Playoffs, but at a price
It's a sellers' market: Hundreds of Bucs tickets are available - for hundreds - and brokers skirt scalping laws.
By CHRIS TISCH
Published January 4, 2006
Feeling bummed after Bucs playoff tickets sold out in 20 minutes Tuesday, leaving you empty-handed?
Cheer up. You can still get a seat in Raymond James Stadium for Saturday's playoff game against the Washington Redskins. You'll just have to scan the Internet, fork out quite a bit more cash and acknowledge that you might be buying tickets from someone selling them illegally.
Hundreds of tickets were available Tuesday. Online brokers had tickets ranging from $150 nose-bleeds to $40,000 luxury suites for 20 people.
It's illegal in Florida to sell tickets for more than $1 over their face value. The face value of tickets for Saturday's game range from $67 to $345.
Ticket prices were running about twice the face value on several broker sites.
"That's actually a reasonable price for a playoff game," said Danny Matta, president of Greatseats.com, based in Maryland. "The prices are really set by the market."
Matta said he hadn't sold any Bucs tickets in Florida, but had sold some in the Washington, D.C., area. Even if he had sold tickets in Florida, Matta said, he was doing so legally because he has a license.
Not so, said Sgt. Bill Todd, a Tampa police supervisor at Raymond James Stadium. He said if either the buyer or seller is in Florida at the time of the transaction, the broker cannot sell tickets for more than $1 over face value.
"Absolutely, they're breaking the law," Todd said. "It doesn't make it any more legal if they're doing it over the Internet."
The only exception is if the tickets were bought directly from the NFL in bulk and sold as part of a travel package, Todd said.
Brokers can offer any number of things in their package - a ride to the game, a cocktail party, a souvenir cap - to comply with the law, said Terence McElroy, a spokesman for the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
"That is not illegal. All bets are off because that becomes part of the package," McElroy said.
Ticket scalping is a misdemeanor. Offenders are most often arrested outside stadiums selling tickets to walk-ups.
Todd said law enforcement could pursue Internet sellers as well, though authorities would have to determine whether it's worth the time and money to pursue a misdemeanor charge against someone out of state.
"To go out of state and extradite someone for a misdemeanor isn't always feasible, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen," he said.
Matta said most of the tickets on his site are sold by clients who also have their tickets for sale on other broker Web sites. He sees nothing wrong with demand setting the price.
"You're buying and selling a product. It's the American way," he said. Some brokers state on their Web sites that they are selling above face value. At 6 p.m., Tuesday, more than 450 tickets also were on sale on eBay.
Hani Durzy, an eBay spokesman, said the company reminds sellers and buyers of the ticket laws in their state. But he says it is the seller's responsibility to follow the law. Should the police suspect an eBay user is scalping and ask for the company's help, they will cooperate by handing over information that is essentially a paper trail, Durzy said.
Durzy said the company believes generally that there shouldn't be restrictions on individuals selling tickets.
"It opens up the market to people other than ticket brokers," he said.