New York Congressman Espillat Stands Up for Small Businesses With Letter to FTC

New York Congressman Espillat Stands Up for Small Businesses With Letter to FTC

Congressman Adriano Espaillat, who represents the upper Manhattan New York 13th Congressional District, recently wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding small business participation in the online ticket sales market (PDF). In supporting small and minority participation, Congressman Espaillat wrote that the “live-event ticket sale industry is a robust sector of the internet-driven economy that should welcome new entrants.”

Congressman Espaillat, the first Dominican-American member of Congress, serves on the Committee on Small Business, the Subcommittee on Health and Technology, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and as importantly, represents a group of constituents located in the entertainment capital of the world, New York City.

The US Minority Ticketing Group (USMTG), an industry trade group formed two years ago to represent brokers, artists, producers and others involved in the ticketing industry, met with Congressman Espaillat, a member of the Small Business Committee, to press their case for added protections for small businesses in the industry. The congressman was very responsive and immediately understood the issues facing small enterprises. One of the topics raised by USMTG was the new Google policy to add a certification process and extra restrictions for ad purchases made by ticket resellers on the popular search engine marketing system. He wrote to the FTC that “the recent institution of a de-facto ‘pre-certification’ application process by Google…will be harmful to small and nascent companies that create the infrastructure of an online marketplace…”

Specifically, what was most encouraging for USMTG was Congressman Espaillat inquiring of the FTC as to how it was working to create and maintain an even playing field for small businesses to participate in the marketplace. Additionally, he wanted to know what could be done to ensure small businesses are not indirectly harmed by changes made by online advertising platforms with major corporations in mind.

Having the support of a member of the Small Business Committee is a major win for USMTG and the industry as a whole. USMTG intends to continue to work with state and federal representatives to ensure that the playing field is level and equal for all.

Advocates Call on NJ Governor to Veto Law Passed Without Hearings

Advocates Call on NJ Governor to Veto Law Passed Without Hearings

Word has gotten out of the New Jersey legislature’s rapid passage of a bill stripping away a limit on tickets held back from the public in the Garden State, and many are questioning why the bill made it through the legislature with zero public hearings on the matter. The measure, which Gov. Phil Murphy has yet not indicated whether or not he intends to sign, was pushed hard by venue ownership in the state, which would stand to profit wildly due to the removal of the 5% cap on held back tickets for industry insiders.

“If you take a look at the groups that lined up that wanted it, it was all of the venues of the state,” state Sen. Robert Singer (R), who sponsored the 2001 bill that introduced the holdback cap, told Politico. “Their claim is they could not attract top shows here because of the split. I always felt this made the bill, and I still believe, less consumer friendly.”

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of NJ Citizen Action, also questioned the wisdom of some provisions in the bill, including the stripping of the holdback cap, and the requirement that a face value be placed on the ticket. “On its face, it looks like a pro-consumer bill…,” she told Politico. “But I question why at the same time it’s removed some really important consumer protections… [And] for some unbelievable reason they’re removing the face value on the ticket.”

The fact that there were no committee hearings and therefore zero chance for consumers to speak either for or against the proposed changes to the law, also concerned Salowe-Kaye. “These were all things we would have talked about if we had the opportunity to go to a hearing and testify,” she said.

A consortium of secondary ticketing representatives has drafted a letter to Gov. Murphy, urging him to veto the bill due to its clear intention to benefit the entertainment industry heavyweights rather than the consumers of New Jersey. It was put forth by the United States Minority Ticketing Group (USMTG), and signed by its director Scot X. Esdaile, as well as representatives from the National Association of Ticket Brokers, New Jersey Ticket Brokers, and TicketNetwork.

“The bill appears to be pro-consumer, but after careful review of the language, it is clear there are impediments to free market and consumer choice,” the letter reads. “This legislation would harm consumers and New Jersey businesses, specifically small businesses.”

In addition to pointing out the flaws it sees in the passed bill, the letter outlines several consumer protection measures it fails to address in any way, including full transparency over held-back tickets, a ban on primary ticket sellers directly porting tickets to the secondary market without ever offering for public sale at face value, preventing the implementation of systems designed to limit consumer rights to tickets they purchased by making them non-transferrable, the banning of price floors on the secondary market, and outlawing pre-registration systems which could force consumers to purchase their place in the front of the line to have access to tickets.

“We are also urging you to stand up for small and medium sized businesses in New Jersey,” it continues. “Almost 1,000 ticket resellers reside and do business in your state… The impact to their businesses would be extremely meaningful.”

The lawmakers who pushed for the bill in the first place have defended it, with Sen. Paul Sarlo (D) calling the holdback limit removal a “small provision of the bill” that is “supported by every major venue in the state.”

New Jersey is currently the only state which caps holdbacks on ticket sales, which a study by the New York Attorney General’s office found to be above 50% of the total venue in many instances when looking at events in that state.

Even with the holdback cap in place, venues and promoters frequently flouted the law. A 2009 performance by hometown favorite Bruce Springsteen at the Izod Center was found to have over 2,000 seats held back from public sale, including 60% of the 10 best sections in the venue, according to reporting at the time. Of those holdbacks, 1,450 of the best seats in the house went directly to Springsteen’s band, management, and record company rather than the paying customers.

The full text of the letter to Gov. Murphy is available below, courtesy of the USMTG.

July 3, 2018
Dear Governor Murphy:

We write to you today to encourage you to veto A4295 – An Act Concerning Ticket Sales, Amending P.L.1983, C.135, and Repealing Various Parts of the Statutory Law, sponsored by Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin and Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese. This bill restructures the law regarding ticket sales in New Jersey. The bill was introduced on June 25 and was fast-tracked through the legislature only six days later, without a public hearing and the benefit of public comment and input, and on a Saturday afternoon while most people were focused on the budget negotiations.

The live event ticket sale industry is a robust sector of the internet-driven economy that should welcome new entrants, and more importantly protect consumers. The bill appears to be pro-consumer, but after careful review of the language, it is clear there are impediments to free market and consumer choice. Though it has a few consumer protection additions, it has also ignored other pro consumer and small business proposals while adding several anti-consumer elements. This legislation would harm consumers and New Jersey businesses, specifically small businesses.

While the bill contained some good consumer protections, including providing the purchaser with the purchase price prior to the purchase, a clear refund policy, and anti BOT language, the anti-consumer additions to the bill outweigh the consumer benefits. In this bill a major amendment to the law is the removal of a prohibition on holdbacks that had been in place since 2009. Currently, the law states that prior to the sale to the general public, not more than 5% of the tickets could be held back from the public. The bill would allow venues to hold back an unlimited number of tickets from the public. Research by the New York Attorney General and others have found that more than 50% of tickets are commonly held back from big shows, which leads to frustration among ticket purchasers as well as higher ticket prices.

The bill also removes the consumer protection requirement that places of entertainment shall create a method for season ticket holders and other ticket holders to lawfully sell back tickets to the venue for events they will not be able to attend.

Finally, consumers have always understood that when they bought a ticket, they owned that ticket and could do what they liked with it: such as re-sell it, give it away to a friend or donate it to a charity to raise money for that charity at an auction event. This bill adds language giving the ticket issuer the power to revoke the ticket for any reason without any conditions, again limiting consumer choice.

The bill also failed to add some very important consumer protection measures:

  1. Transparency – As we mentioned earlier, holdbacks deny the general public the opportunity to purchase tickets. We propose that a section should be added to the bill to compel venues and promoters to publish for public notice the total number of tickets issued for an event, along with the number available to the general public and the number held back.
  2. Resale by Primary Sellers – Several years ago Ticketmaster was caught transferring all of its customers to its resell site for marked up Bruce Springsteen tickets. We propose amending the law to ban an event promoter, owner or operator of a place of entertainment to sell any ticket as a resold ticket that was not previously sold to the public in an initial sale.
  3. Transferability – We maintain that consumers should be able to sell or give away their tickets if they so choose. No ticket issuer shall employ a non-transferable ticketing system unless the ticket purchaser is given the option to purchase transferable tickets that the ticket purchaser can transfer at any price and at any time without additional fees, independent of the ticket issuer.
  4. Ticket price floor pricing – Some teams have, or are attempting to, institute a policy whereby they will not accept tickets which have been purchased at less than face value. We propose banning that policy.
  5. Registration or pre-registration to buy tickets – Venues are developing applications which require ticket buyers to register or pre-register to purchase tickets to an entertainment or sporting event, or which requires buyers to receive a randomly generated code in order to purchase tickets. Oftentimes these systems requires ticket buyers to participate or register with the artist’s or venue’s social media, or make additional purchases of that artist’s or venue’s merchandise or marketing products. Again, this leads to higher costs for consumers, as well as removes the options for them to transfer their tickets. We propose banning these anti-consumer apps.
  6. Ban added ticket fees for events at publicly funded venues.
  7. Equity in the market – Compel the primary sellers to follow the same rules as the resellers, especially in pricing and refund policies.

Though we are asking you to veto this measure for the many consumer issues listed above, we are also urging you to stand up for small and medium sized businesses in New Jersey. Almost 1000 ticket sellers reside and do business in your state, employing innumerable citizens of New Jersey, who will be impacted by these bills. The amount of sales generated by our members and partners on just one our marketplaces alone is over $500 million dollars, so broker and sellers total sales are many times that amount over the several ticket selling platforms available. The impact to their businesses would be extremely meaningful.

For the reasons articulated above, and especially since we were not able to provide public input and comment on the bill, we urge you to veto A4259.

Scot X. Esdaile
Director
US Minority Ticketing Group (USMTG)
www.USMTG.org

Tom Patania
President and Northeast Director
NJ Ticket Brokers & NATB

Gary Adler
Executive Director and General Counsel
National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB)
http://www.natb.org

Darnell Goldson
Director of Governmental & Legislative Affairs
TicketNetwork

CT Delegation Requests FTC To Monitor Google’s Rules for Ticket Resellers

CT Delegation Requests FTC To Monitor Google’s Rules for Ticket Resellers

At the request of the US Minority Ticketing Group (USMTG), four members of the Connecticut congressional delegation, two senators and two representatives, wrote to the Federal Trade Commission requesting that the commission monitor Google’s implementation of its new registration and certification of ticket resellers advertising through AdWords.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, as well as Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Jim Himes, wrote that they discussed the certification process with Google, and “expressed a desire for Google to fairly equitably enforce its requirements and provide ticket resellers with ready access to Google staff” to answer questions and concerns related to the process.

There has been a concern among small resellers, especially USMTG members, that they will become disadvantaged by the new requirements. Senator Murphy, when discussing internet access issues and small business access to the internet, stated that “…big businesses will make a bunch of money, but consumers, small businesses, and startups could be hit hard.”

“The internet is at its best when it’s open and accessible to anyone or any business,” Murphy said. He continued to explain that the success of a business, website or ideas shouldn’t be based on whether someone has a bigger bank account, claiming that we need to “keep the internet free and open.”

With net neutrality and other attacks on small businesses and consumers by big business, USMTG and other business associations will have their work cut out for them.

“He wants to be the best-Scot Esdaile breaks Connecticut’s glass ceiling”

By Grant Miller

There are two things Connecticut is not known for: racial diversity and combat sports. Yet one man has made history in both. He looks younger than the “fifties” age range he provided, and he speaks with a booming New England accent and bluntness mixed with the swagger of a brother from New Haven.

So far, that swagger has changed a few things around his state.

Connecticut NAACP president Scot X. Esdaile ruptured the glass ceiling to become the first African-American chairman of the Connecticut Boxing Commission and removed legal barriers for combat sports in the state, but he won’t stop until Connecticut dominates boxing in the Northeast.

“I don’t know any boxing commissioner who’s doing what I’m doing,” Esdaile said.

Esdaile grew up in New Haven during the 1960s, and he said he often snuck into New Haven Coliseum as a teenager to watch the Sugar Ray Leonard and Larry Holmes fights on the big screen. He also admired Muhammad Ali for the way he fought in and out of the ring.

“I try to use a lot of his attributes as an activist in my own life,” Esdaile said.

During the 2000s, Esdaile traveled with former light heavyweight champion, and New Haven native, Chad Dawson and made connections throughout the industry until Senator Martin Looney asked him to join the Connecticut Boxing Commission in 2011. By 2016, Esdaile became its chairman.

“I wouldn’t be in the boxing commission if it wasn’t for Chad,” Esdaile said.

On December 12, 2016, Esdaile and Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim hosted a boxing retreat at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena for lawmakers to brainstorm ways to change the state’s boxing environment. By June 2017, Connecticut’s legislature passed Public Act No.17–116, which reduced the cost of health insurance and death benefits for boxing and mixed martial arts matches and removed the five percent gross receipt tax promoters had to pay under the prior law.

Scot Esdaile speaks during his second boxing retreat. (Grant Miller)

Esdaile then organized another retreat at Webster Bank Arena on September 13, 2017, where lawmakers, promoters, and media executives sat down to discuss the best ways to bolster the state’s boxing industry. During this meeting, Esdaile held the microphone by a podium in front of black tables where his peers were seated and repeated that he wanted to make Connecticut the “boxing capital of the Northeast Corridor” with “up to 15 fights a year.”

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim(far left) attended the second retreat. (Grant Miller)

Last year, Connecticut venues scheduled only six professional fights according to Boxrec.com, but Joe DeGuardia, president and CEO of Star Boxing in New York, said Connecticut is in a “great position right now” during Esdaile’s second retreat. Smaller shows are the key to building a grassroots fan base and attracting more promoters moving to Connecticut, which would only help Esdaile achieve his goals.

“Sharks smell blood,” DeGuardia said. “Once you do a show, the competition will come.”

Local politicians and promoters brainstormed ways to make boxing better in Connecticut. (Grant Miller)

Esdaile said he has already reached out to big promotion companies including Roc Nation, who recently signed New Haven native and undefeated junior featherweight boxer Tramaine “The Mighty Midget” Williams, in the hopes of organizing professional fights Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford. He said he wants Connecticut venues to compete with the Barclays and Madison Square Garden for wealthy Fairfield County residents.

Charlie Dowd, vice president of events and operations at Webster Bank Arena, said he is optimistic about Esdaile’s economic impact in Connecticut if they attract fans to events “that make sense dollar wise.”

“At the end of the day everyone wants to make money,” Dowd said. “Boxing can happen in Connecticut because Scot has been incredibly bullish on getting it done.”

Esdaile also has amateur boxing goals, including renewing Golden Gloves in the state and organizing a Connecticut Boxing Open Pro-Am tournament in New Haven. Vega, 35, from Hartford, won the junior Olympic national championship in 1997 and was ranked first in the country by USA Boxing. He said he would have benefitted from a chairman like Esdaile.

“If I had a Scot Esdaile…I probably would’ve turned professional,” Vega said.

But Esdaile still has obstacles to overcome. Connecticut’s casinos dominate combat sports in the state (they hosted all six pro fights last year). Esdaile said Kenneth Reels, vice-chairman of the Pequot Tribal Gaming Commission that oversees combat sports events at Foxwoods Casino, has been “very supportive.” Mike Mazzulli, director of the Mohegan Tribe’s Department of Athletic Regulation and president of the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports, has been a different story, according to Esdaile. He said he was offended that Mazzulli organized the 29th Annual Association of Boxing Commissions Conference this year and didn’t invite him.

Mazzulli held the conference in Connecticut. Esdaile said when he confronted him about this, Mazzulli referred him to the association website.

“I’m not saying that I have to be invited, but you know I’m the chairman, it’s in my state, you don’t reach out to invite me?” Esdaile asked.

Mazzulli said the conference was open to the public “anyone can attend, and it’s not by invitation only,” but according to Esdaile, this example was only a “part of the conversation.” He also took issue with an October article in the Hartford Business Journal that covered the financial woes of mixed martial arts in Connecticut. The story mentioned H.B. 6266 (which became Public Act №17–116) and interviewed promoters interested in organizing fights in Connecticut, but it made no mention of Esdaile.

“It’s just the good ol’ boy network,” Esdaile said. “Those in power don’t like to recognize black men in power.”

John Stearns, the author of the story, said the piece was more focused on how Connecticut’s budget issues affected the industry, and he meant no intentional slight to Esdaile.

“Not every story can have every voice,” Stearns said.

New York City poses a financial obstacle because its venues still get the prime time fights in the Northeast. The Barclays Center hosted Adrien Broner vs. Mikey Garcia with Irish gold medalist Katie Taylor, who sometimes trains in Connecticut, fighting on the undercard in July of 2016.

“Are we going to host the heavyweight world championship here?” Dowd said. “Probably not.”

But Esdaile’s supporters still have faith. Jeffrey Dressler, 68, from Hartford, has been a ring announcer and education advocate in Hartford for 25 years. He said Esdaile has his finger on the pulse of Connecticut boxing and knows how to fill a venue. On October 20, Esdaile organized the Connecticut NAACP’s ninth annual “The Great Debate,” and filled Webster Bank Arena with 8,000 people, per the Connecticut Post. The venue’s max seating capacity is up to 10,000 people according to its website.

Esdaile said he has accomplished more in one year than previous chairmen have in 20, and he expects to achieve all of his goals in the next three to five years.

“I want to be the best boxing commissioner in the country,” Esdaile said. “Hands down.”

USMTG Looks to Expand Footprint, Charity Work in 2017

(Photo: Former Nevada State Rep. Wendell Williams presents Allen Shelton, Jr. with the USMTG’s scholarship in Las Vegas, joined by his family)

It’s well established that any industry conference is a chance to rub elbows, learn a few things, and maybe generate a little new business. That was one of the central activities at Ticket Summit in July, but for the United States Minority Ticketing Group (USMTG), it was an opportunity to do more. A non-profit business league operating within the ticketing industry, the USMTG wanted to engage with fresh faces to grow its membership, and take an active role in giving back to the community.

U.S. Minority Ticketing GroupOn both fronts, the trip to Las Vegas was a smashing success, according to the group’s leadership.

Developed in reaction to the lack of diversity present in the ticketing industry and to give those of color operating in it a united voice and greater opportunity, the USMTG’s stated mission is to embrace those who have not always been included in traditional entertainment associations, support its membership and promote the highest standards of conduct in the business. Its leaders were active on the floor throughout Ticket Summit, making sure to make inroads with all attendees, with a particular attention paid to those of color who might be interested in becoming a part of the organization.

In addition, Scot X. Esdaile, a principle member of the USMTG and President of the Connecticut State Conference, NAACP, was one of the conference presenters, sitting on the Legislative Impact panel and providing his insight on the industry.

A culminating moment for the USMTG happened on Wednesday evening, when the group held a reception at SushiSamba, near the convention center itself. Current and prospective members mingled, then celebrated as the group awarded Allen Shelton Jr. its first ever scholarship. Shelton’s academic and athletic accomplishments were highlighted in a speech by former Nevada State Rep Wendell Williams, a Las Vegas leader who for 35 years has led the Martin Luther King Parade Committee and was the first African-American elected Speaker of the legislature in the state.

“It’s important for young people to understand how the entertainment and sporting industry is a business and we’re interested in encouraging and inspiring young people to succeed by providing entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, guidance and mentoring,” says Esdaile. “We plan to accomplish these goals by partnering with local organizations already involved with these youth, with a long term mission to grow these partnerships and help those with an indicated interest in business management-related education.”

The day after the reception, the USMTG, led by Vice President Mike Freeman, gave back to the local community once again, sponsoring a USMTG Community Day in concert with the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. Some 30 kids joined USMTG members at the Thomas and Mack Arena for a full day of NBA Summer League action, where they got to watch hoops and enjoy some snacks with the tab picked up by USMTG members.

“It was just great to see kids in that situation get to be kids,” says Freeman. “They were just on such a high from getting to be a part of that kind of thing.

“Hopefully we can build on this example and have something like this in every city we travel to,” he added. “We want to lead by example and get other brokers to get on board – little things like this can make a big difference.”

In keeping with the group’s educational goals, Freeman said the group was in contact with representatives of local organizations and the NBA to see about linking interested kids with internship opportunities, in order that they might learn the business side of the game. That work will be ongoing, part of the group’s hopes for leaving a positive impact wherever it goes.

Community Day Photos

(Left to right: USMTG members Tony Grier (Ticket Tony, black hat), Mariah Martinez (black dress), Marcus Cliett (Dream Seat NY, green shirt), Mike Freeman, (Special Delivery Tickets, middle)

NATB, USMTG Join to Support Growth of Minority-Owned Ticket Businesses

For Release
November 27, 2017

Washington – The National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) and the U.S. Minority Ticketing Group (USMTG) today announced a formal affiliation between the organizations where NATB will provide support and other resources to USMTG and its members. This relationship aims specifically on issues of common interest, including advocacy, developing a mentorship
program with small brokers who belong to USMTG, and to develop educational tools such as a ticketing school to advance best business practices in conducting ticket resale. “This is a terrific moment for both of our organizations,” said Scot X. Esdaile USMTG, Executive Director. “Some of the issues we hope to address with NATB revolve around creating access for minorities, corporate responsibility, community outreach, the development and growth of small ticket brokers, and philanthropy in urban communities.” “We formed NATB in 1994 in order to establish and conduct ticket resale to the highest standards possible, which are reflected in our Code of Ethics and evidenced by our many years supporting the passage of state and federal laws and regulation that protect consumers and an open secondary ticket resale market,” said Gary Adler, NATB executive director and counsel. “We believe in doing ticket resale right and we are excited about this USMTG relationship because it is all about helping others practice what we preach. The growth of ticket resale has been enormous and consumers have benefited from a wider choice of companies and platforms from which to buy tickets, with a wider range of price options including lower prices.” NATB represents over 200 secondary market resale companies and has long advocated for the
rights of ticket buyers and its membership which, importantly, is comprised of brokers that conduct their business under a set of consumer protection measures and Code of Ethics. For
example NATB members provide 200% refund protection on its tickets. USMTG was founded in 2014 and already has over 100 member resale companies throughout the U.S. Through this relationship with the USMTG, NATB is excited to expand the reach of NATB’s Protect Tickets Rights initiative (www.ProtectTicketRights.org). Protect Ticket Rights defends
the rights of ticket buyers and sellers.

Visit NATB.org or USMTG.org for more information.
Contact: NATB@onpointpublicaffairs.com or darnell@usmtg.org