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Scalping innovations nothing new for police

Creativity is key in scalpers’ efforts to bypass the Florida law forbidding reselling of tickets for more than $1 above face value.

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Kim Lloyd from Winston-Salem, N.C., attempts to buy Super Bowl tickets Friday on Dale Mabry Highway, south of the stadium.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


TAMPA -- For the scalper-hunters who patrol sports stadiums, where Beanie Babies can cost $350 and $1,000 "entertainment packages" might consist of a photocopied restaurant list, the ruses are well-known.

Since Florida law forbids the reselling of tickets for more than $1 above face value, people looking to profit on Super Bowl XXXV seats are expected to employ a favorite tactic to circumvent the statute -- charging extravagant prices for prosaic items while throwing in game tickets.

"People are very innovative," said Capt. Jane Castor of the Tampa Police Department's criminal intelligence bureau. "Sometimes it's comical, and sometimes it's effective."

At Super Bowl XXXV, face value is $325 for most seats, and $400 for club seats. Dozens of police will be working around the stadium on game day, some of them cracking down on unlicensed merchandise, and some posing as ticket-buyers to catch scalpers.

"We hope we have more officers than scalpers," Castor said.

While police anticipate scalpers at the Super Bowl, the magnitude of the event doesn't necessarily mean a corresponding rise in illegal ticket-peddling over a normal Bucs game.

The supply of tickets available to scalpers, for instance, will likely be smaller than at a regular football game, since tickets cannot be bought in blocks for the Super Bowl, and since the glamour of the big game will prevent many ticket-holders from trying to sell them.

Some scalpers do it for a living, roaming from state to state, stadium to stadium, seeking concerts and sporting events. They often work in groups.

"We have a data base of professional scalpers," Castor said, though she would not reveal any names. "We have several names of individuals we've identified as professional scalpers that we have arrested in the past."

Jim Steeg, the NFL's vice president of special events, said scalpers will control an expected 10 percent to 12 percent of the 71,000 Super Bowl XXXV seats. In that number, he includes seats bought from ticket brokers, legal in some other states.

Steeg said the NFL will reserve seats for people who report their tickets stolen. If you buy such a ticket from a scalper outside the stadium, even unknowingly, you may be out of luck.

"You pay $1,700 for a ticket, and you may wind up watching it on the street," Steeg said.

Tampa police Detective Bill Todd, who enforces scalping and counterfeiting laws around the stadium, said Super Bowl XXXV tickets have a hologram that will make it difficult for people to counterfeit them. But he expects fake press passes might be for sale.

"(Buyers) are going to spend $200 for one of those things, they're going to walk in, and we're going to throw them out," Todd said. "You'd be surprised at the people that seek that opportunity. They may not be aware it's fake."

Todd said scalped tickets probably will average about $1,000 over face value.

Despite what some may think, Todd said the only legal way to sell tickets as part of a larger package is through licensed travel agents who acquire them directly from the NFL. In a Bucs game in December, Todd said, police arrested two people for packaging tickets as part of a tailgate party.

Scalping is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.

"We all know what they're doing, and the judges aren't stupid either," Todd said. "Let the buyer beware."

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