Ticket scalping: an introduction to the legalities

Ticket scalping

Ticket scalping is often referred to as an acśvictim less’ť crime. If you talk to the family who couldn’t get Lion King tickets, or the die-hard Beastie Boys fan that came up short through Ticketmaster, you might think otherwise. Ticket scalping is the resale of a ticket for an event, most often for profit. Technically the resale of any ticket, even at a loss, falls under the category of scalping and is considered illegal in most areas of the United States. There is no federal law to prohibit scalping, however many raceways, the NFL, municipalities nationwide, as well as several states, have specific laws baring the practice.

Most people are familiar with how scalpers sell their tickets” we all see the advertisements in the paper, online, not to mention the sellers in the street before the game or concert. The more important question is how do scalpers get the tickets?

Ticket brokers monopolize the supply of tickets by paying substantial bribes to people involved in ticket sales at the original point of sale. The people with control over ticket sales include box office personnel, supervisors, managers of venues, ticketing agents, security agents, concert promoters, or a conglomerate of house seat holders. The bribes made to a venue operator or employee are referred to as it. If it is substantial enough a willing venue will offer numerous seats. To cover the bribe brokers must jack the price of the ticket up fifty to one hundred percent is the typical range.

If the scalper does not have direct connections or enough to secure the deal, he may use other tactics. Many brokers hire diggers or droids. These so-called henchmen make repeated calls and stand in long lines for tickets. A broker can have hundreds of droids and diggers working for him or her if his or her network is large enough and making profits. Brokers may also use high-speed dialing equipment and other methods to increase their chances of getting through via telephone.

Brokers can also send in a plethora of mail orders for Broadway shows with the use of alias names and receive all the desired tickets. The ability of brokers to buy blocks of tickets for resale results in all the good tickets being sold out within minutes of the opening of ticket sales. Once the broker has the tickets, prices skyrocket. The broker makes it virtually impossible for the average Joe to get a seat to his favorite band from the venue and a financial aggravation if he wants to purchase the ticket from a middleman.

Brokers often buy tickets from each other. One broker may have a śhook, or contact, at one venue and will trade for tickets another broker got from his or her hook at a different location. Over the years this specialization has resulted in a loosely organized network of scalpers seeking scalpers.

It is not unheard of for a band or promoters for the bank to scalp their own tickets. Though highly illegal, this is a practice done more often than many people think. By selling the best seats to brokers right off the bat the band or promoters increase the profit margins significantly. Many venue owners have been brought down on charges of grand larceny for this type of behavior but many have fallen through the cracks as well.

Scalpers will not only jack up prices to make a profit but will take free tickets and try to sell them. Recently a troupe of scalpers was brought to justice after taking free White House Tour passes and selling them for fifty dollars each.

How is scalping combated? There are no federal laws directly governing ticket scalping but many states place a fine on the act. Generally, the fee is for the amount in excess of the fair price, but again, this varies from state to state. At least sixteen states have laws against the resale of tickets, while at least seven states (Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) require a license to broker tickets.

Four states (North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Virginia) allow municipalities the right to allow or deny ticket resale. In some instances, venues or acts associated with the venues will take justice into their own hands in case the state or municipality does not. For instance, it is not unusual for a team to close the account of a season ticket holder if it discovers that he or she has re-sold tickets above face value to the game.

Scalping, it seems, is a nationwide problem. But, as with everything there are two sides to the story. The National Association of Ticket Brokers sees ticket scalpers as legitimate small businessmen who want nothing more than the opportunity to participate in the American dream and continues to fight for the rights of middlemen. This fight has resulted in an increase of brokerage licenses in states where resale is legal and added pressure on states barring the practice to loosen their reins.


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