Jesus Leonardo is the king of the "stoopers" — people who pick up discarded betting slips at racetracks and betting parlors and double-check them to see if they're actually winners. He makes about $45,000 a year at it, working 10 hours a day, and declares his "winnings" to the IRS.
Mr. Leonardo, who is married with two teenagers, is hardly living on the fringes. He said that stooping brings him $100 to $300 a day, and more than $45,000 a year. Last month, he cashed in a winning ticket from bets made on races at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., for $8,040. His largest purse came in 2006, when he received $9,500 from a Pick 4 wager (choosing the winners of four consecutive races) at Retama Park Race Track in Selma, Tex.
It is all taxable income. "I file my winnings with the I.R.S. every year," Mr. Leonardo said in his thick Dominican accent…
Over time, Mr. Leonardo devised a plan to increase his winnings. He enlisted two friends to pick up the trash at four other OTB parlors around the city and take it to him for $25 per bag. By the time Mr. Leonardo boards his train, he is carrying 2,000 to 7,000 discarded tickets.
At home, two other friends help him bundle the tickets in stacks of 300, which Mr. Leonardo places in a red satchel. He heads back to New York in the morning and spends hours in front of a ticket machine, scanning each ticket. If anyone else needs the machine, he moves aside.
(Image: OTB and me, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike image from swanksalot's photostream)