ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. (CBS Tampa) — Police in Florida busted a game of mahjong in Florida at a condominium clubhouse. The group accused of the crime: four women between the ages of 87 and 95.
Heritage Florida reports that police came to shut down the friendly game played by Lee Delnick, Bernice Diamond, Helen Greenspan and Zelda King.
King says 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. Police closed the clubhouse.
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,” 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!”
The 87-year-old said the game is good for the elderly and that even her doctor has told her that it can delay dementia. The women suggested they could “just play for fun” without money, but the property manager said they should “lay low,” until things were resolved.
After a bit of investigating, officials came to the conclusion that there is no ordinance prohibiting mahjong gambling of the nature.
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.”
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.
It is unclear what ordinance the caller thought the group of ladies were violating and why police officials decided to break up the game.
Heritage called Altamonte Springs police for comment, but have not heard back.