Sad as it is to say, scammers may have struck yet another devastating blow to the Minecraft community. Minecraft convention scams are, for whatever reason, fairly common – four have occurred relatively recently including MineORama, the latest one, which was originally planned to take place in New York City.
The previous three scam conventions were:
MOTM – Meeting of the Minds, supposed to be held in Florida.
MOTM – Yes, a second one; this one was meant to be held in New York, and was oddly enough still being populated by presale tickets while legal concerns were being raised in Florida.
Mineapalooza – The only convention that refunded money to those who purchased tickets, so perhaps not a qualifier for the category of “scam”
MineORama – What Could Have Been
Before getting into the specifics of the potential scam, let us review what was promised by the “organizers” of this ghostly convention.
Firstly, it was meant to be held in early July, with its cancellation notice coming a mere five days prior to its first day. The convention was to last for two days and cost $150 per person, with an option $50 ticket for access to a LAN party to wind down the events of the day that would last all night.
MineORama was actually meant at first to be a public event benefitting the owner’s charity foundation, TGSFE (The Greatest Science Faire Ever), which interestingly enough teaches about science using Minecraft.
In total, about $1.1 million USD in ticket sales were made. These tickets were spread amongst Minecraft players (about $270,000) and the New York City Department of Education (about $825,000) due to the educational nature of the convention thanks to TGSFE’s involvement (or ownership, as it turns out). In total, this is about 7,300 tickets. Note that these numbers are from February, and that new numbers have not been announced.
Cancellation and Woes
Five days before the convention’s start date, MineORama issued a statement declaring that it was canceled and would be rescheduled at a later date, as well as a straightforward notice that it would not be refunding any tickets for any reason. This is all fairly standard and not cause for any alarm – it is unfortunate, but it does happen in legitimate circumstances.
The primary reason this seems to be a brewing case of fraud lies in the dishonesty and dodginess of Lou Gasco, the owner of both MineORama and TGSFE. Many reasons point to this:
He has on more than one occasion claimed that he has no affiliation with MineORama;
He does not directly list himself as an owner of MineORama, but rather is the owner of a third company that owns MineORama;
Gasco and representatives refuse to comment on how much of the income from MineORama will actually be used for the charity;
The MineORama team claimed that one of the reasons they could not proceed as normal was due to lack of funds for a livestream – which, in the absolute worst case, would have cost them less than a tenth of their low-estimate for profits in February;
Eerily enough, the apology message posted on MineORama’s site was remarkably similar to those found on previous convention scams; however…
MineORama.com was suspended by its host. Gasco has ceased tweeting, and the MineORama twitter account was apparently hijacked by a teenage boy.
It is true that running a convention costs quite a bit of money, but I cannot imagine that organizing an event of even moderate scale could cost enough to overshadow their early estimate of $1,100,000 in advance ticket sales.
If this is indeed a scam, Gasco would be better off using half of that money to throw together a convention as quickly as possible, give the buyers what they paid for, and make off with half of a million dollars. Instead, if legal action is pursued to enough degree, he could suffer much greater losses.
What Happens Next?
For those who purchased a ticket, one of three events could come as a result of this situation:
MineORama could be genuinely trying to come up with another date for a convention and will publish a legitimate reason as to why their endeavor failed;
Your money will be returned, one way or another;
It truly is a scam, and Gasco will make off with your collective $1.1 million+.
For #2, the most likely possibility for getting your money back is issuing some kind of charge reversal since MineORama explicitly stated that no refunds would be given. PayPal, credit cards, and banks may all have some method of reversing a charge if you can prove that goods or services were never received – which can be pretty easily done in this case.
Another option is that a large-scale (class action) lawsuit will take place. This may result in a total refund, plus possibly some small amount of additional money, and a huge dent in Gasco’s pocket as punishment. This would also be a nice message to any other would-be scammers.
The third option is that Gasco comes to his senses and refunds all of the money paid out for tickets. This could happen regardless of whether or not the convention was a scam – either as a defensive mechanism, or an admittance of defeat and sincere apology. This however does not seem likely considering the sketchiness of the situation.
So in summation, my sympathy extends to those who were possibly scammed by this tainted being, and I wish you the best of luck in getting your money back if you have not already. Post a comment below if you were caught up in this, and if you have a story to tell, feel free to do so.