Issuing the first theatre-related fine in his years-long investigation of ticket scalping, New York State Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco has levied a $25,000 judgement against the Shubert Organization. The theatre owning giant was cited for failure to register a list of its ticket sellers.
The registration law has been on the books since 1965. "Ticket distributor registration enables us to know which ticket sellers are working in what venues, and to keep track of them if they switch jobs to another box office," said Vacco in a statement.
David Corvette, a spokesman for Vacco's office, said registration lists must include all people who "have a controlling access" to tickets, such as box office employees, supervisors and managers. The Shuberts did not file lists of their box office employees from Oct. 23, 1995 to Apr. 7, 1997, according to Vacco.
The Shuberts have agreed to pay the $25,000 fine. In a statement, the organization said "On Sept. 8, 1999, the Shubert Organization entered into an agreement of voluntary compliance with the New York State Attorney General and resolved issues resulting from the late or non-filing of ticket distribution forms identifying ticket selling personnel and changes of such personal and agreed to pay cost of $25,000.
"Promptly upon learning of the unintentional omissions, Shubert made the required filing and in the settlement confirmed its agreement in the future to make timely filings consistent with Shubert's commitment to strictly complying to all laws and regulations applicable to theatre operations and ticket vendors."
At this time, no other fines connected with the state's investigation have been made against theatre owners or producers. Corvette said no fines had been imposed on the Nederlander Organization or the Jujamcyn Theatres, Broadway's other two large theatre owners. He did not, however, rule out the possibility of fines in the future. Also, no theatre businesses or organizations have yet been accused of taking part in ticket scalping -- the primary focus of the inquiry. The New York State Attorney General's investigation into alleged corruption in the sale of tickets to sports, concert events and theatre is expected conclude sometime this fall, possibly within two months, said Corvette. The State is looking into box office scams, in particular a form of abuse called "ice," in which box office personnel sell tickets to scalpers at exorbitant prices. Those jacked-up fees are then shouldered by the public.
The New York Times reported that Joseph Nekola, former manager of the Jones Beach Theater, a concert venue, pleaded guilty to stealing more than 8,000 tickets; and the owners of Tickets on Request, a Manhattan-based company, were charged with hiking prices on tickets to sporting events and concerts. The U.S. Open was hit with a $40,000 fine for failing to register its lists of ticket sellers.
The news coincides with a recent report in the New York Post that six staffers (four ushers and two bartenders) were dismissed from Cats last month for charging tourists up to $20 for Playbills and doubling the prices of drinks at the Shubert-owned Winter Garden Theatre.
-- By Robert Simonson