SALT LAKE CITY — Utah taxpayers have invested a significant amount of money subsidizing venues that host sporting events, concerts and performances. But there's a growing concern that Utah families can't afford to step foot inside these places due to soaring ticket prices at the hands of scalpers.
Randy Park wanted to take his family to a performance of "The Lion King" at the new Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City.
He logged on to his computer, Googled "Lion King" and "Eccles" and clicked on a site that had a photo of the theater. The web address even had the word Eccles in it.
"We ended up paying $730 for $360 tickets," Park said.
Park thought he'd clicked on the site that's authorized to sell tickets to performances at Eccles. He didn't realize he'd clicked on a site that resells tickets at inflated prices. He figured it out after purchase.
"They'd tell me what row, but wouldn't give me an exact seat assignment," Park said.
So he called Eccles Theater directly, and that's when he'd learned there was a problem.
"There is always a way to game the system," said Phil Jordan, division director for the Salt Lake County Center for the Arts.
Jordan is concerned too many Utahns who want to attend plays are getting gouged by third-party websites when less expensive tickets are still available at the Eccles box office.
Here's how it happens.
Let's say you Google keywords like "Eccles" and "Lion King." Sites not affiliated with the Eccles Theater can pop up at the top of the search results because they paid for that spot.
If you don't see the fine print, you won't realize you're buying from a ticket reseller who could be anywhere in the world.
"A reseller will not only sell at a higher price, but often will duplicate tickets. So then they'll sell the ticket more than once," Jordan said.
That's a problem because it could leave you without a seat. In Park's case, he got the seats but paid way too much. Then when he tried to get his money back by calling the phone number on the website, he was told, "Utah has no laws against scalpers, so it's legal for us to essentially rip you off."
When comparing tickets for a lower-bowl seat at Friday's Utah Jazz playoff game, the ticket on NBA.com was $389. But on a resale site not affiliated with the Jazz, the ticket alone was $432, plus service fees. The grand total came to $569, nearly $200 more than than the ticket's value.
Currently, 26 states regulate scalping in some form or another — from how much scalpers can sell tickets for, to what events they can sell them to, to where they can stand when they sell them.
In 2010, Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Millcreek, tried to pass a law to protect Utah consumers. His bill would have made it a misdemeanor for scalpers to resell a ticket for any price over 15 percent of a ticket's face value.
"There are very few people who are in a position to pay two or three times the face value of a ticket," Hemingway said.
His proposal failed. However, Hemingway said after hearing from the KSL Investigators about this issue, he'll reintroduce the same proposal during the 2018 legislative session.
As for which websites you can trust to purchase tickets for Utah events, here are a few:
- Utah Jazz tickets: utahjazz.com and https://jazz.flashseats.com
- Smith’s Tix: smithstix.com
- ArtTix: www.arttix.org