Madonna performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots in Indianapolis.

When Madonna announced her 40th anniversary world tour this year, ticket prices on numerous reselling websites quickly climbed into the thousands of dollars — though the original tickets had not yet gone on sale. 

This is a common practice in the event ticket industry known as “speculative ticketing,” in which companies resell tickets they do not yet own and customers are often not guaranteed to receive the tickets they purchase.

In Colorado, speculative ticketing and other ticket sale practices could soon be prohibited and classified as “deceptive trade practices” under Senate Bill 60.

The Colorado legislature passed the bill last week, sending it to Gov. Jared Polis for final consideration. 

“Nearly everyone I talk to has had a difficult, if not impossible, experience purchasing online tickets for a concert, sporting event or show,” said bill sponsor Sen. Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver. "We must do a better job of eliminating deceptive resale practices and improve transparency for consumers."

If signed, the bill would update the state's ticketing statues for the first time since 2008 to classify the following trade practices as deceptive: 

  • Selling a ticket without having possession of it

  • Selling a ticket that does not match its advertised description

  • Selling a ticket without disclosing the total cost, including service charges and other fees

  • Increasing the price of a ticket once it has already been selected for purchase

  • Using copyrighted or similar web designs, URLs or other symbols to sell a ticket, leading consumers to believe they’re buying from an event’s official ticket seller instead of a reseller

  • Using computer software, or bots, to automatically purchase a large number of tickets or circumvent ticket limits — which was outlawed federally in 2016

The bill would still allow individuals to resell their own tickets, unless the tickets were donated to them for free as part of a charitable event or offered in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Lawmakers re-passed the bill on Saturday, after removing some major changes made by the House last month. 

The House amendments stripped from the bill would have required ticket sellers to report illegal bot activity and to disclose to customers the total number of tickets that are and will be for sale, including whether additional tickets will be made available at a later date. 

"I don't think (the bill) will protect consumers any longer," said Rep. William Lindstedt, D-Broomfield, who originally proposed the amendments. "If these two pieces of work that the House did are removed from this bill, it very quickly moves from a consumer protection bill to a bill that helps one primary ticket seller." 

Currently, venues, promoters, agents and artists commonly hold back a portion of event tickets from initial public sales. Tickets may be held to distribute to those with special or exclusive access, with the unused held tickets typically being released for public sale before the event.

This practice has been criticized by groups including the National Consumers League, Consumer Federation of America, Sports Fans Coalition, Fan Freedom and Protect Ticket Rights. Those groups originally opposed SB 60 but moved to support the bill with the House amendments. Now, they're opposing it again, calling for the governor to veto the bill. 

"This deceptive industry scheme creates fake scarcity to induce a ticket buying frenzy so that consumers panic, and in believing there are scarce tickets left, are compelled into buying now," the organizations said in a joint letter. "When the true inventory of tickets is not presented to fans, they are not capable of making the best possible purchase decision." 

Sign up for free: News Alerts

Stay in the know on the stories that affect you the most.

Success! Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Rodriguez said the House amendments were "unworkable" and "cumbersome," specifically pointing to the requirement that ticket sellers report illegal bot activity. 

In 2016, the federal Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act outlawed the misuse of bots to buy large amounts of event tickets, such as by circumventing online ticket purchasing limits. However, since the act was signed, the Federal Trade Commission has only taken action against violations to the law one time, in January 2021. 

"Even in discussions with the attorney general, they weren't even sure what it was exactly that needed to be reported," Rodriguez said. "Which is, obviously, the same problem they're having on the federal level. We're still working that out. I don't think bots will ever be truly fixed." 

Bill sponsor Rep. Mandy Lindsay, D-Aurora, said the bill would still help address the issue by letting venues cancel tickets they see being illegally purchased using bots. She also defended the bill without the House amendments, highlighting the many other changes it makes to Colorado's ticketing statute as "strong consumer protections." 

This comes as recent events have shaken public confidence in the ticket selling industry, including hundreds of Bad Bunny concert tickets turning out to be invalid during his world tour and Taylor Swift fans experiencing hours-long wait times for tickets costing thousands of dollars a pop. 

Some critics of the bill said it is too harsh on reselling companies like Vivid Seats and StubHub, making it harder for them to compete in the industry with giant primary ticket sellers, notably Ticketmaster. But proponents argued the current system, while profitable for ticket reselling businesses, is hurting customers and event operators. 

During public hearings on the bill, numerous local venue operators testified in support — including the National Western Complex, Ball Arena, Larimer Lounge and the Fox Theater — saying they have to reject on a daily basis customers who purchased speculative tickets from resellers but never got the actual ticket.

Other operators spoke of resellers using bots to bypass ticket limits, buying hundreds of tickets at once to resell at higher prices. While the events may sell out, if the resellers do not find someone else to buy the tickets, the events end up being way emptier than the venue prepared for. This leads to venues losing money after overpaying for staff, security and drinks for a sold-out crowd. 

“People travel from all over the country to visit our famous venues, and sometimes they’re turned away because they unknowingly purchased a counterfeit ticket on a third-party website," said bill sponsor Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada. "Our bill improves fans’ protections in the ticket purchasing process and prevents fraudulent tickets from ending up in the marketplace.” 

The bill re-passed the House in a 46-19 vote and the Senate in a 27-5 vote on Saturday. 

Though the bill received bipartisan sponsorship from Sen. Mark Baisley, R-Woodland Park, most Republicans opposed the bill. Only six of the bill's 24 "no" votes came from Democrats. 

Multiple Republicans including Rep. Ron Weinberg of Loveland and Rep. Rick Taggart of Grand Junction said they would have supported the bill if it kept the House amendments. Rep. Richard Holtorf, one of five House Republicans to vote in favor of the bill, similarly lamented the loss of the amendments, but also spoke of the ticket industry practices the bill would still address. 

"I want to know that I've got a ticket in hand from the vendor, and I don't want to have somebody or something manipulating the market behind me," Holtorf, R-Akron, said. "My $60 ticket is going to be a $360 ticket? ... I don't think it's fair." 

Polis has until June 7 to sign, veto or let the bill become law without his signature. If made law, the bill would go into effect immediately.