Is it illegal to resell your Washington Nationals World Series tickets for a profit?
The Washington Nationals on Thursday announced how the remaining tickets for D.C.’s first World Series games in 86 years will be distributed. The Nationals are the eighth major league franchise to be based in Washington, D.C., and the first since 1971. and Now Washington is guaranteed to host Games 3 and 4 of the Fall Classic on Oct. 25 and Oct. 26 against the winner of the American League Championship Series. to know more see the wikipidea page.
We did it!!! After fourteen seasons of existence, and for the first time since 1933, Washington DC, by way of the Washington Nationals, has made it to the World Series! The Nats will be hosting the winner of the ALCS for three home games the weekend of October 25th through October 27th, and tickets to those games are the hottest commodity in the DMV. This raises the question: is it illegal to resell tickets purchased from the team online for a profit?
The answer to this question is unclear to many, for good reason. If you have ever walked the streets surrounding Nationals Park before a game, then you may recall the police proclaiming through their bullhorns that it is illegal to resell tickets and that violators will be arrested. MLB and each team now publish pages and pages of fine print on their websites regarding the rules of resale. The current language in the rules reads in relevant part as follows:
“NO RESALE OF A TICKET IS PERMITTED VIA THE INTERNET OR ANY OTHER INTERACTIVE MEDIA, EXCEPT THROUGH THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS (www.nationals.com) OR SITES AUTHORIZED BY THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS. NO OFFER TO RESELL OR RESALE OF THIS TICKET … IS PERMITTED TO THE EXTENT PROHIBITED BY ANY APPLICABLE FEDERAL, STATE OR LOCAL LAW OR REGULATION. ANY RESALE REFERENCED ABOVE WILL INVALIDATE THE LICENSE GRANTED BY THIS TICKET…WITHOUT ANY COMPENSATION TO HOLDER … ANY PERSON WHO SELLS OR OFFERS THIS TICKET … FOR RESALE AT ANY PRICE INSIDE THE BALLPARK WILL BE REMOVED … HAVE HIS/HER TICKET CANCELLED WITHOUT COMPENSATION, AND MAY BE PROSECUTED.”
DC UNITED clearly posts on their website the following warning: “TICKET SCALPING OR SELLING TICKETS AT MORE THAN FACE VALUE, IS A MISDEMEANOR UNDER DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA LAW, AND COULD RESULT IN ARREST AND CRIMINAL PROSECUTION … TICKET RESALE AT FACE VALUE OR LESS CONSTITUTES SOLICITATION AND/OR COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY, BOTH OF WHICH ARE PROHIBITED BY DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA LAW. SUCH CONDUCT COULD RESULT IN CITATION AND CRIMINAL PROSECUTION”.
This is certainly enough to deter a cautious person from attempting to resell tickets at the stadium as well as on the Internet. But we all know there is a thriving online resale market through websites such as StubHub, where thousands of tickets are bought and sold for each game. Could thousands of people be breaking the law? The short answer is that, for individuals residing in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C., no, the act of reselling tickets online is not illegal.
There is no federal law that directly regulates the act of online ticket reselling, although federal laws do generally regulate the manner in which electronic devices can be used to engage in online commerce (mainly, to prevent fraud). Ticket reselling is regulated at the state level, and in some cases, at the local government level. The penalties for reselling tickets in violation of the applicable regulations differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and range from small civil fines to possible jail time. In the majority of states, the laws applicable to ticket reselling are out-of-date and were enacted prior to the proliferation of online reselling.
In Virginia, ticket reselling is weakly regulated by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth defers regulatory authority to local government per Virginia Code § 15.2-969, which provides as follows:
“Any locality may provide, by ordinance, that it is unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to resell for profit any ticket for admission to any sporting event, theatrical production, lecture, motion picture or any other event open to the public for which tickets are ordinarily sold, except in the case of religious, charitable, or educational organizations where all or a portion of the admission price reverts to the sponsoring group and the resale for profit of such ticket is authorized by the sponsor of the event and the manager or owner of the facility in which the event is being held. Such ordinance may provide that violators thereof are guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. This section shall not apply to any resale of a ticket that occurs on the Internet.”
Some localities, including the City of Richmond, have incorporated this language into their local ordinances (See Code of the City of Richmond, § 19-2, Scalping of Tickets to Public Events). Note, however, that the Virginia Code statute expressly excludes ticket resale on the Internet from the statute. Accordingly, in effect, the local ordinances are only applicable to hand-to-hand cash deals (i.e. traditional ticket “scalping”).
Moreover, in 2017, the Virginia Legislature passed the Tickets Resale Rights Act, Va. Code §59.1-466.6, which specifies that the purchaser of a ticket can’t be prevented from reselling the ticket on an Internet ticketing platform of the ticketing purchaser’s choice and that “[n]o person shall be … denied admission to an event solely on the basis that the person resold a ticket, or purchased a resold ticket, on a specific Internet ticketing platform.”
The State of Maryland does not regulate ticket reselling, other than boxing tickets. Local government does have the ability to regulate ticket scalping, as was the case for many years in the City of Baltimore. However, the Baltimore City ordinance prohibiting the sale of tickets for more than face value was repealed in 2013 in the wake of a lawsuit filed by a consumer against Ticketmaster for charging excess service charges (See Bourgeois v. Live Nation Entertainment, Inc., et al.).
Accordingly, in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C., the act of selling event tickets through online retailers is not, in and of itself, an illegal act.
That said, reselling tickets online also presents the question of civil liability. Like the Washington Nationals (see above), most teams and venues write on the face of the ticket that the ticket cannot be resold except through sites authorized by the team. While the primary goal of the team/venue is to deter online fraud and to keep ticket prices reasonable for “true fans” that want to attend the games, arguably, the team/venue is also creating a contract with the original buyer. If the original buyer breaches that contract by reselling the ticket, the team/venue can theoretically cancel the ticket and seek additional damages.
While such cancellation seems unlikely for major professional sporting events, many artistic performers and small venues actively oppose ticket reselling and do make efforts to enforce the “contract” created by the ticket. For example, some venues condition entry into the event upon the production of either photo identification that matches the name on the ticket, or the credit card that was used to purchase tickets.
To summarize, in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., there is nothing illegal about reselling your tickets online, provided that you do not engage in any fraudulent activity prohibited by other laws. Furthermore, while the team is very unlikely to take any civil action against you for violating the “contract” created by the ticket, in theory, it could. The reality is that no major professional sports team in the United States wants to roll back the clock and reignite the fight against online ticket sales. Rather, the teams, including the Nationals, are finding ways to participate in the secondary market by partnering with ticket brokers and adopting dynamic pricing models that track consumer demand.
This article is not intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.
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