By Alfred Branch, Jr.
Ticket scalpers in Boston may be facing arrest if a new plan proposed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino takes effect.
Menino’s proposed legislation does not materially change existing anti-scalping laws but would allow police officers to arrest violators on the spot. Current regulations stipulate that tickets to events can only be resold for $2 above face value plus some modest service charges, and that brokers obtain a license from the state Department of Public Safety.
However, officers rarely made arrests because of a 1999 amendment prohibiting officers from arresting people from reselling tickets at face value. Because of the added stipulation, in effect officers could only make arrests for scalping if they personally witnessed the activity through a sting operation, but enforcing the law through such measures was a low priority. Also, the law only applies to street scalpers, not to brokers or resellers on websites such as Ticketnews.com’s sister site Ticketliquidator.com.
With Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, holding less than 38,000 seats, and with the New England Patriots football team having won three Super Bowls since 2002, tickets in Boston are always a hot commodity. Regular season games between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, or the Red Sox and New York Yankees, can easily fetch several hundred dollars per ticket. According to the Boston Globe newspaper, police only made two ticket-scalping arrests near Fenway in 2005 and four in 2006, one of which was later dismissed.
Adding to the issues surrounding the anti-scalping law is the fact that Ticketmaster charges convenience fees well in excess of the $2 limit on re-sales. For example, tickets for a Boston Bruins hockey game this season bought through Ticketmaster carried fees of $7.20 and $8.45 depending on the face value of the ticket. Standing Room Only tickets of $10 carried fees totaling $3.
At press time, Menino’s office had not responded to a request for additional information on the proposal. Dot Joyce, the mayor’s spokesperson, was quoted in the Boston Herald stressing the plan was about “consumer protection and increasing the quality of life of people who are going to” such events.