Buying Tickets Online Is a "Fixed Game"

The reason why you can't buy concert tickets is because less than half are available.

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Are you still wondering why you didn’t get to see the Pope at Madison Square Garden? How about Bono?

High-tech scalpers may be to blame. The report claims that one automated buyer managed to snag 1,000 tickets to a U2 concert at MSG in less than a minute. In total, 15,087 tickets were bought by two bots on December 8, 2014 for some 20 U2 concerts, for the same North American tour.

A new report from the office of New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sheds light on how unlicensed brokers have been snatching up digital tickets in bulk and then reselling the high-profile items for as much as ten times their original value. Despite the state having lifted many restrictions on ticket resale in 2007, the report warns that many of these practices are likely still illegal.

Two ticket bots bought 15,087 tickets for twenty U2 concerts on December 8, 2014, according to the report.

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The report, called “Why Can’t New Yorkers Get Tickets?,” describes how automated bots make buying large numbers of tickets to major events easy. It is then simple enough to cash in on the digital resale market, including sites like StubHub. The use of bots to buy tickets remains illegal in New York, though hackers have found ways to routinely circumvent the security measures on sites like TicketMaster.

Only about half of the tickets for major concerts are typically reserved for the public. Sometimes venues distribute as many as 70 percent of tickets to insiders or through pre-sales, leaving only a tiny fraction of the total capacity for regular buyers. Mass digital buyers can quickly pick up these scraps, essentially cornering the market and charging exorbitant markups on resale sites.

A similar practice came under scrutiny last year when regulators criticized “speculative” ticketing sales. Digital sites were advertising tickets that had not yet gone on sale, sometimes for thousands of dollars, on the strength of their confidence that the tickets would fall into their hands when the market finally opened.

The attorney general’s office has identified several of the owners of ticket bots and required them to pay penalties, according to the report. M.S.M.S.S. of Manhattan received $80,000 in penalties, and Extra Base Tickets, of Garden City, New York, handed over $65,000.

The report also makes some legislative recommendations, though casual users of sites like StubHub need not worry about losing their backup source for tickets yet. The AG suggests lifting restrictions on paperless ticketing to make it easier for venues to offer non-transferable tickets and criminal charges for those caught using ticket bots.

The investigation certainly explains a lot for those used to missing out on events in New York. Now, we might stand a shot.