A notorious band of international gamblers has been shut down in Florida; well, not quite.
Apparently someone was suspicious of Zelda King and the other gambling grandmas who gathered every Thursday to play mahjong at the Escondido Condominium retirement community. The scene of the crime was a table overlooking the pool at the clubhouse in Altamonte Springs where the 80 somethings spent hours wagering. That is where cops came after being ratted out by a snitch, according to authorities.
State authorities were tipped off about the gambling at the condo complex when someone complained, prompting the probe. The gambling gang of grandma’s included King, and three of her friends, one of whom is a Holocaust survivor. In addition to mahjong, the four played penny-ante poker and $5 bingo night games. According to the Miami Herald, King, who has been playing for 70 years, called the “bust” ridiculous and said, “My neurologist, Dr. Oppenheim, said it’s very good for the brain.”
After receiving the gambling complaint, a detective from the Altamonte Springs police was dispatched to investigate. The clubhouse was perused and a leaflet, announcing Friday night “horse racing” was found taped to the door. “Horse racing” is a game where the roll of the dice determines how fast your pony runs, at least at the Escondido Condominium retirement community it is. The note also advised bringing small bills. A copy of Florida’s gaming statute, which allows several games including mahjong, but forbids solicitation by any form of advertising, was provided to the condo board by police.
While the police deemed the small-stake games harmless and apologized, the condo board immediately shut down the clubhouse to any game where money might change hands. That included Frank Muscarella’s poker games where they play for pennies. According to the state law, as long as the winning pot doesn’t go over $10, penny-ante games are legal.
King said that her and her friends, whom have never been arrested, now feel like outlaws. She said they tried to hold their games away from prying eyes, but that it didn’t work out. King fears that in addition to breaking up the games, the board’s ban will also break up her gang. Her daughter was upset by the ban and said that the purpose of the games isn’t the money, but to be social. She said on the worst day $4 is the extent of their losses, but “they have a ball together.”
Soon news of the gambling crackdown spread and after being picked up by The Times of Isreal, among other news sites; the four women had become famous international gamblers. It all ended well for the grandmother’s though, because no ordinance prohibiting a game such as mahjong, played by elderly Jewish women could be found.