NYC Marathon organizers are sued over lottery to enter race

Thu Jan 21, 2016 6:56pm EST
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The organizers of the New York City Marathon have been sued by two runners who said the use of a lottery to decide who gets to race in the world's largest marathon is illegal.

In a proposed class-action lawsuit filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Utah residents Charles Konopa and Matthew Clark said the nonprofit New York Road Runners Inc violated New York's constitution by operating a lottery because only the state itself can run chance-based lotteries.

The plaintiffs seek $10.56 million of damages, or twice the estimated amount collected from several hundred thousand runners who from 2010 to 2015 paid $11 nonrefundable fees to try to qualify for the marathon.

They also want an injunction against further lotteries until the Road Runners comply with state gaming laws. Both plaintiffs said they paid to enter the marathon lottery and did not win.

Chris Weiller, a Road Runners spokesman, said the $11 fee is charged to everyone who registers for the marathon, including those who are guaranteed entry to the race. "Our entry process for the marathon is compliant with the law," he said.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not respond to requests for comment.

The 26.2-mile (42.2 km) marathon through New York City's five boroughs has been run every year since 1970, except for 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Nearly 99 percent of the 50,235 runners from 125 countries who started the race last Nov. 1 finished, including an 84-year-old woman from the Netherlands.   Continued...

Runners run across the finish line at the 2015 New York City Marathon in New York's Central Park, November 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Segar