It's time to ticket parasitic scalpers for expulsion

John Steadman

July 16, 1993|By John Steadman

Somewhere in the Free State of Maryland, there has to be an elected official wanting to step to the plate to protect the interests of all men and women by making a proposal that will shut down ticket scalping.

It's unfortunate Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who also helped write the Maryland Constitution, had to die in 1852. You just know if he could still be with us he'd come to the aid of his fellow citizens.

Ticket scalping is out of control. What's happening at Baltimore Orioles games is a disgrace. The All-Star Game became a form of street prostitution. Some tickets were selling as high as a $1,000 for a pair.

A person selling a ticket for above the regulation price is a disgrace to himself, his family and society. They should be arrested and given the strongest fines a judge can impose.

Why should anyone be permitted to boost the cost of tickets to make a profit? It's taking advantage of a desperate situation. Larry Lucchino, the Orioles president, has a pained expression when the subject of ticket scalping is broached. "It's just terrible," he says. "I'm opposed to it in the strongest of terms."

The popularity of the Orioles has a downside when it comes to scalping. The ticket resellers are in business because the team is drawing capacity. Watching them play is an entertainment experience. It's also the condition that enables speculators to charge customers shut out at the club's ticket windows an exorbitant premium to watch the Orioles.

There are rules on the books in Baltimore to control the practice, but they exclude brokers and agencies. They need to be put out of business. Then it would be on a strictly first-come basis and ordinary fans would have an equal chance.

Outside the city limits of Baltimore, the ticket scalpers have free reign. This is a hole in the law that should be plugged by the state legislature. It should not accept some lame excuse as a reason for not having a regulatory system in place. The Orioles are innocent victims when outside sources buy tickets and then are able to boost the asking price.

At a previous Super Bowl, we had tickets a friend couldn't use. We then sold them to Mike Barnes, a tackle for the Baltimore Colts. He was astounded after he asked us what we wanted and was told "the face value." It isn't that we are any paragon of virtue, far from it, but selling tickets above the printed cost is blatant abuse of the free enterprise system.

It's a holdup, the same as selling ration coupons during wartime. What kind of a no-account would want to make any part of a living that way? Last night, we called the city Police Department, the desk at Western District and talked with officer John Rybarczyk while in quest of information on ticket scalping.

Officer Rybarczyk provided confirmation that only Baltimore City finds scalping illegal. He couldn't find anything written in Maryland law or country restrictions governing the situation. In other words, outside the city the sky's the limit.

County administrations and the Attorney General, helping to advise the legislature, should deal a knockout punch to scalpers and agencies charging in excess of the prices printed on tickets. Here's the Baltimore City Code, article 199, section 1998, which deals with the matter:

"It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, association or corporation to sell or exchange, or to offer to sell or exchange, for more than the price stated thereon or for remuneration in any form greater than such price, any ticket or tickets for admission to a public amusement, athletic, educational or other events in Baltimore.

"A violation of the provision of this section shall be deemed a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof, shall be subject to a fine not less than $5 and not more than $500; and this sale or exchange of, or offer to sell or exchange, each ticket in violation of this provisions of this section shall be treated as a separate offense."

Then comes the escape clause for brokers, a final paragraph that reads: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to make illegal or invalidate the excess sum which is permitted to be charged for certain tickets by a person engaged in the business of selling tickets under the provisions of section 24, article 15 of this code."

It's time to make war on ticket scalping in Maryland. Write laws that close them down for now and ever more. The public deserves to be protected from such parasites.

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