UI suspends football-ticket incentive program


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The University of Iowa announced Wednesday that it has temporarily suspended a recently introduced incentive program aimed at boosting lagging football-ticket sales.

The two-day-old program was suspended after the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals posed questions of legality and logistics to university officials.

The incentive package had offered UI students a chance to win a handful of prizes, including one free year of in-state tuition, gift cards, and free books for one semester in exchange for purchasing 2014 student season tickets.

In a statement provided Wednesday, Athletics Director Gary Barta said the department learned of concerns related to the new football promotion.

“I have suspended the promotion temporarily as we determine how to make sure that this promotion is in complete compliance,” he said in the statement. “In the end, our goal is to do everything possible to make sure that that the student experience at Hawkeye football games is as fun and exciting as possible.”

On Tuesday, university officials unveiled the new measure to push the more than 3,000 tickets that were still for sale. The Athletics Department wanted to keep student submissions open until Friday, when tickets would be available to the public.

Historically, the department has held 10,000 tickets for students. Last year, only 7,300 student tickets were sold.

David Werning, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, told the DI Wednesday that although the university does hold a license to hold gambling contests, the individual process in which UI officials went about the incentive program raises some questions.

“The actual workings of this particular raffle creates some concerns for the department, and we have some questions [as to] whether or not some of those requirements are being met,” he said.

While unique, Werning said the individual prizes — including the free year of in-state tuition and $1,000 Hy-Vee gift cards — aren’t the issue and aren’t illegal to offer.

To attend this year’s seven home games, students would have to shell out $175, or $163 if belonging to the Students Today Alumni Tomorrow organization. For six home games excluding the Iowa-Nebraska game, student packages are $150, or $140 with Students Today membership. In turn, those varying ticket prices do not create a level playing field for all students, Werning said.

Because it is illegal in Iowa to gamble on credit, Werning said, the UI could face logistical concerns in terms of payment, and officials may have had to face ticket holders arriving to the ticket office with only cash on-hand.

“We’re not saying it’s illegal as such, we would just like to know more about it before we make a determination,” he said.

Additionally, UI officials never specified whether participants would have to be present in person in order to claim their prizes, he said.

Finally, Werning said, under Iowa law, organizations cannot require participants to be present to win.

Organizations, including colleges and universities, should contact the state agency when introducing new raffle ideas. However, Werning said, the UI has yet to reach out to his department.

“This whole thing that has transpired very, very quickly,” he said. “Our hope is the university, they know we are concerned, and that they will get a hold of us.”

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