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Reselling tickets is big business

By TERRY TOMALIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001


TAMPA -- The man called Moose moves through the lobby of the luxury hotel and nods to his colleagues, one by one.

"Those two are from Carolina, he's from Hawaii and that guy over there, he flew in from Texas," Moose says, pointing to the familiar faces. "All the hustlers are in town for the Super Bowl."

State law prohibits selling tickets to anything -- be it a Devils Ray game, a Barry Manilow concert or a local rodeo -- for more than a dollar over face value. Ticket scalpers such as Moose make a good part of their livings "buying under, selling under."

"You get a $45 Lighting ticket for $10 and sell it for $15," said Moose, who agreed to speak only on the condition that his name be withheld. "But for an event like this, the price just goes up and up."

Moose broke into the business back in '91, when the Giants and Bills squared off at the Big Sombrero. The highest price a scalped ticket to Super Bowl XXV brought was $800. But 10 years later, people are paying three times that.

"I don't like to get into specifics," Moose says. "When it comes to tickets, it all comes down to how bad somebody wants one."

You won't see Moose standing on the corner waving tickets on game day. He spends his days working hotel lobbies, bars and the clubhouses at golf courses, his mobile phone constantly at his side.

"Whatta you got buddy?" he asks a caller.

"Not interested," he says and hangs up unceremoniously.

Moose works all the big events. He spent the month of September in Sydney selling Olympic tickets.

"They didn't have a law against it, but if they caught you selling on (Olympic) property, they deported you," says the 36-year-old Tampa resident. "It was a real war zone."

Two years before that, he hustled tickets at the World Cup in France. When Cameroon played, he couldn't give away tickets. But when Japan hit the field, seats sold for $1,500 a piece.

But profit doesn't come without risk.

"They arrested me seven times," he confesses. "I am still getting summonses, so it doesn't look like I'll be going back to France any time soon."

The hottest ticket Moose has seen hasn't been to a Super Bowl, title fight or even the Final Four, but a golf game. The last Masters brought the top price, with scalped tickets going as high as $10,000.

If you don't have a ticket for Super Bowl XXXV, don't expect to get one anywhere near the face value of $325, or $400, because the market has gone through the roof.

Fans who bought tickets weeks ago might have been lucky enough to find a "get in" seat for $800. Today, the same seat will cost double that.

"This could be a repeat of San Diego," he says. "That game was drastically oversold. At the last minute all those corporations that had promised tickets to clients were looking for seats. The people have deep pockets."

Moose will spend the remaining time until game day working with licensed ticket brokers and fielding calls generated from the dozens of newspaper ads he has taken out looking for tickets.

"No, I'm not selling," he tells a caller abruptly.

He hangs up. "The cops call me once a day. I always know when it is them."

Moose says he knows all the local undercover detectives and gives them wide berth. He has run afoul of the police in Orlando and Jacksonville.

Some cities, he says, including Miami and New Orleans, are notorious among scalpers as places where they arrest first and ask questions later.

"The police here are fair and they play by the rules," he adds. "They won't make something up just to throw you out. They know the law and they are good at what they do. That's all you can ask for."

Then the phone rings again.

"Whatta you got?" he asks. "Four seats? Be there in 20 minutes ... "

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