Scalper's Lament

To the majority of Minnesotans, the likely repeal of the state's ban on ticket scalping probably seems like a common sense reform. After all, scalping is the classic victimless crime—a simple free market interaction between a seller, who has already paid face value for the ticket, and a buyer, who can choose whether or not to pay the higher freight. Right?

Well, that's how Steve Simon sees it. Simon, who runs a misdemeanor defense clinic at the University of Minnesota Law School, says he and his students typically represent an accused scalper every week during the Twins season. He notes that the courts rarely if ever impose the maximum penalty—$1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. "Usually," he says, "it's just a slap on the wrist."

Because the cops seize the tickets, the scalpers still suffer considerable financial harm. Simon cites the case of one client who had ten tickets seized during the Twins playoff run.

Ironically, freelance scalpers may well be the ones most hurt by legalization, as ticket brokerage companies horn in on their business.

Under current law, Simon notes, a subset of savvy scalpers have been able to ply their trade with little adverse consequence. Their method? "They'll sell you a program for fifty bucks and then give you a free ticket inside it," Simon says. "The police don't bust those people."

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