Is Scalping Illegal (Ticket Scalping: All You Need To Know)

Is Scalping Illegal?

Wondering if and why scalping illegal?

What are the essential elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Why is scalping tickets illegal and what’s crucial for you to know?

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

Is Scalping Illegal

A question that comes to mind is whether or not scalping tickets is illegal?

In the United States, the laws regulating ticket scalping varies from one state to another.

At the federal level, you do not have any particular federal statute that expressly prohibits scalping or the practice of scalping.

So to determine if scalping is legal or not, you’ll need to look at state laws or laws at the municipality or county level.

For example, there are seven states that require that you hold a specific license to legally buy and resell tickets, these states are:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Illinois 
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania 

There are 16 states in the United States where there are restrictions on ticket sales above face-value, namely:

  • Arkansas – Ark. Code Ann. § 5-63-201
  • California – Cal. Penal Code § 346
  • Connecticut – CGS § 53-289
  • Florida – Fla. Stat. Ann. § 17.361
  • Georgia – Ga. Code Ann. § 10-1-310
  • Kentucky – Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 518.070
  • Maryland – Md. Code Ann. Bus. Reg. § 4-318
  • Massachusetts – Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 140 § 185D
  • Minnesota – Minn. Stat. § 609.805
  • Missouri – Mo. Ann. Stat. § 578.395
  • New Jersey – N.J. Stat. Ann. § 56:8-33
  • New York – Arts & Ca. Bk. 3b § 25.13
  • North Carolina – N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-344
  • Pennsylvania – Pa. Stat. Ann. T.4 § 211
  • Rhode Island – R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-22-26
  • Wisconsin – Wis. Stat. Ann. § 42.07

There are four states where the laws governing the process of scalping are at the municipal level, such as in:

  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Virginia

What Is Scalping Tickets

Before we answer the question of whether scalping is legal or not, let’s first understand what is meant by “scalping”.

Ticket scalping, also known as ticket brokering, is the process of purchasing tickets to sporting events, concerts, cultural events, or other types of tickets, at the regular price and reselling them for a higher price.

When a private citizen purchases tickets and then reselling them for a higher price without specifically being related to the venue organization or be authorized to resell tickets, we call that ticket scalping.

For example, imagine that there’s a major sporting event where there’s a high demand for tickets and only a very limited number of seats.

A ticket scalper may purchase a large number of tickets and then resell them to anyone willing to pay a higher price for the ticket.

When there’s a limited number of seats and a high level of demand, scalpers can expect to make a good amount of profit by reselling the tickets.

Why Scalping Should Be Legal

The topic of ticket scalping remains somewhat controversial.

There are a number of people who do not see any reason why scalping should be illegal.

Those in favor of scalping argue that ticket brokers can help create a market for the ticket allowing people to more easily buy and sell their tickets.

There are many events where thousands of tickets are sold in a matter of minutes or hours.

Considering that tickets are sold so quickly, the only way a person may be able to attend an event or buy tickets may be through a broker.

A person may also buy a ticket and no longer need them.

Being able to easily sell tickets to a broker who may be willing to buy them will allow many to trade their tickets if for some reason they cannot attend the event.

Why Should Scalping Be Illegal

Critics of ticket scalping argue that the practice should be prohibited as it unjustly favors those who have more money to pay more for the tickets (the wealthy).

As a result, many fans who may already have a hard time buying tickets at face value may not be able to buy tickets through a scalper.

The artificially inflated ticket price results in an effective obstacle to many to attend an event as they could not afford it.

Another reason why scalping should be made illegal critics argue is that scalpers don’t necessarily care for their clients.

All the scalpers care about is to make a maximum profit at the expense of the fans.

In essence, scalpers know very well that many fans may make a purchase decision based on emotions or irrational thinking at the moment they are purchasing the tickets.

As a result, consumers are not protected against the scalper’s greed to take advantage of the consumer vulnerabilities that may not have paid a price that high in normal circumstances.

You can almost argue that the client’s consent was vitiated to a certain extent as they purchased based on emotions and they would not have the ability to get a refund or return the tickets if they realized that they made a mistake.

Legal Consequences of Scalping

If there are state, municipal, or local laws prohibiting scalping, then the act of buying and reselling tickets for a profit will be illegal.

There are no federal laws prohibiting scalping but there are 16 states where scalping is considered illegal.

In most of these states, scalping is considered a misdemeanor that may result in the offender getting a fine and up to one year in jail.

However, considering that scalping is a type of offense that is a non-violent offense, scalpers may see themselves break the law and not see any real consequences.

The way the scalping laws are written may also allow scalpers to circumvent the application of the law.

For example, in Arizona, scalping is prohibited within 200 feet of the entrance of the venue.

So if you are a scalper, you can sell your tickets without any legal consequences provided you are standing more than 200 feet from the entrance.

The reality is that law enforcement officers and police officers have a limited number of staff and resources and need to deal with a wide range of crimes (and criminals).

To make the best use of their time, law enforcement officers will focus on the more serious types of crimes, most of the time violent crimes or other types of crimes they deem serious enough to pursue. 

Another reason why scalping may not be on the police’s top priority list is that a person buying the ticket (the victim of the crime) was agreeing to pay a higher price for the ticket (it’s like a contract that was formed by mutual consent).

Since scalpers only sell to clients willing to pay a high price to get the ticket, the police may not be convinced that the “victim” was truly a victim of a crime.

Just because scalping is a non-violent crime without a victim does not mean that scalpers do not get arrested or are ignored.

The police may organize campaigns from time to time to enforce scalping laws.

As such, they may act like private citizens looking for tickets and try to find scalpers dealing in large volumes or those who are taking advantage of the public by buying tickets and artificially raising prices for their benefit.

Scalping Activities

Generally speaking, scalping is the process of buying something in high demand at a regular price and selling it at a higher price.

There are many ways that scalping can take place, such as:

  • Event ticket scalping
  • GPU scalping
  • Graming console scalping
  • Trainer scalping

And more.

Let’s look at scalping for various types of events and methods.

Regulated Events

It’s important to note that there are laws specifically prohibiting scalping for raceways and for the National Football League (NFL).

If you find ticket scalpers close to raceways and the NFL, you may likely see a higher level of enforcement by the police authorities and others, such as:

  • Box office personnel
  • Venue managers
  • Ticket agents 
  • Security guards 
  • Event promoters
  • Even ticket holders

Considering the level of supervision taking place at raceway games and the NFL, scalpers tend to stay away from such events or conduct their activities with a higher level of care.

Non-Regulated Events

Aside from raceway events and the NFL, ticket scalping is not necessarily prohibited.

In other words, if someone were to buy tickets at face value and sell them at a higher price, they may not be in violation of specific laws regulating the event.

Although scalping is not illegal per se, event organizers and venue organizers do not allow scalping within the stadium grounds or at the event.

That’s why you will likely see scalpers outside of the stadium reselling tickets but rarely on the inside.

Places where you are likely to see scalpers are:

  • Near concerts
  • Near baseball games
  • Near special events
  • Near boxing games 
  • Near musical events
  • Near art galleries 

Online Scalping

Another form of scalping that has taken a lot of momentum in the past years is online scalping.

You have many websites and platforms offering the possibility for individuals and businesses to buy tickets when the official event organizer has all their tickets sold out.

Even though individuals may be located in a state where scalping is illegal, the websites remain operational nonetheless.

The efforts required to shut down these websites illegally selling tickets is costly and time-consuming for the police authorities and law enforcement.

As a result, many websites are able to provide ticket scalping services online without real consequences even if it’s in violation of the law.

Game Console Scalping

Until now, we’ve talked about scalping “tickets” for events or other activities such as art venues, special events, celebrity interviews, etc.

However, scalping also takes place for products such as gaming consoles.

In fact, when the next generation gaming console (like the Xbox or Playstation) is scheduled to be released, they may be available only in limited quantities for preorder.

As such, there have been preorders for gaming consoles where all the consoles were sold within minutes.

Since it was not clear how the preorder system worked, who was invited, and how you could place an order, scalpers were able to put their hands on the consoles and resell them at a higher price.

Scalping of game consoles is not illegal in the United States.

There are various anti-scalping laws in the United States but they primarily target ticket scalping as opposed to goods and products.

Why Is Scalping Illegal Takeaways 

There you have it folks!

You may wonder:

  • Is product scalping illegal?
  • Is scalping ticks legal?
  • Are there any legal ramifications to scalping?
  • Is game console scalping illegal?

There are no federal laws prohibiting scalping in the United States.

However, you have approximately 16 states where ticket resale above face-value is restricted.

In the other states, you may not have any state laws but you have a few states that regulate scalping at the municipal level.

Even with scalping laws that may prohibit ticket resale, many scalpers are able to buy and sell tickets without suffering any real legal consequences.

There are so many events around the country, so many tickets bought and sold, and only so much law enforcement bandwidth, it’s nearly impossible to pursue all scalpers breaking the law.

Law enforcement officers may also not prioritize pursuing scalpers as these are non-violent crimes where the “victim” has agreed to enter into a transaction with the scalper to purchase tickets.

For most events, except for raceway events and the NFL, there are no laws making the resale of tickets illegal.

The buyers who have the money and means to pay the high price demanded from scalpers will end up getting the tickets they want (hoping they are not defrauded in the process with counterfeit tickets!).

We can conclude that in most states, scalping is not illegal per se, about 16 states make it illegal, and four have municipal laws prohibiting scalping.

However, even with anti-scalping laws, scalping activities tend to take place in person, online, and for major events.

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Is Scalping Legal

  • Scalping is the process of buying a ticket or a good at face value and selling it at a higher price
  • In the United States, there are no federal laws restricting scaling, it is illegal in 16 states, in 7 states you need to have a resale license, and in 4 states the laws are regulated at the municipal level
  • Since scalping may be a non-violent crime without a victim, law enforcement authorities do not put such crimes on their priority list 
  • In general, scalping activities takes place across the country without any consequences
  • For most events, you will not see scalping activity take place at the event but rather outside the stadium or nearby
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