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WWHD — What would Hamilton do?
The 18th century has successfully taken on a 21st century scourge. Facing mounting pressure — and a challenge from Broadway’s leading light, 'Hamilton' star Lin-Manuel Miranda — the New York State Assembly announced on Monday that it has passed legislation to criminalize companies that use the illegal automated ticketing software known as “ticket bots.”
The much-maligned “virtual scalping” software has frustrated ticket buyers for years by snapping up the lion’s share of the best seats for sports events or Broadway shows within seconds of them going on sale. The practice essentially stacks the deck against "regular" fans, who are left with no other option than to purchase their tickets from resellers such as StubHub, SeatGeek, or GetMeIn — often at exorbitant prices. In the case of 'Hamilton,' a pair of orchestra seats recently went for almost $3,500 on a resale site.
"New Yorkers have been dealing with this frustrating ticket buying experience for too long," said New York State Assemblymember Marcos Crespo in a press release announcing the new measure. The proposed legislation classifies "any individuals who knowingly resell or offer to resell tickets that were purchased with ticket bot software" as committing a class A misdemeanor, which could result in jail time or heavy fines.
"The top music, theater and athletic talent of our nation have priced their events at levels affordable to the mass public," said Crespo. "With this bill becoming law, we will ensure the prices to see such talent will be within reach of all New Yorkers."
The ticket bot issue took center stage recently after 'Hamilton''s Miranda launched an impassioned plea earlier this month, writing an opinion piece in the New York Times entitled “Stop the Bots From Killing Broadway.” Light fines are nowhere near enough to dissuade scalpers, Miranda wrote, explaining that with millions of dollars to gain from flouting the law, resellers “happily risk prosecution and treat civil penalties as the cost of business.”
"StubHub supports legislation that addresses the issue of bots in ticketing, as well as strong penalties for violating bot-related statutes, and we are pleased with the passing of the bots bill in the state of New York," Johnna Hoff, corporate communications director at StubHub, told NBC News by email.
It's not entirely clear from the proposal exactly how resale sites would verify ticket listings were not acquired through the use of bots.
The new legislation still needs to be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo for him to sign it into law, but it is slightly ironic — or slightly fitting, perhaps — that a show about an early economic policy wonk who fought for financial regulation might be the catalyst for change in Broadway’s ticketing system.