Black market in events tickets is big business

How much is Roger Federer worth? Or for that matter, Madonna, who is to perform in Abu Dhabi? Surely, that’s an answer that could easily throw up a mind-blogging string of numbers, but the intention isn’t to embark on a mathematical expedition, but to focus on how the arrival of these sensations ended up exposing the existence of black market for ticket sales.

It is not encouraged, but the entrepreneurial zeal of ‘resellers’ is widespread, cutting across most popular events that are held in the UAE. The modus operandi is to block a chunk of tickets and then ‘resell’ them close to or even during the event at highly marked up prices – both at the venue and on online fora like Dubizzle and Souq.com.

During the recent Dubai Tennis Open, ticket resellers clogged online bargain sites, and the venue, marking up prices by two- to three-times the original cost. Tickets that were priced at Dh250 (for the semis) and Dh350 (for the finals) were being sold for Dh550 and Dh1,000. “Dubizzle had many offers for tickets, but none that asked for the original price,” reported Indian visitor Omana.

The organisers of the sporting event do not support reselling, with the official online rulebook reading; “Tickets may not be re-sold or transferred by anyone other than the organisers… We reserve the right to cancel any ticket advertised with the intent of reselling for profit or commercial gain”.

The organisers had even attempted to curb such activities by restricting the number of tickets sold to a single buyer, over the counter and online. An employee at TimeOut ticket office confirmed that “only four tickets per online buyer were allowed”. The reality, unfortunately, draws a contrasting picture.

As there is no policing in place, resellers openly mark up the price – at the venue and online.

“Many people approached us with ticket offers, but they all quoted a price higher than the original,” confirmed UK citizen Mohini, who was in Dubai for the Championship, adding, “These people only approached us closer to when the matches were scheduled.”

While she was lucky to find a genuine reseller, who sold at the original price, there were many who weren’t as fortunate. “We were not sure about buying for a higher amount, so we ended up losing tickets to higher bidders."

The modus operandi, undertaken by the defaulters, of varied nationalities, was fairly simple and rehearsed; approach prospective customers, exchange mobile numbers, and negotiate the price over phone before making the final deal, at an obscure corner near the venue.

While the Dubai Tennis Open rulebook states that during “any unauthorised re-sale or transfer, tickets become null and void and the holder will be refused entry or ejected from the venue”, Emirates 24|7, despite efforts, was unable to get any confirmation if any offender was reprimanded, or at least reported.

Now that the sporting event is over, the focus has shifted to the Madonna’s March sold-out concert that’s already buzzing in the black market, with online sales marking Dh250 tickets for Dh750. Even Indo-Canadian comedian Russell Peters’ March show is a huge hit among online resellers, with people selling Dhs350 tickets for Dhs700.

"Although such activities are technically fraudulent, there’s no law in the UAE to mark it illegal," confirmed an official from an events company. “Unfortunately in Dubai, there’s nothing the promoters can do,” she reported, adding, “At a recent music concert, we had to refuse entry to many people who carried counterfeit tickets and this was reported to the cops, stationed at the venue.”

So, unless there’s a law in place, such nefarious activities will continue and go unreported in the UAE.

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