NCAA championship ticket distribution not a lottery

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s ticket-distribution plan for championship games doesn’t constitute a “lottery” under Indiana law, the Indiana Supreme Court decided Thursday. The issue was before the justices as certified questions from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Tom George and others who were unsuccessful in purchasing tickets to the 2009 Division I Men’s Final Four basketball tournament sued the NCAA. George and others had submitted offers to the NCAA to purchase tickets, which included $300 for a pair of tickets and a nonrefundable handling fee of $6 per ticket. Up to 10 offers could be submitted, but only the purchase price of the tickets would be refunded if buyers weren’t chosen. Demand far outweighed supply.

The plaintiffs argued this system constitutes a lottery under Indiana law. U.S. District Judge William Lawrence of the Southern District of Indiana dismissed the suit, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. Later, the same panel of 7th Circuit judges vacated its prior decision and asked the Indiana justices to consider three certified questions. The only question relevant to Thursday’s decision is whether the NCAA’s method of allocating tickets is considered a lottery under state law.

In Tom George, et al. v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, No. 94S00-1010-CQ-544, the justices noted the statute in question – Indiana Code 35-45-5-3 – doesn’t define “lottery,” so they relied on the definition explained in Tinder v. Music Operating Inc., 237 Ind. 33, 142 N.E.2d 610, 614 (1957), and decided that the term means “a scheme for the distribution of prizes by lot or chance among those who provided or promised to provide consideration.”

Writing for the unanimous court, Justice Frank Sullivan cited Lesher v. Baltimore Football Club, 496 N.E.2d 785 (Ind. Ct. App. 1986), in which a similar system was used to allocate tickets to Indianapolis Colts football games once the team relocated from Baltimore. In that case, however, the handling fees were returned if applicants didn’t receive tickets. The state Supreme Court had summarily affirmed the lower court that the ticket-distribution process wasn’t a lottery.

“In cases like this and Lesher, the critical fact is that no market for tickets exists until the event coordinator issues the tickets in the first place, so, as a matter of law, the face value of the tickets equals the fair-market value of the tickets on the primary market,” wrote Justice Sullivan. “The speculative nature of the secondary market makes it an inappropriate consideration in determining the presence of a prize in this case.”

They held it would stretch the definition of “lottery” beyond what the General Assembly intended if the court held that the athletic association’s ticket-distribution plan is a proscribed lottery under I.C. 35-45-5-3.

“We note, however, that our holding would not prevent a prosecutor or plaintiff from attacking a similarly structured scheme that is merely a ruse for a traditional lottery. Barring such a ruse, we conclude that where an event coordinator creates the primary market for event tickets, the fair-market value of the tickets is equal to their face value. In this case, there was no ‘prize’ and hence no ‘lottery’ because at the time applicants submitted to the NCAA their offers to purchase tickets, the market value equaled the face value of the tickets,” wrote the justice.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.