teams from penalizing fans from selling tickets outside the team's official reseller.

Some groups, including the New York Public Interest Research Group, have argued that the legalization of online scalping will allow large ticket brokers to buy enormous quantities of seats and sell them at higher prices.

But Pate, from StubHub, argued that the new easing of scalping laws could encourage more fans to begin selling their extra tickets online, thus increasing supply and reducing prices.

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