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Florida Cops Shut Down Old Ladies' Mahjong Game

Police spokesman wonders why "we got called out to be the bad guys."

Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia CommonsPolice in Altamonte Springs, Florida, recently raided a friendly mahjong game played by four little old ladies in a condominium clubhouse. But Lt. Robert Pelton, spokesman for the Altamonte Springs Police Department, wants you to know the incident was not as bad as it sounds.

First of all, none of the perpetrators, who ranged in age from 87 to 95, was arrested. Second, local cops understand that there is nothing illegal about mahjong per se. The state of Florida even allows people to play mahjong (along with poker, pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta, hearts, and dominoes)  for money—up to a point. The problem, as Pelton explained to the Orlando Weekly, was that the pot for the Altamonte game had been known to exceed the $10 limit set by state law:

According to Pelton, some of the games being played at Escondido were being advertised and had become quite popular, and as a result, the pot had grown beyond that $10 limit. So police had to take action—but he says it was an educational action, not a punitive one....

"Our investigators had a good, informative meeting with them, telling them the way they can continue to legally have these games," Pelton says. "If you allow a pot to go over a certain amount, or if the house collects a portion of the pot, it's illegal, etc." 

Police had to take action. If the cops had allowed elderly mahjong players to win more than $10 at a time, middle-aged poker players might think they could get away with the same sort of thing. What a terrifying world that would be.

According to Heritage Florida Jewish News, which originally reported the story, the police department's "educational action," which was prompted by a tip from a busybody in the condominium complex, included several more visits to the clubhouse by cops who "came by to make sure the ladies weren't in there playing their beloved game." For weeks the management of the complex instructed the women to refrain from playing mahjong in the clubhouse at all, even without wagering, just to be on the safe side.

The games have since resumed, but Lee Delnick, Bernice Diamond, Helen Greenspan, and Zelda King have been put on notice: While a mahjong game with a $10 pot is harmless fun, adding one more penny to the pot makes their pastime a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and two months in jail. 

"They were upset because some neighbors called the police, and then we got called out to be the bad guys, but by no means is that true," Pelton told the Orlando Weekly. "It's a small community, a retirement community, and not all of the neighbors get along. For us, it wasn't that we were going out there to make arrests and charge people." This time.

[Thanks to Robert Woolley for the tip.]

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  • The online me||

    Just had to do a little government indoctrination... I mean education. Nothing to see here- we do it all the time.

    Yours truly, the police force.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    They didn't instruct the busybody about wasting taxpayer money by calling out the swat team police for such a minor infraction?

  • d3x / dt3||

    Except this is an ideal call-out from the cops' standpoint. Get paid, act authoritarian, and encounter no real risks: perfect.

    I think it's the same reason expensive sports cars are pulled over for speeding more frequently. Cop gets to take a rich guy down a notch, and there's essentially no risk that the driver is going to shoot you.

  • Pompey||

    No risks? Surely you jest. The 西 tile is clearly code for gang affiliation. Britches will get raided if the pigs are bored.

  • Pompey||

    No risks? Surely you jest. The 西 tile is clearly code for gang affiliation. Bitches will get raided if the pigs are bored.

  • Pompey||

    That wasn't a squirrel, but rather, a ham-handed tablet spelling correction. *hangs head in shame*

  • Thomas O.||

    Actually, "britches" works too. Gotta be thorough on those cavity searches!

  • greasonable||

    With nicknames like 'bam' and 'crack', I'm pretty sure these ladies know what the score is.. Also, 東

  • d3x / dt3||

    It's all educational until someone makes a furtive movement.

  • SusanM||

    Busybodyocracy

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    The police are mere automatons, forced to do this. Want their fault.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Nobody needs a Mahjong set with 144 tiles.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Because it is gross.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Let's call this what it is, an antisemitic hate crime that targeted an ages-old religious practice.

  • Eric L||

    You forgot to add culturally appropriated.

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    some neighbors called the police

    I think I've found your problem, ladies

  • Mrs. Lemuel Struthers||

    Hopefully, the old ladies figure out who ratted them out and will take punitive actions by disinviting the narc from Sunday Bingo and Potluck Monday. Bitch needs a slap down.

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    So much this.

  • Eric L||

    or by adding ex-lax or a diuretic to that person’s food and hiding their adult diapers.

  • jerryg1018||

    The $10 pot limit was probably set 50 years ago.

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    It's where the term "dime bag" originated

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    Right. No old-lady mahjong game needs more than a dime bag.

  • dantheserene||

    Just like the $10,000 limit on cash deposits that was the equivalent of $67,000 at the time.

  • kbolino||

    Or the elimination of bills larger than $100 in 1967, which is equivalent to about $700 today.

  • sarcasmic||

    One must be completely without any sense of morality to threaten elderly women with jail for playing a game be a cop.

    ftfm

  • Almanian's Rusty Woodchipper||

    Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say Ni at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    +1 shrubbery

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It didn't help that they had this playing in the background.

  • Tundra, well-chilled.||

    "Your throat gets dry, you know you're high, and everything is dandy!"

    Perfect song for a gloomy Monday morning, HM.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Old people, what's the point of voting reliably and in droves if you can't get your card game in unmolested?

  • pan fried wylie||

    as long as their voting keeps weed, mexicans and buttsecks illegal....shit maybe they should be voting for their own interests instead of against the interests of others?

  • Vampire||

    Because many like when the state molests others, and realize only until the state comes down on them, that they've been wrong all this time.

  • Hugh Akston||

    If there is so little actual crime in Altamonte Springs that this is what the cops waste their time on, maybe it's time to dissolve the police department and just contract out to another city.

  • Vampire||

    If there is so little actual crime in Altamonte Springs that this is what the cops waste their time on, maybe it's time to dissolve the police department and just contract out to another city. let individuals choose their own means of protection through the private production of security.

  • Dinerboy||

    The government didn't get its vig.

    Never try to cheat the house out of its take.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Exactly, gambling is the government's racket.

  • Vampire||

    Grandma got ran over by the swat team, walking to play mahjong Chistmas eve. You can say the state is really violent, cause that's what all her jailed friends now believe.

  • Johnimo||

    Maybe …. maybe …. MAYBE the greatest Christmas song of all time. I really like the line about … "with incriminating 'clause' marks on her back," whatever that means.

  • Johnimo||

    "Claus, not "Clause." Ooops

  • Notorious UGCC||

    In other news, the neighbors signed up for the Secret Santa program and will be getting this for Christmas.

  • AlSaulinsky||

    There seem to be a lot of people here blaming the police for this. While I have my problems with the police in general, they tend to get a bum wrap for things they have very little control over. They are police officers, they are there to "enforce" the law, whether you want to climb their frame for that is immaterial, if you get rid of the law, there is nothing left to to "enforce", problem solved. Get rid of enough of the stupid laws that many of the posters on here are no doubt in favor of, to one degree or another, and the the police enforcers of the law, can go back to being officers of the peace, which they are supposed to be anyway.

  • Adam330||

    Did someone force them to be police officers? When you sign up, you know full well that you'll be responsible for enforcing dumb and immoral laws. That's their choice and their responsible for it. That doesn't mean the legislators that write the dumb and immoral laws aren't also responsible.

  • croaker||

    Most of the stupid laws are passed at the behest of the police unions. Guess why.

  • kbolino||

    I don't know that this particular law is backed by the police union, but a lot of the drug laws are at least and they drive a good many of the most invasive police practices.

  • kbolino||

    Alternately, all these people who long at heart to be officers of the peace could refuse to do anything outside of that purview, up to and including leaving their jobs. That too would straighten the law out (in practice, at least) pretty quickly.

    It's funny though how the police union can find practically infinite time and energy to argue for pay raises, mandatory overtime, and a special "bill of rights", but never seems too concerned about making hay over bad laws.

  • dinkster||

    Would be fine if they didn't selectively enforce the law already.

  • Jake Stone||

    This article cites the "ha to take action" line, which is pretty bad, but I think this one is worse:

    The state of Florida even allows people to play mahjong (along with poker, pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta, hearts, and dominoes)

    ALLOWS. The state allows people to play games, provided of course it's on their terms.

  • ||

    Jeez, it's like, you bring the police power of the state down on a few inoffensive citizens for a harmless, completely voluntary act, and suddenly you're the bad guy...

  • ||

    Not sure how I responded to the wrong comment, but oh well.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    "They were upset because some neighbors called the police, and then we got called out to be the bad guys, but by no means is that true,"

    Um...

  • kbolino||

    First of all, they didn't have to respond to the call, and second of all, they didn't have to arrest anyone once they did.

    Although it's doubtful the law will be substantially changed in response to this. Really, there's no shortage of shitheads to go around.

  • kbolino||

    Correction: nobody was arrested. But they did return multiple times.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "According to Pelton, some of the games being played at Escondido were being advertised and had become quite popular, and as a result, the pot had grown beyond that $10 limit."

    Doesn't escondido mean "hidden valley"?

    They thought they were safe in Galt's Gulch.

    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  • Johnimo||

    Love the image: Little old ladies playing high stakes gambling games in "Galt's Gulch, somewhere in the canyons of western Colorado. Dude, that's a real stretch …. bet not a one ever read "Shrugged."

  • Ken Shultz||

    "According to Pelton, some of the games being played at Escondido were being advertised and had become quite popular, and as a result, the pot had grown beyond that $10 limit."

    Gives a whole new meaning to the term "war on pot".

  • iupchris10||

    What a ridiculous non-story and Reason still feels the need to put an anti-police slant on it. A nosy neighbor calls the cops over a ridiculous law, they are obligated by the taxpayer to show up, they inform the old ladies of the law and leave. What is wrong with that? Thank you for reminding us how nasty the Police can be, politely informing people of the law, having a chuckle and leaving.

  • kbolino||

    they are obligated by the taxpayer to show up

    Since when?

    Thank you for reminding us how nasty the Police can be, politely informing people of the law, having a chuckle and leaving.

    If they were just "informing" and "having a chuckle", why did they return multiple times?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If they were just "informing" and "having a chuckle", why did they return multiple times?

    Because Mrs. Kravitz blew the entire 2nd shift line?

  • Johnimo||

    We, the taxpayers, are paying for that shit. That's the problem.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "Our investigators had a good, informative meeting with them, telling them the way they can continue to legally have these games," Pelton says. "If you allow a pot to go over a certain amount, or if the house collects a portion of the pot, it's illegal, etc."

    So... civil forfeiture isn't seen as the "house collecting a portion of the pot"?

  • Robert||

    Altamont! Of course! There's been trouble there before, ya know.

  • Tionico||

    the civil magistrate's job is to "bear the sword" against those who do harm.

    WHAT HARM were these old women doing? NONE. these four, and a whole lot more, need to raid the town council meeting and tell them to repeal that busy body law... along with a pile of other such laws that make harmless activities into crimes.

    Government exists by the consent of the governed. These ladies should shamelssly continue their games. Perhaps, to thwart the coppers and other peeping toms, have NO pot at all, simply aggree before the game commences what the pot will be... then rely on their integirty and continued good will to pay up later. Sort of like at the old Speakeasies where the flask only came out of the boot when no one important was looking.

    Stupidpeople. (the cops etc, I mean)

  • Johnimo||

    What good would that do? The cops will just obtain warrants to look inside their heads. They will see their evil subterfuge and warn them against "bad thinking."

  • Alan@.4||

    Possibly the people or person who "ratted"out this vile game was upset over not being invited into same.

  • tlapp||

    Sad to think and adult needs the states permission to gamble in the first place. Even worse at their age to be scolded like children.

  • libertatem prius||

    Apparently these cops have no shame in addition to sense of right or wrong, just mindless enforcement of unjust "laws."

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