Steve Wynn’s Jihad against Garth Brooks’ Ticket Scalpers

Hours after Wynn Las Vegas sold out of tickets for Garth Brooks’ first 20 shows, Steve Wynn instituted an unusual anti-scalping procedure that has the angst of fans and ticket brokers alike. His resort not only demanded the name of every concertgoer for every ticket purchased but said tickets could be picked up only on the day of the show and photo IDs would be checked at the door. 

Although this is within his legal rights, Wynn promised that anyone who purchased a resold ticket would be denied access to Garth Brooks’ shows. He said he was going after “scalpers” — lumping black marketeers in with legitimate ticket brokers who have been legally — and profitably — reselling tickets to Strip shows for more than two decades. 

For time immemorial, ticket brokers in Las Vegas and elsewhere have used the “scalping” practice, prefering to say they are reselling on the secondary ticket market, which has become an integral part of Las Vegas’ entertainment scene. The practice allows fans to nab tickets at the last minute or to sold-out shows and sporting events, frequently at prices far above face value. It also helps venues fill their seats on less-than-full nights — including shows at Wynn Las Vegas. 

Ticket reselling is an integral part of Capitalism- something Steve Wynn believes in above all else, but apparently not when it comes to ticket reselling. 

But Wynn lured Brooks out of retirement to perform at the 1,500-seat Encore Theater on the promise that he’d keep ticket prices low — $125 a seat, which comes to $143 apiece after taxes and fees. After tickets sold out last Saturday, they were being resold for hundreds of dollars — some were advertised online for more than $1,000 apiece. 

That triggered Wynn’s decision to retroactively crack down on scalpers invoking a seldom-used Clark County ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor to sell tickets for more than face value without permission from the venue. Wynn claims he helped write the ordinance in the ’90s to thwart scalping of Siegfried & Roy tickets. County officials say the law dates to 1987 and may even be older.

So fans such as Napier learned they’d have to provide the names of concertgoers — effectively shutting out resellers. 

Both Wynn and ticket brokers say they are trying to protect fans. 

The National Association of Ticket Brokers, which was founded in 1994 to set standards for the resale industry, fired back at Wynn’s new policy: “Fans hire brokers to help them find the tickets they want for the price they can pay or to resell tickets they can’t use. Wynn has no right to tell these fans ‘Hey, tough luck. Unless you bought them at our box office within two hours of going on sale then you can’t go to the show.’ ” 

Gary Adler, legal counsel for the brokers association, said he can’t imagine why anyone would want to prevent brokers from reselling tickets in Las Vegas. 

Adler said the secondary market’s customers run the gamut — from sports fans who don’t have season tickets but want to see a particular game, to music fans who want closer seats and are willing to pay the premium, to people who don’t have the luxury of making plans months in advance. 

Adler said 40 percent of tickets on the secondary market sell for less than face value. 

There have been instances where primary sellers such as Wynn have tried to shut out the secondary market, but Adler said it only drives up prices and forces street corner deals. Adler said Wynn’s policy to identify in advance every ticket holder by name is unprecedented. 

Las Vegas attorney Barry Levinson said the procedure is an example of Wynn trying to control what goes on inside his resort. 

“I think it’s an invasion of people’s privacy. I don’t want the resort to know who I’m going with and where I’m sitting,” Levinson said. “It could be a  misrepresentation issue or contractual dispute, depending on what it says on the back of the ticket.” 

Wynn’s policies have left such a sour taste in the mouths of brokers and buyers that the National Association of Ticket Brokers will no longer be hosting its annual convention at the Wynn. 

The resort’s Facebook page has been filled with complaints from buyers, including Napier, who is thinking twice about doing business with Wynn again.

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