Cover Story: Risk of on-line ticket sales

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Thursday was the last pre-season game for the Panthers.  While football season is heating up, so are ticket sales.

We've heard the stories before, you buy on-line, get your ticket, go up to the gate and it doesn't scan.

So, you're out money and you're left out of the fun.  Nothing can be worse for the fan.

Thanks to a new state law, there are protections in place to make sure the ticket you buy on the internet is legal and legitimate.

The same law lets you re-sell your ticket and make a hefty profit.

The art of ticket scalping has changed.

They show up on game day like clockwork offering tickets for sale.

For years, North Carolina's scalping law prevented sellers from selling tickets for more than $3 over the face value.

Last summer, the General Assembly lifted that ban that was rarely enforced allowing sellers to set the price as high as they want or whatever a buyer will pay.

If you went onto the internet to eBay and Craigslist, ticket scalping was going on anyway.

The state's professional sports franchises including the Panthers, Hurricanes, Bobcats and Lowe's Motor Speedway pushed for the new law to bring legitimacy to the scalping process on the internet.

"It's market driven," said Panthers' director of ticket sales and operations Phil Youtsey.

He calls it a consumer protection law, enabling like the Panthers to host sites like the Panthers Ticket Exchange where sellers can get their asking price and buyers can be assured they're not getting taken on a scalped ticket  Its called the secondary ticket market.

"In the past, we were dealing with fans who would buy tickets from secondary ticket providers and they would have no accountability." Youtsey said.  "It was a 1-800 number and you couldn't get ahold of anybody when the ticket didn't work."

He said the number of fake tickets they see at the ticket counter has gone down.

In the past, hardly a game would go by when dozens or sometimes hundreds would show up expecting to get into a game only to discover they had been taken by a scalper who sold them a counterfeit ticket.

xperts say you want to watch out for those websites.

While they operate as legitimate secondary ticket market websites, the Panthers say they can only guarantee tickets sold through Panthers ticket exchange which is an authorized dealer.

While there's no limit on a resellers' profit on the internet, scalpers are still barred from standing at event gates and trying to make an exorbitant profit on seats.

Some critics of the law question whether that's fair.

Youtsey said: "They can put it for face value or they can market it up for as high as they want.  If the ticket sells, then I guess it is right. It's market driven. That money that secondary ticket sale money is theirs. It's not ours. We don't keep it."

The rationale behind legalizing internet scalping is that web sites can provide the buyer some protection.

Another reason the state legalized it is because the state can now cash in.  The state charges a 3-percent tax on the resale.