WASHINGTON — The Senate doesn't want you to have to fight a robot for a chance to see the hit musical Hamilton or any other entertainment event.
Senators have unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Jerry Moran, R-Kan., that would prohibit automated scalping software known as "ticket bots" from buying up seats for theater shows, concerts or sports events and reselling them at inflated prices.
"Scalpers who cut in line, then buy mass quantities of tickets just to resell them at higher prices make it difficult for people to get tickets for themselves and their families," Moran said in a statement after the vote on Wednesday night. "This bill helps level the playing field for consumers."
Moran's Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016, also known as the BOTS Act, is designed to prevent ticket bots from circumventing online ticket-purchasing rules that limit the number of seats a person can buy for sought-after entertainment events.
The bill also bars the sale of tickets over state lines that were bought through a ticket bot "if the seller participated in, had the ability to control or should have known about the violation."
The BOTS Act now must pass the U.S. House of Representatives before being signed into law by the president.
Moran filed the bill after holding a consumer protection subcommittee hearing in September. Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller testified at the hearing, along with Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and attorneys for StubHub and Ticketfly.
Seller testified that he'd received "countless letters" from kids and their parents who couldn't get tickets to see Hamilton at regular prices.
"Why? Because every time we put a new block of tickets on sale, the 'robots' or 'bots' have invaded the Ticketmaster system the second they went on sale and then electronically purchased almost all of the available inventory," Seller told lawmakers. "Then they repost the tickets on multiple secondary-ticketing sites or fan exchanges at prices that are up to 10 times their face value."
"Hamilton" tickets often are sold for more than $1,000.
"In essence," Seller said, "these bots cut the line and buy up all the available product before anyone else has a chance."
New York state recently criminalized the use of ticket bots. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Monday that will make the use of the bots and the reselling of tickets purchased with bots a class A misdemeanor punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Earlier this year, Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times decrying ticket bots and calling for a crackdown.
"I want theatergoers to be able to purchase tickets at face value at our box office and our website, rather than on a resale platform. And if you do go to a resale platform for tickets, I want the markup you must pay to be clearly displayed," Miranda wrote.
"Most of all, I want you to be there when the curtain goes up. You shouldn't have to fight robots just to see something you love."