Colorado consumer ticketing bill vetoed by Gov. Jared Polis

Event ticketing in Colorado won’t see an overhaul this year after Gov. Jared Polis worried it would “risk upsetting the successful entertainment ecosystem in Colorado.”

Polis vetoed the bill, dubbed Consumer Protection in Event Ticketing Sales, Tuesday night. The bill, SB23-060, aimed to crack down on bots snatching up seats to resale, bring price transparency to the buying process and overall make it so end-users don’t end up duped with bogus tickets. But consumer groups fretted it gave venues too much power and threatened to upset the third-party market.

In short, the bill pitted powerful industries against each other as each sought to cast themselves as the defender of consumers and on the vanguard of keeping shows coming to, and accessible in, Colorado.

In the end, Polis sided with consumer groups such as the National Consumer League and Consumer Federation of America that the bill would have stifled market competition and cemented existing market powers.

“I am proud of the successes of Colorado’s artists, venues and fans — particularly given all the challenges the industry has faced over the past few years — and therefore the bar for any changes to laws in this area is very high,” Polis wrote in his veto letter. “Consumer advocacy groups have opposed this legislation and asked for a veto, and I take that very seriously.”

The bill did have provisions Polis liked, and he encouraged the appropriate parties to take action themselves. That included upfront pricing, providing refunds and reporting bots to federal agencies. Polis encouraged backers “to draft an unambiguously pro-consumer bill that holds both primary and secondary ticket sellers accountable without unintended consequences that hurt innovation and hamper the marketplace.”

Sen. Robert Rodriguez, a Denver Democrat who spearheaded the bill, said he was disappointed with the decision and that “the governor chose scalpers” over local venues. In particular, Rodriguez noted the governor cited Red Rocks Amphitheater in his veto letter, while Denver Arts and Venues, which operates the venue, backed the bill. Polis also worried the bill would stifle practices like online ticket waiting services, to which Rodriguez responded: “It must be nice to have the privilege to have the money to pay somebody to stand in line ahead of other people.”

“I think the governor had a decision between local venues and ticket scalpers, and I think he went with ticket scalpers,” Rodriguez said.

Belly Up Aspen founder and co-owner Michael Goldberg, a backer of the bill, said the consumer ultimately loses out on protections they would have had under the bill. That includes a ban on speculative ticketing, or third parties selling tickets they don’t actually possess yet, as well as repeated bad actors who sell fraudulent tickets or misrepresent their websites as those of venues to take a cut of sales.  The bill didn’t aim to eliminate the resell market, he said, but meant to make sure consumers got what they were paying for.

Goldberg was heartened by the governor encouraging another go at the issue, and hopes the issues could be resolved on the front end of discussions next year.

“The governor has sent the message that he wants to work with us to clean this bill up somewhat and make it more palatable to him, and we welcome that opportunity,” Goldberg said. “It’s just disappointing that we lost the tools that we had in this bill after a lot of people worked on it as hard as they did.”

Opponents, largely backed by third-party resale markets, celebrated the news. They argued it would have put too much power in venues’ hands to determine a ticket’s validity, and hurt a resale market that helped people unable to make initial sales or pass on tickets that they couldn’t use.

“Despite its name, the legislation didn’t go far enough to protect consumers, as evidenced by the stripping of several vital consumer protections from the bill,” Brian Hess, executive director of Sports Fans Coalition, said in a statement. “This is why consumer and fan advocates called for a veto, and we are grateful Governor Polis agreed. We look forward to working with lawmakers and the Governor next year to create a true consumer protection bill.”

The veto was part of a slew from Polis as the window to sign-or-nix bills from this past legislative session closed.

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