A ticket for the Travers Stakes is a hot ticket these days.
Anyone who didn’t already buy admission for the sold-out Travers on Aug. 29 isn’t out of options to get into the big race, but they’re out of inexpensive options.
Even with a nicely orchestrated mystery still surrounding whether Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will be at Saratoga Race Course for what could be a historic race, Internet ticket scalpers are offering general admission and clubhouse tickets for huge multiples of their face value.
The New York Racing Association capped attendance for this year’s Travers at 50,000, a number that could easily have been exceeded if American Pharoah appears. NYRA officials said they made the move for fan comfort and to avoid overcrowding, just as they did when they capped attendance at this year’s Belmont — where Pharoah won his crown — at 90,000.
Travers tickets were sold out as of last Friday, leading to a black market that is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection and a thick wallet. Reserved seating and dining seats are also sold out.
Craigslist on Thursday had nearly 100 listings for Travers tickets for sale, seeking up to $1,600 for reserved table seating at the lower Carousel restaurant. Tickets to get into the clubhouse were listed for $100 each or more, and a Rotterdam seller with five general admission tickets simply sought the best offer. One poster offered to swap a week in Newport, Rhode Island for four “decent” Travers tickets.
The eBay and StubHub websites also had Travers listings, with blocks of Carousel restaurant seats going for $325 each and picnic table seating listed for $175 on StubHub. One set of box seats was being listed there for $8,000.
But is such activity on the Internet as illegal as it would be if the tickets were being scalped on the street just outside the track gates?
It’s murky, Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen acknowledged — though anyone who buys tickets with the specific intention of reselling at a higher price — the classic definition of scalping — appears to be breaking the law.
Those who resell tickets in New York state are supposed to be licensed, but people online selling tickets they purchased for their own private use don’t need the license.
“Individuals who sell tickets on ebay or any other Internet website are not required to be licensed as a ticket reseller if they have purchased the ticket solely for their own use or the use of their invitees, employees and agents or if they have purchased tickets on behalf of others and resell such tickets to others at or less than the established price,” the state New York state Department of State website says.
The websites that host such exchanges aren’t doing anything illegal, according to the Department of State.
Heggen said her office has not prosecuted any cases of ticket scalping recently, though it has in the past. “We rely on the police for the investigation,” she said.
The National Association of Ticket Brokers argues that those who resell tickets are simply following free market principles of supply and demand, and secondary markets for big event tickets should be legal.
NYRA had already recognized that Travers is a special day worth a little more money at Saratoga, raising its general admission charge from $5 to $10 for that day only.
NYRA officials did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Those who are scalping tickets might not want to wait too long. If American Pharoah doesn’t show, their premium prices can only go in one direction, the same one as a stone dropped off a bridge.