Although the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are over, for some people associated with the games, things are just beginning.
Athletes who won medals are now household names in their respective countries. Many were honored with parades. Some will receive lucrative endorsement deals. Others will appear in television commercials. And although U.S. athletes will have to pay taxes on the cash prizes that accompany their medals, the pride and sense of achievement felt by medal winners from every nation is certain to last a lifetime.
The incident in Brazil involving American Olympic swimmers is well known. One swimmer was charged with providing a false claim of a robbery and subsequently lost some endorsement deals. What may not be so well known is that an official with the Ireland’s national Olympic committee — the Olympic Council of Ireland — was at the center of another incident in Brazil regarding ticket scalping.
Patrick Hickey, the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland — who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, head of the European Olympic Committees, and vice president of the Association of National Olympic Committees — has been accused of plotting with at least nine others to sell tickets to the Olympics above their face value. It is alleged that Ireland’s Olympic committee “helped transfer tickets to an unauthorized vendor who would set high fees and disguise the transaction as a hospitality package.” Hickey was arrested and charged with “conspiracy, ticket scalping and ambush marketing and will be detained while the investigation continues.” Hickey’s arrest resulted from a police investigation in which more than 1,000 tickets were seized that were being sold at “inflated prices.” Police said that “some Irish tickets for the Olympics’ opening ceremony with a face value of $1,400 [each] were sold for $8,000 [each].”
But it is not just in Brazil where it is illegal to resell tickets for an amount higher than their face value. Ticket-scalping laws can be found in some areas of the United States as well.
Traditional ticket brokers, Internet ticket-resale sites, and individuals selling tickets outside of venues make up the secondary ticket market, which is more than a $5 billion-a-year industry with a forecasted annual growth rate above 10 percent. A helpful article in Entertainment and Sports Lawyer explains what is responsible for the secondary ticket market:
The forces of supply and demand interact to help set the price on goods. In a perfect market situation, a good that is in limited supply, such as a ticket to a baseball game, would be sold by the supplier for the highest price that the market can stand. However, ticket suppliers (i.e., teams) routinely sell tickets for less than the highest price the market can stand. There are various reasons for this practice, including the desire to have consistent sellouts or develop a sustainable fan base. Because the tickets are sold for less than the market can bear, a situation of excess demand is created. The existence of the excess demand is responsible for the secondary ticket market.
Ticket sales in the secondary market can be discouraged only by allowing a ticket’s original purchaser admission to a game or event. That can be easily implemented by requiring the ticket purchaser to present photo identification when the tickets are redeemed.
But ticket sales in the secondary market can also be prohibited or restricted by law. In many states there are no ticket-scalping laws whatsoever. However, some states only recently repealed their ticket-scalping laws. In other states and cities a ticket reseller must
- Be licensed.
- Pay an annual fee.
- Be a lawful ticket broker.
- Not sell tickets above face value without the event sponsor’s permission.
- Not resell tickets for boxing matches.
- Not resell tickets to high-school, college, or charity events.
- Not resell tickets for more than face value in the vicinity of an event.
- Not resell tickets for more than a certain amount or percentage over face value.
- Not resell tickets for more than face value on the day preceding or the day of an event.
- Disclose the difference between face value and amount charged.
Some cities ban ticket scalping outright.
The nebulous crime of ticket scalping has got to be one of the most ridiculous examples of a peaceful, consensual action ever labeled as a crime.
Ticket scalpers, like all middlemen, perform a valuable service and should be welcomed and applauded instead of condemned and prosecuted. Ticket scalpers enable events to sell tickets more quickly and efficiently right up to the day of the event. Ticket scalpers enable those who uncertain whether they can attend an event the opportunity to purchase tickets at the last minute. Ticket scalpers transfer the risk of unsold tickets from the event organizer to themselves. They allow ticket purchasers who change their minds about attending an event to recoup all or a portion of their money. Ticket scalpers are entrepreneurs who provide a needed service.
What could possibly be wrong with an exchange of tickets for cash between a willing buyer and a willing seller, as long as their activity does not violate the property rights of the owner of the ground where they make their exchange?
Ticket scalping should not be a crime. Every crime needs a victim. Not a potential victim, not a possible victim, not a supposed victim, but an actual, direct, tangible victim with real harm and measurable damages.
That means that not only should ticket scalping not be a crime, but neither should
- Accepting money to have sex.
- Paying someone for sex.
- Gambling without government permission.
- Buying, selling, or using marijuana or some other drug.
- Serving your twenty-year-old child a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner.
- Not wearing a bicycle or motorcycle helmet.
- Raising prices too much (price gouging).
- Lowering prices too much (predatory pricing).
- Brewing too much beer at home or selling any of it.
- Paying a willing worker below the minimum wage.
- Charging an interest rate that is too high.
- Opening your car dealership on a Sunday.
- Refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.
- Purchasing too much Sudafed to relieve a stuffy nose.
- Making more than six withdrawals per month from a savings account.
- Depositing large amounts of cash in a bank account.
- Taking a tube of toothpaste containing more than 3.4 ounces onto an airplane.
- Selling alcohol before a certain time on a Sunday.
- Having a garage sale without a permit.
- Practicing discrimination.
- Not wearing a seatbelt.
- Cutting hair without a license.
- Hiring an undocumented worker.
- Buying untaxed cigarettes on the black market.
Even if doing some of those things might be immoral, unethical, insensitive, addictive, dangerous, foolish, thoughtless, or mean, as long as those who freely and willingly participate in them are not harming or violating the personal or property rights of nonparticipants, they should not be crimes — as they are in some states or all states in what most Americans think is the “land of the free.”