With the Super Bowl having just ended and the Summer Olympics only five months away, ticket fraud is a major concern both at home and abroad. Within the United States, ticket scalping remains a controversial issue that states have tackled to varying degrees. In Massachusetts and New York, resold tickets cannot cost more than $2 higher than face value. In North Carolina, venues can now block online resale once they notify the secretary of state and pay a mandatory fee.
New York experienced a prolonged debate in May 2010 when the state’s 2007 scalping law expired. The law, signed under then-Governor Eliot Spitzer, did away with price caps and permitted fans to resell tickets to sports games without fear of their tickets being revoked.
NY Governor Paterson allowed the bill to expire and resurrected tougher 1920s legislation. StubHub backed a new provision that gave buyers access to paper tickets, despite protests from the online ticket seller and distributor Ticketmaster. StubHub is owned by eBay and is the largest player in the online secondary ticket market.
StubHub is a major financier of the Fan Freedom Project, which aims to give consumers wider discretion over ticket resale. Opposing the Fan Freedom Project is the Fans First Coalition, which Live Nation Entertainment, Ticketmaster’s parent company, established in July 2011. On its Web site, the Fans First Coalition criticizes scalpers who engage in unfair ticket sales. “Scalpers, while not representative of the majority of ticket buyers, routinely attempt to purchase as many of the best seats as possible the second they go on sale (often using bot software) for the sole purpose of reselling them to make a profit,” the site states.
Ticket fraud has plagued American football fans this past season. Police discovered over 25 cases of counterfeit tickets at two of the Green Bay Packer’s home games at Lambeau Field in December 2011. Indianapolis-based Sports Events LLC reported a $80,000 loss after a consumer in California paid using fraudulent checks. The bank notified the company about the checks only after Sports Events LLC had mailed the tickets to the buyer. Also in Indianapolis, a Craigslist scam robbed a woman of $2,000, which she paid for three Super Bowl tickets. Iowa’s KTIV-TV reports that the state Attorney General’s Office is investigating complaints that a Boyden woman, Ranae Van Roekel, failed to mail Super Bowl tickets to buyers.
On February 7, Art Schlicter, a former Ohio State player and quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills, will be sentenced to a likely 10-year prison term for 13 counts of ticket fraud. According to ESPN, Schlichter never provided Ohio State and NFL tickets for which he received payment. As part of his agreement with authorities, Schlichter will have to pay $800,000 to his victims.
Concerns about ticket fraud extend to the United Kingdom, where authorities are cracking down ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games. London’s Metropolitan Police have created a special crime division called Operation Podium. The Metropolitan Police’s Web site lists the division’s responsibilities, which are principally “proactively investigating and dealing with a range of crime from money laundering and fraud to organized ticket crime, across a range of industries and major events.” The site calls the Olympics “an attractive target for those organized criminal networks who seek to exploit the economy of these major events, operating scams and frauds preying on the public’s keenness to be involved.”
So far, Operation Podium has arrested 97 individuals for crimes including but not limited to illegal ticket resale for the Olympic Games. Two people were arrested for reselling soccer tickets at a UK stadium. The Metropolitan Police have also targeted encampments associated with Britain’s U.S.-inspired Occupy movement.
In 2006, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, which placed a £5,000 fine on illegal resale. On February 14, that fine will increase to £20,000, the approximate equivalent of $32,000 (USD). Resale is permitted as of January 6, but only at face value through the official website, which is operated by Ticketmaster.