Snitch ruins grannies’ mahjong games but gives them moment of fame as ‘international gamblers’
Someone was suspicious of Zelda King and her gang of gambling grandmas.
She and her octogenarian gal-pals gathered every Thursday at the clubhouse of the Escondido Condominium retirement community in Altamonte Springs, where they spent hours around a table overlooking the pool, wagering on mahjong.
Then the cops came.
A snitch had ratted them out, authorities said.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said of the police inquiry into money games at the Escondido Condominiums clubhouse.
The probe was prompted by a complaint to state authorities about gambling at the condo complex, including penny-ante poker, $5 bingo nights and mahjong games with King and her friends, Bernice Diamond, Lee Delnick and Helen Greenspan, a Holocaust survivor.
Mahjong, a game of Chinese origin, is played with a set of 144 tiles featuring Chinese characters and symbols.
“My neurologist, Dr. Oppenheim, said it’s very good for the brain,” said King, who’s been playing for 70 years.
The gambling gripe was forwarded to Altamonte Springs police, who dispatched a detective to nose around the clubhouse where a leaflet, taped to the door, announced Friday night “horse racing” – a game in which a dice roll decides how fast your pony runs.
The note advised players to bring small bills.
Police provided the condo board with a copy of Florida’s gaming statute, which allows mahjong as well as pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta, hearts and dominoes – but forbids soliciting participants “by advertising in any form… .” That apparently includes leaflets taped to clubhouse doors.
But police ultimately decided the small-stake games were harmless. They apologized, said Bob Burnett, president of the condominium association’s governing board.
“A complaint was made and they had to check it out,” he said.
But the condo board, unnerved by the police visit, immediately closed the clubhouse to all games where money might change hands, including Frank Muscarella’s poker games – “We play for pennies,” he said – and the grandmas’ mahjong.
“It was just until we were sure we were doing everything right,” Burnett said.
The state law says penny-ante games are legal as long as the winning pot doesn’t exceed $10.
King said neither she nor any of her friends have ever been arrested for anything, but they suddenly felt like outlaws.
They tried to take their game underground, away from prying eyes.
King said they held one game at Diamond’s house in Longwood, but she got lost on the drive back home.
She fretted the condo board’s ban would not only interrupt the weekly games but break up her gang.
“It’s hard to keep a group like this together. Someone’s always got to go to the doctor, someone’s always sick. We’re all old. We’re all on the brink,” she said, laughing.
Her daughter, Joanne Kane of Longwood, was upset her mom couldn’t play her favorite game in the community where she has lived for 13 years.
“I want my mom every day to have a good day,” she said. “The money isn’t the point of the game for them. The most they can lose even on their worst day is $4. It’s more of a social thing, a reason to get out of the house. They have a ball together.”
News of the gambling crackdown appeared on “Heritage,” a Florida-based Jewish news site. The story has since been picked up by the web-based Huffington Post and The Times of Israel, an international news site for Jews.
The women suddenly were famous international gamblers.
King said a friend kiddingly told her, “My daughter says I can’t play with you anymore.”
As it turns out, the grandmothers’ game was legal and the controversy made them feel young again.
“If nothing else, we’ve gotten a big laugh out of it,” King said.
Some people ae nothing but petty little bitches…….