MASON, Ohio -- Looking for cheap tickets to the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament?
Those ticket scalpers hanging out under yellow tents off Kings Mills Road, near Interstate 71 in Mason, are providing discounted tickets when the market allows it.
Anything sold over face value is done so illegally.
Ohio is one of the select few states that allows local municipalities -- under Ohio Revised Code §715.48(B) -- to regulate “the business of trafficking” entertainment tickets.
Mason allows it, so long as tickets are sold at or under face value -- or unless the individual or business purchased a license from the city of Mason. The license fee of $1,030 makes it possible for tickets to be sold for a profit, but according to Capt. Paul Lindenschmidt, the assistant chief of the Mason police department, no license fees were paid this year.
“So long as they are not selling for a profit and they are not on Lindner Family Tennis Center property or hanging out in the street, they are OK,” Lindenschmidt said.
Visible ticket scalpers are relatively new for the W&S Open, but tournament officials have seen them for at least the past three or four years. At least two tents have been set up in grassy areas outside parking lots nearby, and another independent ticket broker is located at the Marathon gas station.
The Mason Police Department patrols the area and reminds sellers what is allowed and what is not. In the past, plainclothes detectives also have stopped by to check out the activity. Lindenschmidt said his department typically gives rule-breakers a warning first, but some individuals have been cited in the past.
“Our goal is compliance,” Lindenschmidt said. “For the most part, people are following the rules. We can’t police everyone, but we do what we can.”
Jeff McDonald, public relations director for 333seat.com and Riverfront Choice Tickets, said his company, which is a licensed broker with offices Downtown, sets up near the Lindner Family Tennis Center for two reasons. For one thing, it’s convenient for customers who purchase tickets in advance online or over the phone and want to pick them up on their way to the event. Secondly, it allows 333seat to sell tickets to sessions that are less in demand at “a great deal” for the customer last minute.
Ticket brokers such as 333seat base ticket prices on market value, which depends on a number of factors.
“The variability of pricing is dependent on the day of the week, the time of day of the session, the weather, who the opponents are, and that’s just four of, like, 42 pricing variable factors we would have,” said McDonald, who was set up outside the Burger King parking lot on the corner of Kings Mills Road and Beach Boulevard. “We price based on what would be the market.”
McDonald said brokers take a gamble buying tickets to sell for future sessions because if the big-name players lose early, the market price goes down. Selling tickets to a Reds or Bengals game is more straightforward.
Weather is always a question mark when selling tickets to outdoor sporting events. Rain on Monday afternoon gave several passersby a chance to purchase evening session tickets as low as $8, McDonald said.
“Especially on a day like this when it’s raining, fans should have an opportunity to get cheap tickets,” he said. “The excitement for people on a budget to be able to buy tickets to be close to the world’s top tennis players, the little bit of inconvenience of waiting for the courts to dry is not a big deal. People are happy to be able to get in on the cheap.”
Western & Southern Open marketing director Will Sikes said the fact scalpers are setting up nearby is an indication of the high interest tennis and casual sports fans have in attending the tournament.
Some seating areas and sessions are sold out through the tournament website and Ticketmaster partner seller, but there may be some more available through calling the box office, Sikes said. Some tickets are held back for an extra release the morning of that session, and prices can range from $5 earlier in the week to upwards of $80 to $110 for the finals.
“The scalpers I noticed three or four years ago -- which coincidentally was about when we started selling out sessions and when we started selling grounds tickets that get you in, but not to center court,” Sikes said. “It shows how it’s grown.”
“The nature of it is there are tickets still available through us, and buying directly through the tournament is still the best way,” Sikes added. “The secondary market is there for every single event, but to ensure the tickets are good, going through the tournament directly or Ticketmaster, which is our selling partner, is the best way. Those are tickets that are guaranteed and that we back.”