Mahjong-- you may know it as the game your Bubbe plays every Friday night with her girlfriends.
But the Altamonte Springs police department in Tampa know it as something else-- small time gambling.
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Lee Delnick, Bernice Diamond, Helen Greenspan and Zelda King -- all between the age of 87 and 85 -- were enjoying their weekly game of mahjong in the Escondido Condominium clubhouse when they were interrupted by Altamonte Springs police who came to shut them down.
The women were sent a formal notice from condominium management stating that there would be no more mahjong, bingo, or poker played in the location until further notice. Police reportedly stopped by several times later that week to make sure the games weren't being played.
"This is ridiculous," 87-year-old said Zelda King said. "We haven't played in the clubhouse for weeks! We have to go to each other's homes to play and not everyone lives in Escondido. It is an international game and we are being crucified!" King also claimed that even her doctor has told her that playing the game it can help prevent or delay dementia.
The women believe that word spread about their weekly gathering and that a "troublemaker" in the community called the police citing a law that prohibits playing the game for money.
According to Heritage Florida Jewish News:
Heritage Florida did find Statute 849.085, which states: "Certain penny-ante games are not crimes; 'Penny-ante game' means a game or series of games of poker, pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta, hearts, dominoes, or mahjong in which the winnings of any player in a single round, hand, or game do not exceed $10 in value."
Heritage went on to say that, since "the women playing had a $4 limit, had had homeowner rights, were over the age of 18, and were not enforcing debt to be paid," they were, in fact, not violating this statute.
When approached about the situation, Lieutenant Robert Pelton, a spokesman for the Altamonte Springs Police Department, defended his department's actions, specifying that while mahjong itself is legal, the real issue was with the "other [illegal] gambling-activities happening in the clubhouse."
"Roulette," Pelton said. "It was the roulette tables that were making it illegal."
So the only question that remains is, who ratted out our greying mahjong masters?
In this case, if the "snitches get stitches," at least they'll be perfectly knitted and pearled ones.
Perhaps it's time for these ladies to take their mahjonging digital with this new app:
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