We will see swift return of corruption if legislation curbing touts is scrapped

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am


David M. Webb suggests that the legislation against the scalping of tickets should be rescinded ('Scalping already prohibited by law, but that provision should be abolished', March 16).

Regrettably he needs a lesson in Hong Kong's history about previously widespread corruption.

Mr Webb equates the selling of tickets for a public entertainment event with the resale of a parcel of shares acquired by an investor through an initial public offering (IPO).

The circumstances of being able to purchase tickets for public events or newly issued shares are, however, entirely different.

Any investor may submit an offer to acquire IPO shares and the chances of success are generally equitable, but this can only be ensured by means of a very complicated and administratively expensive ballot system linked to an individual's identification document.

Applicants also have no prior knowledge about how many shares they might be allocated until the results are announced only hours prior to the commencement of trading.

This would be totally impracticable for the sale of concert tickets when would-be purchasers wish to know in advance how many tickets they will have for their family or friends.

Before endemic corruption was cleaned up back in the mid-1970s, it was virtually impossible to buy a ticket for a popular film from a cinema box office.

Triad syndicates enjoyed cosy, back-scratching relationships with the theatre management, which ensured that the bulk of tickets went direct to street thugs. The tickets were then sold by an army of street scalpers at marked-up prices.

There was no financial risk to the 'investors', as Mr Webb likes to term them, because any tickets remaining were simply returned to the box offices and recorded in the accounts as unsold. The web of corruption went right to the top.

If you remove the existing anti-scalping legislation, corruption will creep back in no time at all.

Furthermore, the idea that the common man's ticket for a leisure event is viewed by Mr Webb as merely another investment tool is really a bit mean-hearted.

I suggest he sticks to commodity futures, or perhaps highly geared derivatives.

P. A. Crush, Sha Tin