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Bill would relegate paperless tickets to shredder Restricted resale practices leading businesses to support measure

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John Capazzi, principal of RSC Architects, says his firm relies on New York Giants season tickets to build relationships with clients, and would be limited if tickets were forced paperless.
John Capazzi, principal of RSC Architects, says his firm relies on New York Giants season tickets to build relationships with clients, and would be limited if tickets were forced paperless. - ()

John Capazzi, principal of Cliffside Park-based RSC Architects, has used his firm's New York Giants season tickets — which he calls "one of the best" client development tools he has — to build relationships since he joined the firm 25 years ago.

But "there are many times when we need to get rid of tickets, or get them to people who are not in the area," Capazzi said, which has led him to support a bill that would bar ticket issuers from restricting sales to "paperless" tickets that must be claimed in-person at the stadium.

The division among businesses over the bill reflects a national conflict, with support centered on secondary-market ticket vendors like StubHub, and opposition from the state's venues, sports teams and ticket-issuing giant Ticketmaster.

The bill would require ticket issuers to publicize the number of tickets being sold, along with how many are being held for later sale; the number of tickets at each price level; and ticket fees. In addition, it would bar paperless tickets that aren't readily transferable, and would remove the current limits on ticket resale prices by nonregistered brokers.

Under this system, the ticket issuer controls the resale market. For example, a ticket holder that cannot use the ticket must resell it to the ticket issuer, rather than listing it on a site like StubHub. While no New Jersey team has limited ticket sales to restricted paperless tickets, the practice is used by the San Francisco 49ers football team.

At a June 18 hearing, Mark Stefanacci, chief operating officer of the state Sports & Exposition Authority, told the Senate Commerce Committee the bill is unnecessary. He said teams control the distribution of tickets, and their opposition is not at the behest of Ticketmaster, which operates the restricted paperless ticketing program.

"It's not a problem today. Less than 1 percent of the tickets are paperless," Stefanacci said. "Ticketmaster doesn't control what the teams do."

And Curt Voss, general manager of the Susquehanna Bank Center, in Camden, said there are advantages to restricted paperless tickets.

"Paperless and will-call tickets make it much harder for ticket brokers and resellers to scoop up and resell tickets at sky-high prices," Voss said. In 2008, when Radiohead performed at his venue, many counterfeit tickets were distributed, he said, while there were no counterfeits at a concert this year for which paperless tickets were used.

Voss also warned New Jersey could become less competitive than states without such a restriction.

"I don't want to lose an act to Philadelphia," Voss said. "If they can go to Philadelphia and be paperless (and) restricted," then he may lose the act.

Jeff Hecker, director of ticketing for the New York Jets, said the bill will provide help to secondary vendors, "and that is not what we want for our season ticketholders."

Bill sponsor Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), a Giants season ticketholder, asked whether Hecker opposed him reselling a ticket to a football game at MetLife Stadium. Hecker said Lesniak could resell the ticket through the team, adding that it's inappropriate for vendors like StubHub to profit from ticket resales.

"But that's how I make my ticket marketable," Lesniak said. "What am I going to do — you want me to go to the stadium and scalp it? Or isn't it better for me to put it on StubHub, so I can get the highest price for my ticket?"

Hecker also said the bill could raise the risk for a television blackout, which can come into play when home games aren't sold out. While Lesniak said "the best way to avoid a blackout is to have a better team," Hecker said, "We have to plan to have a process in place for us to sell our tickets, whether we're 4-12 or 12-4."

Some business owners support the bill, according to Diane Walsh, vice president of government affairs and communications for the Commerce & Industry Association of New Jersey. She predicted prices would rise without the secondary market.

"A paperless ticket system will also have an adverse effect on the businesses dependent upon sports and entertainment venues," Walsh said. A ticket owner facing such a restriction "may decide to let a ticket go unused, resulting in fewer fans at events and less trade for the restaurants, bars and other businesses that rely on traffic from an event."

The bill also was supported by Linda Czipo, of the state Center for Non-Profit Corporations, who said her members rely on ticket auctions and raffles for fundraising.

Lesniak said in early July that he foresees making some changes to the bill, but that he will push for it to advance. He said it would allow musicians like Bruce Springsteen to offer some restricted paperless tickets to members of fan clubs, and that a requirement that 15 days' notice be given about ticket information could be dropped. The Assembly version of the bill was released by the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee on June 18.

E-mail to: andrewk@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @kitchenman

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