For many of us, it ranks among jaywalking and speeding as a crime that most of us wouldn't mind breaking –- especially if we can make 20 bucks off it.
And it seems the General Assembly might agree, at least this time around.
Ticket scalping, long an important revenue stream for shady guys standing outside the Hartford Civic Center on event nights, has become big business for Web sites that allow consumers to buy and sell tickets online, and charge commissions for it.
Not surprisingly, many such sales are for more than the face-value of tickets, which makes them illegal in Connecticut (unless the difference is only $3 or less).
Scalping isn't considered altogether kosher behavior, particularly when brokers buy large blocks of tickets with the sole intent of reselling them for more.
That was the feeling of Sen. Thomas A. Colapietro (D-Bristol), co-chair of the General Law committee, who said at a public hearing last month that he was worried that "only rich people" would be able to pay $200 for a $25 ticket.
"I'm worried about the guy that sleeps outside the ticket window to get his tickets so that the broker can make more money off of it," Colapietro said.
The practice also raised the ire of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who pushed the online reseller StubHub to create a popup window on its site with a reminder that scalping by businesses or residents in the state was illegal. Sort of like a "Speed Limit: 55" highway sign.
It turns out that Connecticut has its own "ticket reseller" in Vernon, called Ticket Network, and that reseller has a lobbying firm (Murtha Cullina). Ticket Network facilitates ticket deals between brokers, as well as for the general public through the Web site Ticketliquidator.com. More importantly, it employs 117 people.
Because the company is headquartered in Connecticut, Tickets Network is barred from facilitating scalping of Connecticut events.
"Basically, it was going to be too hard to operate it for Connecticut residents and comply with the law," Nicholas Eve, an executive vice president for the company, said in an interview.
Of course resellers from other states, including StubHub (in California), eBay (same), Ticketmaster (New England headquarters in Massachusetts) and TicketsNow (Illinois) have no problem jumping in and jacking up the prices of UConn basketball games, Bushnell performances and, of course, Justin Timerblake concerts.
And soon after Murtha Cullina marched Eve before the committee to tell them he was losing business, scalping suddenly became less about ticket prices for the little guy, and more about jobs for the little guy.
Colapietro, who had been so skeptical about the fairness of the scalping business in mid-February, moved with the rest of the committee last week to completely remove the scalping ban, except for profit-making deals made within 1,500 feet of an event on the day it is taking place (meaning the shady guys will have to remain shady).
Because of an administrative screw-up, the bill would need to be attached to another measure to pass, but Colapietro said he would consider doing so, paving the way for the public to buy and sell tickets at whatever price they like (even if only rich people can afford it). This is okay with Colapietro, provided that the local companies make a buck.
"I just felt like our guys were being treated unfair," Colapietro said, referring to the local reseller this time, not the consumer.
He even let it be known that he didn't appreciate the lobbying efforts of Ticketmaster's Michael Norton, who he said "looked like a butler."
"This guy comes in from California or Massachusetts or wherever and tells us what we should be doing. I call him the butler," Colapietro said.
If the bill does pass, Eve will enjoy the opportunity not only to drive over 65 from New Haven (where he lives) to Vernon every day, but to help consumers sell tickets at whatever price they like. He said research showed that scalping was low on a list of lawbreaking that the public didn't approve of.
"Ticket scalping shows up pretty low on that list. After, I think, speeding," he said.
It looks like he's right.
Jonathan O'Connell is a Hartford Business Journal Staff Writer.