Life as a pure rent-seeker? Or as the ultimate Kirznerian entrepreneur?

Or both.  Gary Bemsel has visual acuity:

He can scan hundreds of video slots a minute, with an eagle eye honed by the past 15 years making his living as a racetrack stooper — someone who bends down to gather betting slips off the track floor in the hope of finding a mistakenly discarded winner.

…“It’s a legitimate living — the money’s been left behind,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s surer money than stooping; it’s steadier, and it’s cleaner — you don’t have to fish through garbage cans.”

Mr. Bemsel has not given up stooping. After a loop through the racino, he has enough cash to hit the betting window in the track and then scour the floor and trash for winning tickets. Slipping deftly through crowds of cheering and swearing horseplayers, he can read slips on the ground and tell immediately if they are winners. For face-down slips, he has developed a nimble, soccer-style flip move using both feet — so he barely has to stoop at all.

Yet returns are down:

“The first few weeks you could hit the A.T.M. machines for stray $20 bills lodged up in the dispenser,” Mr. Bemsel said. “But certain guys caught onto it, and now they stake out a machine all day, snatching them up.”

Nor has it worked out entirely well for him:

He works 12-hour days and finds $600 to $1,200 a week, Mr. Bemsel said, but winds up blowing most of it on bad horse picks. “The whole reason I do this is to feed my gambling addiction,” he said. “It’s an illness.”

The excellent article is here, and for the pointer I thank Ben Greenfield.


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