America’s pastime is back in Tampa Bay! There is just something special about baseball in April. To me, it marks the official start of summer. Don’t get me wrong, the other quality sports teams in Tampa are great to watch. The Buc’s are rebuilding, and didn’t the Tampa Bay Lightning recently have a player set some type of an all-time NHL record against the Winnipeg Jets?
One thing that any Tampa Bay Rays fan knows is that our team struggles from a lack of ticket sales. Some blame it on Tropicana Field itself. Others blame it on the location of the field in St. Petersburg. One thing I think we can all agree on is that the quality of the product on the field is one of the best in Major League Baseball.
I was really happy to learn that the first two games of the season were sold out. Since I am an optimist, I believe that Rays’ tickets will be hard to come by as the season progresses and in the World Series against the Colorado Rockies in the fall. This article empowers you on the law and practical tips to protect you from illegal ticket resellers (or sometimes endearingly referred to as scalpers).
Florida Law Section 817.36, Florida Statutes, governs the resale of tickets to a wide variety of events including sporting events, theatre, cruises, multi-day events, and recreational activities, to name a few. In general, Florida law only allows a person or company to resell a ticket for $1 over the amount charged by the original issuer. If there is a $35 ticket, the reseller can only sell you the ticket for $36. There are two notable exceptions (and an additional one for charity events that is beyond this article).
First, travel agencies are exempt from the ticket resale limits for passage or accommodations on any common carrier in Florida. The exception is specifically limited to common carriers. The statute seems to suggest that your local travel agent can make a reasonable profit on airline tickets, but they cannot raise the price of the Rays/Red Sox game beyond $1. I am not sure how a full package deal would work where the travel agent sells airline, hotel, and tickets as well.
The second exception applies to Internet websites that are authorized by the original seller to resell the tickets. For example, if you try to buy Rays tickets from the official Rays website, you are directed to a Ticketmaster site. Ticketmaster is not limited to profiting $1.
I also thought that StubHub would fall under this exception. StubHub is a forum for private buyers and sellers to reach an agreement for the resale of tickets. In fact, the User Agreement specifically requires the buyer and seller to comply with Federal, State, and local laws regarding ticket resale. While StubHub seems to have an official endorsement from Major League Baseball, I doubt it is an actual authorized reselling entity. In fact, the Rays specifically remind StubHub resellers to comply with all State and Federal laws.
An officially authorized reseller must also post certain notices that essentially guaranty your admission to the event. They must, for example, guaranty that you will not be charged if the event is cancelled or if you are denied admission because the ticket is not valid.
Simply stated: Look at the actual cost of the ticket before you buy. In Florida, an Internet reseller or scalper at a game cannot sell you a $35 ticket for $100. If you are in the business of selling tickets at a big profit and your first name is not “Ticket” and your last is not “Master,” you are engaging in illegal activity.
St. Petersburg City Ordinance
Section 20-81, St. Petersburg City Code, places further restrictions on the sale of tickets before Rays’ games. The City Code essentially creates an “area of impact” surrounding Tropicana Field and other locations. The Code says one cannot sell any merchandise or food on public streets or sidewalks without a valid permit. Interestingly, however, the Code does not specifically state that a private person cannot sell tickets in the public locations.
The Code then continues by preventing the sale of tickets (the word used expressly this time) “on private yards and parking lots open to public access.” I interpret this language to mean that I can stand on a street corner and sell my tickets for $1 profit, but I cannot go into the parking area during pre-game tailgate events to get my $1 profit. This distinction actually does make sense. Notably, the Tampa Bay Times Forum has a similar policy.
I will be perfectly honest: If the Rays and the Rockies actually did play a game seven at Tropicana field, I would spend three months’ salary to get a ticket. I would find a way to do it legally, but it would get done. Perhaps parents can relate when their daughter wants tickets to the Hannah Montana concert that was sold out five minutes before public sales started.
The law is intended to protect consumers from overly zealous profiting by shady resellers. Obviously your best bet is to purchase your tickets directly from the box office or TicketMaster. StubHub provides guaranteed validity of the tickets you buy, but there seems to be very little enforcement of the $1 profit rule. If you are going to buy tickets outside of the field or other online sources, you can run into many problems. There are a lot of stories about forged tickets, duplicate tickets, and price gouging. By the time you get to the gate, and your entrance is denied, the reseller has gone home with your scalp in their pocket. If you have no other choice, ask a passerby if you can look at his or her tickets to see if they are similar in quality and appearance.
The bottom line, however, is that you need to buy those tickets to the Rays! Welcome back Rays, and here is to a good season with valid ticket holders in abundance.