The United States Congress is taking aim at bots that help ticket scalpers profit

Image: AP/Invision/Evan Agostini
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In the three months leading up to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s final performance in Broadway musical Hamilton, ticket scalpers made about $15.5 million from second-party sales, The New York Times estimates.

Should another Hamilton come along in this lifetime, scalpers are likely to have a much harder time.

Yesterday, the US Senate’s commerce committee passed a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to do anything to violate “the integrity of online ticket purchasing order rules.” If the bill passes in the greater Senate, that could mean significantly fewer outrageously priced tickets for sports games, concerts, and theater productions on sites like StubHub.

Ticket scalping has gotten far more sophisticated than a disheveled man in a big jacket loitering outside concert halls muttering, “Anyone got a free ticket?” Ticket brokers use software to buy up huge numbers of tickets automatically as soon as they go online, evading ticket limits set by sellers.

The new bill, called the Better Online Ticket Sales, or BOTS, Act, seeks to stop the use of this kind of software, and to make it illegal to sell tickets obtained this way. So that would make it illegal for StubHub, which is a legal marketplace, to allow sales by brokers who used bots to buy tickets.

As Miranda prepared to leave the show he wrote and first starred in, tickets under $200 were going for $800 from second-party sellers. Tickets for Radiohead’s Madison Square Garden performance earlier this year were originally priced at $80. They appeared on StubHub for $350 within minutes of going on sale.

New York senator Chuck Schumer, who helped introduce the bill, thanked Miranda, along with show producer Jeffrey Seller, for their vocal efforts to curb bots that automatically buy up tickets for scalpers.

The BOTS Act passed in the House of Representatives earlier this month. It must be passed by the full Senate and approved by the president before it becomes a law.