Winnipeg concert fans fed up with scalpers asking $10K for a seat
'That don't impress me much,' says one Shania Twain fan
As the summer concert season and hockey playoff time approach, two Winnipeggers are calling on concert venues like the MTS Centre to do more to prevent the age-old practice of ticket scalping.
Since 1920, the Amusements Act in Manitoba has made it illegal to resell event tickets for higher than the original price.
But when Diane DeMare and Anne-Marie Thibert each recently tried to buy tickets for concerts at the MTS Centre, both found the best seats in the house had been quickly bought up by ticket resellers who offered them for sale at higher prices on different websites.
"That is just not fair!" said Thibert, who went online looking for tickets to the upcoming Ed Sheeran concert for her 18-year-old son, who's a guitarist.
DeMare wanted tickets for her daughter to go to a Shania Twain concert at MTS Centre in June.
Her daughter, being a longtime member of the Shania Twain fan club, had a pre-sale code that Demare thought would give her early access to tickets before sale to the general public.
Could only find tickets in upper sections
But ticket resellers can also access the advance sales codes. So when DeMare logged onto the Ticketmaster web site, she was disappointed.
Same thing for the Sheeran concert.
"I logged on about half an hour after the pre-sale started to find that the only tickets I could find were in the 300 [upper] sections," said Thibert.
"I couldn't believe it. I mean, I know Ed Sheeran is popular but I thought, 'How could it be already the 300 section?'"
She added, "I would think the venues need to have tighter controls in their contractual agreements with Ticketmaster."
As Thibert surfed around ticket reseller websites, she found tickets to the Ed Sheeran show offered at more than $10,000 on one site.
"I've never seen a $10,000 ticket … maybe he comes and sits on your lap?" joked DeMare.
"Maybe you get to take his guitar home," quipped Thibert.
MTS Centre trying to address issue
"That is astounding," said Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of venues and entertainment for True North Sports and Entertainment, which operates the MTS Centre.
"It is unfortunately not surprising," he added.
But there are things venues can do to help defeat scalpers who use computer programs to buy up tickets for resale.
One solution is when the venue — such as MTS Centre — requires concert-goers to arrive at the show with photo ID along with the credit card used to purchase the ticket.
"You have to show the originating credit card at the door to get in, and we've done that without a problem," Donnelly said.
But by Donnelly's own estimate, that covers only 25 to 30 per cent of the tickets, meaning the majority of seats don't have that requirement.
He said the venues can't dictate how many of the seats are covered by that rule because the artist and promoter would have to agree to it.
"Ultimately the arenas don't own the inventory. The inventory is owned by the promoter in an arrangement with the artist or manager, so it is difficult for us to impose our will without their approval," said Donnelly.
There's another way the MTS Centre has addressed the issue.
"We've actually had a couple events where we've said all U.S. addresses are forced to do 'will call' pickup, so if you're from out of state, out of province, you have to go to the box office the day of the show, show that ID and pick up the ticket," Donnelly explained.
"If you were from New Jersey and had no intent on coming … it made it impossible to resell that ticket because you couldn't get your hands on it," he added.
"We've had shows go from 40 per cent to under five per cent out-of-market sales when we've enforced that."
Is the law being enforced?
Donnelly said he's not aware of any recent enforcement under Manitoba's anti-scalping law, which carries a penalty of up to $5,000.
In 2011, two people in Winnipeg were arrested under the act for scalping Winnipeg Jets tickets.
However, no one from the Winnipeg Police Service or the province could say whether the two were actually fined or whether anyone else has been charged since then.
Ontario, which has had anti-scalping legislation in place since 1914, recorded 26 convictions under the Ticket Speculation Act in the past five years.
Quebec tightened its law in 2011. It currently has four scalping prosecutions in progress.
While it's too late to make a difference for the Shania Twain concert in Winnipeg, DeMare has written to the singer's management company asking whether Twain is aware that scalpers had scooped up the best tickets, forcing her loyal fans to buy at inflated prices.
Ticketmaster did not provide a response for this story as of Monday night.
Tomorrow: The I-Team interviews a scalper for his take on regulating the resellers — an idea Ontario has proposed.
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