What is Stooping?
Thereís gold on them thar floors! Iím talking about the floors of horse racing tracks. Thereís also gold on the counters and at the bottom of garbage cans. Believe it or not, there are untold millions in winning race tickets that no one ever bothers to turn in. There are many reasons why people dispose of winners. Maybe a horse was a late scratch, which would entitle the bettor to a refund, but he assumed his horse just lost. Maybe a rookie gambler placed a bet he didnít really understand. Perhaps he accidentally bet the wrong race and didnít know the mistake caused the ticket to be a winner. Alcohol is surely a factor. Whatever the reason, these golden tickets have created a class of patrons well-known if not well-loved by the denizens of the Sport of Kings. These are the stoopers.
Simply put, stooping is the act of looking through discarded pari-mutuel tickets in search of winners. The art of stooping is decades old and perhaps even older.
How Do They Get Away With It?
Obviously, people going through other peopleís trash doesnít help track managersí attempt to portray their sport as an upscale form of gambling. Stooping is banned or severely frowned upon at every major track, but it persists. There are several reasons why.
For starters, most stoopers are degenerate gamblers. Since stooping is not a full-time job to many of them, they will bring their paychecks to the track and only stoop when they are busted out. Therefore, the track owner gets their paycheck and also most of the proceeds of their trash collecting. Thereís really no downside to this type of person.
Also, many stoopers do it on the sly. The track isnít going to put a major effort into running them down, so if they arenít real obvious about it, they can scoop up tickets without a big problem. This is especially true at major events like the Kentucky Derby, where security is preoccupied with the huge crowds. If the stooper can afford the admission price and brave the mobs, he can clean up on Derby Day at Churchill. Small armies of professional stoopers follow the big events around from track to track. They hit the floors like a swarm of locusts and move on to the next place before anyone knew they were there.
It is also worth noting that in every state but Ohio, tracks have to turn unclaimed winnings over to the state, which uses them for various purposes. Therefore, track owners donít lose anything when a stooper pulls something out of the trash, walks up to a window and walks off with a stack of the trackís cash.
Jerry and Peggy are a retired husband & wife stooping team who plied their trade in southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky for 25 years or so beginning around 1980. Out of respect for their privacy, I will not use their last names. Interviews with Jerry are the primary source for information about this fascinating cat & mouse game called stooping.
Peggy read about stooping in the late 70s and convinced her husband to give it a try. Jerry was an office worker, but he had a bad case of arthritis that would eventually force him out of his job. They gave it a try at Cincinnatiís River Downs.
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