Illinois Cracks Down On Ticket Buying Software

Hannah Montana was the last straw.

When parents complained to state Rep. Karen May earlier this year that they missed out on tickets to the teen pop sensation’s Chicago concert, she decided to go after the culprit: online ticket hoarders.

The Illinois House voted 94-0 Friday to make it a misdemeanor for anyone to use software that gives them an edge when trying to get tickets over the Internet.

May, D-Highland Park, says people used software to jam the ticket system, essentially cutting in line to grab large numbers of tickets. The concert sold out in minutes, May said, and tickets were selling for hefty profits shortly afterward on other Web sites.

"This wasn’t just mom and pop sitting at the kitchen table dialing in and getting lucky," May said. "They grabbed all the tickets immediately."

But as Illinois’ measure heads to the Senate, there’s a potentially big problem: Nobody is sure how to catch the people involved, who could get jail time and a $1,500 fine.

May said she doesn’t know if violators can be tracked by ticket vendors or from complaints by snubbed buyers. She acknowledges the problem is "complicated" and said she’s working with the attorney general’s office to determine if there’s a way to enforce the law — or if there are laws already on the books that could be used to deter ticket hoarding.

"I wanted to make it clear that as a matter of public policy we think this is wrong. Each time they find a new loophole, we’ll try to close it," May said.

Natalie Bauer, a spokeswoman for attorney General Lisa Madigan, says any effort to make it more difficult to evade ticket sellers’ rules "should probably be an improvement."

"While often difficult to prosecute computer-related crimes, it’s certainly done every day," Bauer said in a statement.

States such as Minnesota, Colorado and Tennessee are pursuing similar laws to prevent hoarding for concerts, World Series baseball tickets and similar events with high consumer demand. But some Illinois lawmakers still have their doubts.

"I just don’t know that we’re going to stop all of this," Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville, said about concerns that people outside of Illinois could skirt the law.

And Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, noted it does nothing to prevent ticket brokers from buying valuable tickets and reselling them at higher prices, such as for Chicago Cubs baseball games.

Both decided to support the measure anyway.

"I guess we need to do what we can to ensure some degree of fairness," Black said. —

The bill is HB4791.