NYC Marathon organizers are sued over lottery to enter race

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NEW YORK, Jan 21 (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.

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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.

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NYC Marathon organizers are sued over lottery to enter race
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Mary Keitany (R) of Kenya runs alongside third place Tigist Tufa (L) of Ethiopia after the Pro Women's division at TAG Heuer Official Timekeeper and Timepiece of 2015 TCS New York City Marathon on November 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for TAG Heuer)
Residents watch from their apartments as runners pass by in the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon November 1, 2015 in New York.Kenyan Stanley Biwott won the New York Marathon on Sunday, capturing his first major marathon victory in 2hr 10min 34sec. Biwott, 29, broke away from his rivals in a leading quartet in the final two miles in Central Park to finish ahead of fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, with Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa third. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Marathon fans cheer for the runners in the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon November 1, 2015 in New York. Kenyan Stanley Biwott won the New York Marathon on Sunday, capturing his first major marathon victory in 2hr 10min 34sec. Biwott, 29, broke away from his rivals in a leading quartet in the final two miles in Central Park to finish ahead of fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, with Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa third. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Marathon fans cheer for the runners in the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon November 1, 2015 in New York. Kenyan Stanley Biwott won the New York Marathon on Sunday, capturing his first major marathon victory in 2hr 10min 34sec. Biwott, 29, broke away from his rivals in a leading quartet in the final two miles in Central Park to finish ahead of fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, with Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa third. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton (L) and Filmmaker and Grand Marshal of the New York City Marathon Spike Lee hold up the finish ribbon for the Pro Men's division at TAG Heuer Official Timekeeper and Timepiece of 2015 TCS New York City Marathon on November 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for TAG Heuer)
Men's elite runners run up First Aveue in the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon November 1, 2015 in New York. Kenyan Stanley Biwott won the New York Marathon on Sunday, capturing his first major marathon victory in 2hr 10min 34sec. Biwott, 29, broke away from his rivals in a leading quartet in the final two miles in Central Park to finish ahead of fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, with Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa third. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Women's wheelchair division participants Tatyana McFadden United States (C) Manuela Schar Switzerland (L)Sandra Graf of Switzerland after finishing theTCS New York City Marathon in New York November 1, 2015. McFadden shattered the New York City Marathon women's wheelchair course record finishing in 1 hour, 43 minutes, 4 seconds. Schar finished second with Graf placing third. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NYPD Commisioner William J. Bratton and Director Spike Lee Men's look on as 1st place winner Stanley Biwott from Keyna crosses the finish line at the TCS New York City Marathon in New York November 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Sara Moreira of Portugal crosses the finish line in 4th place in the Pro Women's division at TAG Heuer Official Timekeeper and Timepiece of 2015 TCS New York City Marathon on November 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for TAG Heuer)
Men's elite runners race in the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon November 1, 2015 in New York. Kenyan Stanley Biwott won the New York Marathon on Sunday, capturing his first major marathon victory in 2hr 10min 34sec. Biwott, 29, broke away from his rivals in a leading quartet in the final two miles in Central Park to finish ahead of fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, with Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa third. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Yuki Kawauchi of Japan falls to the ground after he crossed the finish line during the TCS New York City Marathon on November 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Women's winner Mary Keitany of Kenya and men's winner Stanley Biwott of Kenya pose with their medals after the TCS New York City Marathon on November 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Geoffery Kamworor of Kenya runs around Clare Geraghty of Australia late in the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon November 1, 2015 in New York. Kamworor, the world cross country champion and world silver medallist in the 10,000 meters, finished second with a time of 2:10:48 AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Men's elite runners race in the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon November 1, 2015 in New York. Kenyan Stanley Biwott won the New York Marathon on Sunday, capturing his first major marathon victory in 2hr 10min 34sec. Biwott, 29, broke away from his rivals in a leading quartet in the final two miles in Central Park to finish ahead of fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, with Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa third. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor of Kenya crosses the finish line in 2nd place in the Pro Men's division during the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon in Central Park on November 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Christelle Daunay from France and Sara Moreira from Portugal after finishing the TCS New York City Marathon in New York November 1, 2015. Moreira placed fourth and Daunay fifth. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Road Runners did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to similar requests.

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.

Thursday's complaint was filed on the same day the Road Runners opened a one-month window for runners to apply for this year's marathon, which is scheduled for Nov. 6.

According to the complaint, fewer than 18 percent of lottery participants win spots in the race each year, and only 14 percent of the more than 80,000 participants did so in 2015.

Runners who actually enter the race must pay fees between $216 and $347. These fees are not the subject of the lawsuit.

The case is Konopa et al v. New York Road Runners Inc, U.S. District Court, District of New York, No. 16-00450.

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