- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Police in Florida broke up a weekly mahjong game played by four elderly ladies at a condominium clubhouse after a citizen reported the women for illegal gambling.

The women accused of the crime are Lee Delnick, Bernice Diamond, Helen Greenspan and Zelda King, whose ages range from 87 to 95, Heritage Florida reported.

Ms. King, 87, said word spread in the community about their weekly game in the Escondido Condominium and that a “troublemaker” had called the police citing an Altamonte Springs ordinance that prohibits playing the game for money.

Police closed the clubhouse and the condominium management send the ladies a letter stating that until further notice there would be no mahjong, bingo or poker played in the clubhouse, Heritage Florida reported.

The police came by several times that week to check in and make sure the ladies weren’t back to the game table.

This is ridiculous,” Ms. 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.”

Ms. King told Heritage that playing the friendly domino game is good for senior citizens and said her neurologist recommends the game for the elderly because it can delay and possibly prevent dementia.

The women offered to play the game just for fun, with no money changing hands, but the Escondido property manager refused, suggesting they “lay low until they can try to resolve things legally.”

After further investigation, officials concluded that there is no ordinance prohibiting mahjong gambling.

In fact, the game is only mentioned in the Florida Gambling Laws. Heritage reports that Statue 849.085 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.”

The women playing had a $4 limit. The women also had homeowner rights, were over the age of 18, and were not enforcing debt to be paid.

Almonte Springs police did not respond to a request for comment from Heritage.

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