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Saturday, September 16, 2000
Organizers warn public of ticket scalpers

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Scalpers are getting a minimum markup of 30 percent on Olympic tickets and authorities have warned visitors to beware of stolen or counterfeit passes.

 If a ticket is not the real deal, they say, the buyer could be left watching the event on TV.

 "The risk the consumer runs is that they won't get in," Olympic ticket spokesman John O'Neill said Sunday (Saturday night EDT). "If tickets are stolen, they may have been replaced by a voucher and the rightful owner will be present at the venue.

 "If they are counterfeit, they won't get in.

 The Sun-Herald newspaper said Sunday that hard-to-get Olympic tickets are being sold by scalpers for at least a 30 percent premium, and that some illegal sellers are risking fines of about $1,200 by plying their trade near two city box offices.

 The newspaper said that teams of sellers from Canada, the United States and Britain are attempting to sell tickets to people tired of waiting for hours at the box office. It said some scalpers had printed business cards carrying their name, mobile phone number and an official-looking Sydney 2000 logo.

 Meanwhile, some city hotels and pubs have been criticized for charging higher prices for drinks in a bid to cash in on Olympic visitors. Other hotels have instituted cover charges for entry to their premises.

 The Paragon Hotel in the popular tourist area of Circular Quay has increased drink prices by 50 cents Australian (about 28 US cents) and may institute a cover charge.

 "We have day prices, night prices and Olympic prices, which will, of course, come down after the Olympics," Paragon manager Kirsty Martin said. "It's only because we're paying our staff extra to work."

 But Carl Doyle, manager at Hotel Sweeney's, said the increase solely for Olympic business is not justified.

 "It's just crazy," he said. "When we won the bid, the hotel industry promised that they wouldn't rip off the people. Now they're getting the tourists, but they're ripping off the locals as well.

 "People are saying it's to cover extra staff, but if we have a successful Olympics, everyone benefits. And locals have long memories."

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