NYC Marathon organisers settle entrance ‘lottery’ lawsuit

New York Road Runners Inc., which organises the New York City Marathon, has settled a court case that alleged that its ‘lottery’ system used to decide who is able to participate in the race was illegal.

In January, Utah residents Charles Konopa and Matthew Clark submitted the class-action lawsuit in the US District Court in Manhattan. The runners claimed Road Runners violated New York’s constitution by operating a lottery. Only the state is allowed to run chance-based lotteries in New York.

Konopa and Clark were seeking more than $10m (€8.9m) in damages, a figure twice the estimated amount collected from the hundreds of thousands of runners who took part in the marathon between 2010 and 2015. Runners paid non-refundable $11 fees to try to qualify for the marathon.

The plaintiffs also asked for an injunction against further lotteries until Road Runners complied with state law. Road Runners insisted the entry process was already legal.

As part of the settlement, the Reuters news agency said Road Runners has agreed to provide $2.1m of credits on entry fees to future marathons, and any other race it sponsors, to runners who entered the New York City Marathon or Half Marathon between 2010 and 2015. The credits range from $1.25 to $11.

Reuters’ report, citing papers filed to the US District Court in Manhattan, added that Road Runners has agreed not to charge a fee for entering so-called lotteries to run in its races for three years, or to instead apply for a state lottery license. Settlement papers showed that such a license is currently valued at around $3.1m. The papers are subject to court approval.

In addition, Road Runners will donate $100,000 to the New York City Parks Foundation and pay up to $670,000 in legal fees and additional costs to Konopa’s and Clark’s lawyers.

Road Runners, a non-profit organisation, denied any wrongdoing. “We have entered into a settlement agreement on matters related to our race entry drawing to the satisfaction of all the parties,” company spokesman Chris Weiller said.

The New York City Marathon is one of the six World Marathon Majors alongside Boston, Chicago, Berlin, London and Tokyo. This year’s race will be held on November 6.