It’s a Matter of Fairness

By Senator Kevin Parker & Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski | June 1, 2023

Let’s hypothetically say you’re a Mets fan, and you go to buy tickets for you and a buddy – who happens to be a Yankees fan – at Citi Field. As you might expect, built into the price of the ticket is what’s called a ‘gate tax’ or a ‘ticket tax.’ Essentially, it’s a sales tax, akin to the sales tax you paid on the jersey that you’re wearing to the game. The following week, your buddy buys the two of you tickets for a game at Yankee Stadium.

What if you then learned that the ticket tax you paid at Citi Field, a National League stadium, was different and substantially higher than the ticket tax your buddy paid at Yankee stadium, an American League park? Would you think that’s fair? Of course not.

In truth, the ticket tax at Citi Field and Yankee stadium are exactly the same, but we raise this hypothetical to highlight a related and equally absurd situation – only this one is real.

Now, let’s say that you take your buddy to an MMA match at your favorite local arena and then he takes you to a boxing match at the same arena. Would you be surprised to learn that you paid a ticket tax of 8.5% and your buddy’s ticket tax was only 3%?

To be clear, that’s exactly what happens in New York right now. New York is the only state in the nation that taxes tickets to boxing and MMA events at different rates.

It is unfair that MMA fans pay a ticket tax of 8.5% – highest in the nation – while boxing fans pay a 3% ticket tax. Here’s a stark example: A sold out MMA event at Madison Square Garden would sock the 20,000 fans in attendance with a whopping $60,000 more in ticket taxes than a comparable sold out boxing event at MSG.

It’s time for New York to stop being the only state in the nation that taxes boxing and MMA fans differently. That’s why we’ve introduced a bill to align the ticket tax for all combat sports at 3%.

We have long been MMA fans (Senator Parker more so than Assemblyman Zebrowski) and fans of boxing for even longer. We recognize that both are tough sports, but both produce a lot of New York athletes and even more New York fans.

While the inequitable gate tax difference between boxing and MMA events is glaring, there is simply no rationale for this unfair tax to continue as is. Correcting this difference is not only the right thing to do from a fairness perspective, it also makes economic sense.

Since New York sanctioned MMA in 2016, MMA events have been a boost to New York State and its local economies. UFC, the leading MMA promotion, has held more than a dozen events in New York State over the past six years – from Buffalo to Long Island and many communities in between – which have collectively contributed nearly $200 million in economic output.

Fans enjoy attending MMA events in New York, and the local economies enjoy the benefits of those events just as much. It would be a shame for New York to lose these lucrative MMA events to nearby states due to lower ticket taxes.

Aligning the gate tax will encourage MMA promotors – not just UFC but also other national, regional and local MMA promotors across the state – to hold more events in New York. And that’s good for restaurants, hotels and other local businesses in communities from one end of the state to the other.

Mets and Yankees fans don’t usually agree (other than their dislike of the Red Sox) but they do agree that fans of both teams should be taxed at the same rate – and they are. Similarly, boxing and MMA fans should know that they’re being taxed the same when they enter the arena. It’s a matter of fairness and we hope to make it happen this year.

Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-Rockland) are the prime sponsors of A.5254/S.6620.