Originally created 03/09/02

Ticket scalping law adds distance to sales boundary



Ticket scalpers - by virtue of a state law passed last year - will be permitted to hawk badges for this year's Masters Tournament outside the Washington Road venue.

But on Wednesday, city officials will consider a request to beef up the Georgia law with a local ordinance. If the ordinance is approved by the Augusta Commission later this month, reselling tickets to get inside the Augusta National Golf Club will still be legal, but won't be allowed within a half-mile of the course.

"It's going to make it easier on us because we won't have all the people congregating out there," said Col. Gary Powell of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

Although ticket scalping was legalized last year, state law still prohibits the resale of tickets within 1,500 feet of an event entrance. The sheriff's office is asking Augusta commissioners to extend that distance and create about a half-mile buffer zone where ticket scalping is illegal.

The state law allows municipalities to make the distance requirement more restrictive - up to 2,700 feet for athletic contests that happen once a year and span 10 days or less.

The city attorney will bring that request before the Augusta Commission's Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.

While the law has changed, the Augusta National has not softened its stance on ticket scalping - it's forbidden. According to club literature, the Augusta National is the only authorized source for Masters tickets, and scalping is a violation of the ticket sales agreement, subject to denial of admission and prosecution.

But the policy hasn't stopped scalpers from frequenting Augusta's sidewalks.

Richmond County Sheriff's Office deputies, who have gone undercover to catch ticket scalpers in the past, this year will be enforcing the new distance requirements, Col. Powell said.

Not only will the increased distance discourage people from trying to buy scalped tickets, sheriff's officials say, it also is expected to reduce foot traffic on some of the busiest sidewalks surrounding the National.

The new state law does not place any price restrictions on scalped tickets, as long as they are being sold by a licensed ticket broker or original ticket holder, Col. Powell said.

Violation of the ordinance is considered a misdemeanor.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.