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Ads for NHL ticket sales reappear on websites

HOCKEY fans may be scratching their heads about Manitoba's laws against scalping tickets.

As of Thursday, there were still online postings offering thousands of dollars over face value for access to tickets to Winnipeg's new National Hockey League team.

NHL fan Andrew Giesbrecht fears strict enforcement of anti-scalping laws will stymie fans.


JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS NHL fan Andrew Giesbrecht fears strict enforcement of anti-scalping laws will stymie fans.

However, Philip Watts, a lawyer with Pitblado LLP, said it's illegal for a Manitoban to sell a ticket for more than its face value to another Manitoban, even if it's using an out-of-province website.

"Regardless of where the website is, the action and transaction is taking place in Manitoba, so the Manitoban in the province is selling it here above face value and the actual location of the server wouldn't change that," said Watts.

Scalping is illegal under the province's Amusements Act, which prohibits the sale, barter or exchange of tickets for amounts greater than what was paid. The penalty for people caught violating the act is $5,000.

Watts said the existence of the law doesn't mean enforcing it would be easy.

"If someone is in the Bahamas, setting up their website and doing this, it'd be pretty difficult for Manitoba authorities to try to bring them here and prosecute them for a $5,000 fine," he said.

Police have not received any complaints about scalped tickets but said they will monitor the Internet.

"I don't believe we're involved in any investigations regarding any scalping or anybody that's been defrauded or any thefts, because quite simply, right now, nobody has any tickets," said Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen. "Tickets have not been distributed. People have only put down a deposit for the right to purchase tickets."

Christian Jasserand, head of customer support at Toronto-based Kijiji Canada, said it began monitoring ads for season-ticket sales to the new team's games as soon as ads popped up on its website.

Jasserand verified his company was not approached by True North Sports & Entertainment to take down any of its ads.

"However, at Kijiji we want to protect our users against bad experiences," he said. "We do monitor (Kijiji) for fraudulent ads 24 hours a day."

The ads offering season tickets that appeared on sites such as Kijiji, eBay and Craigslist last Saturday were pulled by Wednesday. "We've been paying attention very closely because even though the majority of Kijiji posters are good users, there could be some unsavoury characters," said Jasserand.

Kijiji knows scalping is illegal in Manitoba so they have a method of dealing with scalpers, Jasserand added.

"When we remove an ad it is because we think it is fraudulent or clearly blatantly illegal," he said.

"It tarnishes our reputation, but more importantly it would be a terrible experience for a person. They would be the victim of a fraud," said Jasserand who added Kijiji co-operates fully with police.

"In many cases police have caught people based on information forwarded by us," he said. "We want to keep Kijiji a good, safe site."

Andrew Giesbrecht, a 25-year-old NHL hockey fan, said he's concerned strict enforcement of the Amusements Act could hurt legitimate hockey fans who want to make it to a game.

"Someone who bought season tickets may want to sell a ticket or two but if they can't make even a little bit of profit, they may hold onto it and just go to the game, which would shaft a lot of us who don't have the funds necessarily to pony up for a season-ticket package," said Giesbrecht.

-- with files from Kevin Rollason

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 10, 2011 A6

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