The legality of reselling sports tickets is a complex topic that depends on several factors. In general, reselling tickets for profit is legal in most states, but there are some restrictions and regulations that ticket resellers need to be aware of.
Here are quick answers to some common questions about the legality of sports ticket resales:
- In most states, reselling tickets for profit is legal as long as the seller is not connected to the original event or venue.
- Some states prohibit reselling tickets above face value or impose price caps on resale prices.
- The main restrictions focus on resellers using automated bots to buy up tickets or circumventing limits on how many tickets one person can buy.
- Sellers need to comply with state ticket resale laws and terms and conditions imposed by the ticket issuer.
- Buyers do not generally face legal penalties for reselling tickets, the restrictions mainly target large-scale commercial resellers.
Ticket resale laws vary considerably across different states. Some key state-by-state differences include:
- States banning ticket scalping: A small number of states such as Arkansas and Michigan completely prohibit reselling tickets for profit.
- Price caps: Many states limit how much resellers can mark up ticket prices. For example, Colorado caps markups at 50% of face value.
- Scalping near venues banned: Some states like Ohio prohibit resale within a certain distance of the event venue.
- No laws: States like Idaho and Vermont do not have any specific laws on ticket resales.
It is important for resellers to research the specific laws in each state where they want to sell tickets. The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a summary of state ticket resale laws.
Notable State Laws
Here are some examples of state ticket resale laws:
- New York: Reselling tickets is legal, but resellers cannot use automated buying bots. Price caps vary based on the event type.
- California: Marks up above face value are capped at 50% for sporting events and concerts. Resellers must register with the state and purchase a license.
- Florida: No general price caps, but event venues can set their own restrictions. Restricts mass automated ticket purchases.
- Texas: For events at major sports arenas, resellers must be approved by the venue and stay within designated resale areas.
At the federal level, the main law governing ticket resales is the BOTS Act of 2016. Key provisions include:
- Prohibits using software bots to circumvent ticket buying limits.
- Bans resellers from circumventing controls like CAPTCHAs that are designed to restrict mass ticket purchases.
- Enables the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to bring enforcement actions against large-scale violators.
- Does not impose a blanket ban or price caps on ticket resales.
The BOTS Act primarily targets automated ticket scalping bots. Individual resellers are unlikely to face penalties as long as they comply with state laws and any restrictions imposed by venues and ticket sellers.
|Key Ticket Resale Laws
|50% price cap on markups. Must obtain resale license.
|Must resell within designated areas at major arenas.
|Bans use of ticket buying bots. Variable price caps.
|No general price cap but allows venue-specific limits. Limits mass ticket purchases.
Terms and Conditions
In addition to complying with state ticket resale laws, resellers also need to follow the specific terms, conditions and restrictions imposed by venues, teams, and ticketing platforms.
Common terms and conditions include:
- Restrictions on reselling certain types of tickets like student and group tickets.
- Requiring the use of authorized resale platforms instead of general marketplaces.
- Limits on pricing markups for tickets resold through approved platforms.
- Prohibitions against advertising tickets that the seller does not yet possess.
Venues and event holders generally have broad leeway to set restrictions in their terms of service. While resellers are not necessarily bound by state price caps, violating the terms from a ticket issuer can lead to canceled orders or denial of entry.
Major ticket resale platforms like StubHub and VividSeats also impose their own restrictions, including:
- Requiring resellers to list an exact section, row and seat number.
- Prohibiting speculative selling where sellers do not yet have the tickets in possession.
- Requiring the use of delivery methods that ensure tickets go directly to the buyer.
- Limiting the frequency and volume of sales per seller account.
Platforms generally reserve the right to cancel suspicious, speculative or fraudulent sales listings that go against their policies. Abusing resale platforms can result in account suspensions or bans.
Exceptions and Special Cases
While reselling tickets is legal in most general cases, there are some notable exceptions and special scenarios that resellers should keep in mind:
- Reselling free tickets given away by teams or sponsors is often prohibited and can lead to cancellations or revocation of season tickets.
- College sports like NCAA football often have special rules against resells. Some college teams require students to show IDs to limit scalping.
- Music festivals and concerts commonly have extra restrictions like banning advertisement or resale of tickets before the lineup is announced.
- Lotteries and special pre-sales usually prohibit winners from reselling tickets they purchased through those programs.
If tickets were obtained through a special offer, promotion or program, resellers should thoroughly check if any additional restrictions apply beyond the typical state laws and terms.
Using an Online Ticket Marketplace
Instead of dealing with the complications and restrictions of directly reselling tickets, many fans opt to use online ticket marketplaces instead. Here are some benefits of using a marketplace:
- Built-in protections against invalid or fraudulent ticket sales.
- No need to worry about restrictions on season ticket holders or special pre-sales.
- Marketplaces comply with all applicable state ticket laws.
- Sellers rated based on past customer reviews build trust.
- Easy to compare prices across multiple resellers in one spot.
While prices may be marked up compared to face value, the convenience and protections make marketplaces a smart option for both ticket buyers and casual resellers.
The largest secondary ticket marketplaces include:
Common Violations That Can Lead to Penalties
Although casual reselling is generally permitted, there are some important violations of state laws and ticket terms that can result in civil or criminal penalties:
- Using bots or technical measures to circumvent ticket purchasing limits – Prohibited under the federal BOTS Act.
- Selling fake or fraudulent tickets – Can lead to theft or fraud charges depending on the severity.
- Speculative selling – Listing tickets that are not yet in the seller’s possession or are unlikely to be obtained.
- Reselling tickets obtained through a special offer or program in violation of associated terms.
- Violating price caps in states that impose them.
- Reselling tickets near the event venue despite local bans.
Fines, civil damages, and account terminations are common penalties for violations. Criminal prosecution generally targets large-scale operators and bot creators instead of individual sellers.
Tips for Avoiding Legal Issues
Here are some tips for reselling tickets legally and avoiding penalties:
- Always check your state’s ticket resale laws and any municipal scalping ordinances.
- Carefully review ticket terms and conditions before reselling.
- Stick to authorized resale platforms approved by the issuer.
- Do not attempt to circumvent ticket purchase limits.
- Maintain records showing tickets were rightfully obtained.
- Disclose details like seat numbers and provide evidence the tickets are in hand.
- Avoid speculative sales for events months away with tickets not yet distributed.
In general, sticking to occasional resales through major reputable platforms will limit risk and provide the most protection.
While the legal situation surrounding ticket resales may seem complex, the core principles for resellers are:
- Check your state laws and municipal ordinances.
- Carefully follow the ticket issuer’s terms and conditions.
- Use only authorized resale platforms.
- Provide full transparency to buyers.
- Avoid mass purchases or speculative sales.
By following best practices and avoiding illegal automated bulk purchases, most individuals can legally resell event tickets in a transparent, ethical way. But be sure to research the nuances for each state and ticket provider. With resellers and venues increasingly clamping down on abuses, following the rules is crucial for minimizing civil and criminal risks.