Vast majority of Canadians say ticket bots are a ‘huge problem’

This image provided by Ticketmaster shows a CAPTCHA designed to deter bots from buying up mass numbers of tickets the instant they go on sale in order to resell them for a profit.  (AP Photo/Ticketmaster)
This image provided by Ticketmaster shows a CAPTCHA designed to deter bots from buying up mass numbers of tickets the instant they go on sale in order to resell them for a profit.  (AP Photo/Ticketmaster)

It’s hard to get a diverse nation of more than 35 million people to agree on one issue, but on the subject of ticket bots, a resounding majority of Canadians have come to the same conclusion – it’s a “huge problem.”

According to an online poll of 1,517 adults by Angus Reid Institute released on Monday, 76 per cent of Canadians say it’s a big issue that must be addressed.

“Ticket bots” are a sophisticated form of software that use thousands of different IP addresses to reserve huge blocks of tickets in just milliseconds, which are then resold at inflated prices through secondary markets such as SeatGeek and StubHub.

These online scalpers rose to prominence after they were responsible for snapping up two-thirds of tickets for the farewell tour of the iconic Canadian band the Tragically Hip.

Complaints about the issue became widespread as fans of the band tried to see them give their last waltz following the news that frontman Gord Downie had cancer.

The Government of Ontario launched an online consultation on ticket bots in February, which garnered 35,000 responses.

“Fans deserve a fair shot at getting tickets to seeing their favourite band, sports team, or performance, but right now, the rules around buying and selling tickets online are not doing enough for fans. They are not putting them first. Our government is going to change that,” Ontario’s Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said at the time.

The results of the review are expected to come in late spring before the government unveils new legislation to tackle the issue.

A proposed bill would recommend a fine of up to $50,000 and a prison term of up to one year.

Governments south of the border have also tried to crack down on ticket bots.

Last fall, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that criminalized their use. They had previously been subject to fines, but a renewed push to ramp up penalties came after Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda penned an op-ed in the New York Times criticizing their use.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama also signed a nationwide ban on the use of ticket bots in December.

Nearly a quarter of Canadians (23 per cent) polled in the Angus Reid survey said they’ve used ticket-resale services and a majority of them (60 per cent) said they found prices were “unreasonable.”

Furthermore, 81 per cent of respondents said purchasing tickets specifically to try to resell them for a profit is “unfair.”

The experiences of these Canadians are in line with findings from a study by the office of New York State’s Attorney General, which found that on average third-party resellers offer tickets at an average of 49 per cent above face value and sometimes as high as 1,000 per cent.

Dealing with Canada’s bots

Canadians clearly believe there is a problem and they are open to a number of potential solutions.

Respondents overwhelmingly backed a ban on the use of ticket bots mirroring the legislation in the U.S. with 81 per cent saying they support this type of legislation.

In lieu of a ban, 77 per cent of Canadians said they would also be favour of a cap on the amount that tickets can be resold for.

An additional 63 per cent said they would also support requirements forcing event attendees to show their credit card or receipt at venues to prove they are the original buyers or have these establishments simply not accept tickets from secondary markets.

However, Canadians seem to be split on who should ultimately be responsible for addressing ticket bots, with 50 per cent saying the government should step in, while the other half saying the industry needs to solve the issue.

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