Ticket Scalping NYC: Know Before You Go

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Tonight, I went to see my beloved Detroit Basketball! Pistons at Madison Square Garden. Fresh from a bargaining victory at Yankee Stadium where I procured 4 tickets for $60 when their face value was $95, I was eager to test out the ticket resale market in NYC. As I was approaching MSG, a man asked me if I wanted tickets. I asked how much. He said $150 a piece. I told him how about 3 for $100. He immediately accepted.

In Asia and the Middle East, I’ve learned the art of the deal so well that I believe I can go toe to toe with a certain presidential candidate. The unwritten ethical rule of street hustling calls for a party to go through with the transaction after an offer is extended and is consequently accepted. One can’t renegotiate a new price simply because the selling party was so eager to go through with the transaction. Today, I exercised the exception to this rule: the purchaser can withdraw from the transaction entirely when he reasonably expects that the other party is purporting to commit fraud.

Here, I reasonably believed that the tickets were fake. The game was sold out, tickets were going for $300 on Stubhub, and it’s the holiday tourists [trap] season in New York. I kindly told him no and walked away. As I turned the corner, there were a few police officers surrounding a woman who was crying because she was sold a fake ticket. Around her were other victims who were standing in line waiting to report their misfortune to the police. Around the next corner were too sad young men who were sitting arguing with each other about how they as locals of the City could be taken by an unsavory scalper. (see pic of their fake ticket below) At the same time, I observed some resale transactions where both parties came away happy. The tickets were genuine and the patron was fine paying the premium to enter the Mecca of basketball.

I then came across a family and some strangers who were talking about New York’s scalping laws. “It’s legal to scalp tickets so long as it’s below face value,” one person said. “The best way to make sure it’s real is to have the scalper walk you to the entrance and then give him the money after you get in,” another opined. At this point it was halftime and I knew I wasn’t getting inside. I approached a few of the ticket speculators (the legal designation for scalpers) who had sold real tickets and asked them if what I had seen tonight was normal. Initially, they wouldn’t comment. It was only after I told them I was from Detroit and that I had genuinely wanted to see the Pistons play that they began to answer my questions.

Here’s what they told me: There were indeed more fraudulent tickets than normal sold today because it is the holidays and tourists are all trying to go to MSG. The trick for making sure the tickets are real is to do as the person said above. If you’re in a party of 2 or more, have one person go in and call the other person before paying. That way you can ensure that at least one ticket is real. I thanked them for their time, shouted a solid Detroit Basketball! and took the subway home. But that’s not where the story ends.

As a NY licensed attorney, I wanted to see what the actual law for ticket scalping in NY is. I did some research and came up with this summary:

  • Ticket resellers must be licensed and bonded by the state. Otherwise, they are ticket speculators which is a misdemeanor that carries fines and possible jail time.
  • Regardless of licensure, one can’t resell tickets within 1500 feet of the venue.
  • Regardless of licensure, one must issue a refund if the purchaser can’t go to the event through no fault of his own.

What does this mean to you?

  • Purchasing your ticket through a licensed reseller or through the box office is the only way to ensure they are real.
  • A ticket speculator would have to be pretty nice to walk you to the entrance since he risks receiving a citation.
  • Selling a ticket below face value is still a crime for the seller if done so within 1500 feet of the venue.

In conclusion, buyer beware and may luck be on your side should you choose to go this route. And if you were wondering, the Pistons lost 96-108 but TPOL won again by not falling for the ticket scalping tricksters.

Ticket Scalping NYC
Real
Ticketing Scalping NYC
Fake

For my law nerds, here is my summary of the applicable statutes.

  • 25.01: Legislative Findings: New York enacted the licensing of ticket reseller laws to safeguard the public against fraud, extortion, and similar abuses.
  • 25.07: Ticket Prices: Anyone regardless of whether or not licensed . . . , that resells tickets or facilitates the resale or resale auction of tickets between independent parties by any means, must guarantee to each purchaser of such resold tickets that the person, firm or corporation will provide a full refund of the amount paid by the purchaser . . . the ticket received by the purchaser does not grant the purchaser admission to the event described on the ticket, for reasons that may include, without limitation, that the ticket is counterfeit. This means that the illegal reseller must give you a refund if you can’t get in. (if you can find him)
  • 25.09: Ticket Speculators: 1. Any person who in violation of section 25.13 of this article unlawfully resells or offers to resell or solicits the purchase of any ticket to any place of entertainment shall be guilty of ticket speculation. 2. Any person, firm or corporation which in violation of section 25.13 of this article unlawfully resells, offers to resell, or purchases with the intent to resell five or more tickets to any place of entertainment shall be guilty of aggravated ticket speculation. The name of the crime is ticket speculation. Selling 5+ tickets results in a bigger penalty.
  • 25.11: Resell of Tickets in Buffer Zone:  No one whether licensed or unlicensed shall resell, offer to resell or solicit the resale of any ticket to any place of entertainment having a permanent seating capacity in excess of five thousand persons within one thousand five hundred feet from the physical structure of such place of entertainment. If you’re a licensed reseller or if you are ticket speculator, it is illegal to sell tickets in the vicinity of the arena.
  • 25.13: Licensing of Ticket Resellers: No one shall resell or engage in the business of reselling any tickets to a place of entertainment . . . without having first procured a license. A license is required to resell tickets. This debunks the common held belief that so long as the price is less than face value, the seller is not guilty of ticket speculation.
  • 25.15: Bond: The secretary of state shall require the applicant for a license to file with the application therefore a bond in due form to the people of New York in the penal sum of twenty-five thousand dollars. If you’re wondering if your ticket reseller is legitimate, ask him how much he paid for this bond license? That’ll get a nice reaction. 
  • 25.29: Unlawful Charges in Connection with Tickets: 1. No operator of any place of entertainment, or his or her agent, representative, employee or licensee shall, if a price be charged for admission thereto, exact, demand, accept or receive, directly or indirectly, any premium or price in excess of the established price. Reasonable service charges are allowed.
  • 25.35: Criminal Penalties: Fines and/or  jail.

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