06/06/2012 3:13PM

Belmont Stakes tickets get big markup online


If you thought tickets were sold out for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, as has been reported, you’d be right. You’d also be so far behind the times you’re planning on taking a carriage to the race.

Though 21,500 reserved-seat tickets for the Belmont officially sold out weeks ago, plenty of tickets are available for purchase on internet sites, though the vast majority of those tickets are being offered for premiums that run from the merely ridiculous to the ridiculously unconscionable.

On Wednesday afternoon, scalpers on StubHub, the internet’s dominant ticket-reselling site, were offering 1,350 tickets for reserved seats for this year’s Belmont. Ambitious resellers – or shameless exploiters, depending on your point of view – were offering another 1,000 tickets on the site for general admission at premiums that were in some cases 25 times the $10 price of walk-up grandstand tickets, which, for all intents and purposes, are unlimited. You also can buy clubhouse walk-up tickets on Saturday for $20.

According to Dan Silver, a spokesman for NYRA, approximately 15,500 of the available seats for the Belmont were sold through NYRA and Ticketmaster prior to the Preakness Stakes on May 19. Another 2,250 seats were sold in the 24 hours after I’ll Have Another won the second leg of the Triple Crown through NYRA. Then, on Monday, May 21, the association offered another 3,000 tickets on Ticketmaster, and those sold out in less than five minutes, with the vast majority presumably sold to ticket resellers. Another 750 were offered later in the week to Belmont’s ontrack customers.

[BELMONT STAKES: Past performances, video updates, contender profiles, odds]

When the tickets were sold, NYRA was charging $20 to $65 for seats in the grandstand. On StubHub on Wednesday, those same tickets were being offered at prices from $86 to $625, depending on proximity to the finish line. NYRA sold preferred seats in the grandstand for $65 to $120; sellers on StubHub on Wednesday were offering those tickets from $199 to $2,250. In the clubhouse, tickets that sold for $50 to $120 through NYRA were being offered by StubHub sellers for $225 to $1,500.

Of course, those prices are being listed by sellers who are hoping to get the highest possible price under the tried-and-true early-adopter pricing model, usually by extracting an additional degree of premium from impatient, unsophisticated, or carefree buyers. Relief, however, could be on the way for the budget-conscious.

In many cases for events in which walk-up tickets are widely available, such as the Belmont, prices on StubHub drop dramatically as the time for the event approaches and sellers get anxious to unload inventory. Of course, it could go the other way if eager buyers snatch up tickets in the next couple of days, leading to sellers bumping up the prices for the seats that remain. During Wednesday, selling did not appear to be particularly brisk.

Ticket reselling in New York was once legally restricted to $5 above the ticket’s face value, at least to buyers who resided in New York, but the state legislature erased those restrictions over the past decade as the growth of online auction resellers such as eBay and StubHub dramatically changed the market. Now, there’s no limit but what the market will bear.

Also, for the first time this year, NYRA is offering general-admission tickets through Ticketmaster, though those tickets carry a $1.75 fee, bringing the price up to $11.75. That’s still a bargain over the offerings on StubHub: the cheapest general-admission ticket being offered Wednesday was $16 – not counting a $4.95 per ticket fee.