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Exploring 'gray area' of ticket law

Jim Holzman is president of Ace Ticket, the largest ticket reseller in Massachusetts, offering tickets to sports, music, and theater events online, by phone, and in person at five office locations in Allston, Brookline, Chelmsford, Framingham, and Saugus. He spoke to reporter Bruce Mohl.

Q: On your website, you were recently selling $23 bleacher seats to the Aug. 18 Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park for $159. How does that comply with the state's antiscalping law, which limits the markup on resold tickets to $2 plus certain service charges?

A: The law is a gray area. The state is looking now at what they should do. We feel the free market should reign. The market will dictate what the prices should be. But there should also be consumer protection. We feel resellers should still be licensed by the state, their sales policy should be posted, and they should have an 800 number, a storefront, and a hefty bond.

Q: The state doesn't enforce the antiscalping law now, but what if that were to change?

A: If they ever took the law and made this illegal, then one of two things would happen. Dozens of small businesses, such as Ace Ticket, would be forced to either go into a black market situation and not pay taxes or be forced over the state line into New Hampshire.

The secondary ticket industry has grown from $500 million to about $5 billion over the last 10 years. The industry is not going to go away. It would be foolish for the state to put hundreds of people out of work and lose millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Q: How did you get into the ticket resale business?

A: In 1982, I was selling tickets on a regular basis to local music shows. I did it part time. I actually ran a chain of shoe stores by day and did the music at night. In 1990, I decided to focus just on tickets.

Q: Where do you get the tickets you resell?

A: The tickets come from me dealing with thousands of individuals, whether it's an individual or a company. People sell me everything from one extra ticket to a full season ticket. The longer you do this, the more people you find with tickets.

Q: Why do you tell your customers to say the tickets were a gift if anyone asks?

A: We've stopped doing that. It was really to protect season ticket holders from any harm that may possibly come their way.

Q: Do you ever get stuck with tickets you can't sell?

A: We get stuck a lot more often than people realize. We try to turn a negative into a positive, and give the tickets away to charities. I hate to see any ticket go to waste. We actually have a policy of giving $100,000 of tickets and money per year to charity.

Q: You resell tickets to most events. Are some riskier than others?

A: There's absolutely risk involved. A year ago in Worcester, we lost five figures on Madonna tickets that had a $350 face value. Right now you need to take a hard look at Barbra Streisand. How many tickets would you buy at $800 to make $100?

Q: When you go online looking for Red Sox tickets there seem to be a lot of them available. Where do they all come from?

A: A lot of times, you'll see the same tickets over and over again on the websites. We sell our own inventory. As a result, when you buy a ticket on our website you're buying a ticket in real time. With many of our competitors' websites, you have to wait 24 to 48 hours before you know you get that ticket.

Q: You paid $11,000 at a charity auction for the gorilla suit that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein wore to elude the press at Fenway Park on Halloween 2005 during a contract dispute with the club. Does it fit?

A: It fits me OK. We actually do plan on using him as Ace the Gorilla, a mascot, and have him giving away items such as envelopes filled with tickets. It's really guerrilla marketing at its finest.

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