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  • Jul 26, 2014
  • Updated: 3:07pm
NewsHong Kong
CRIME

Elderly mahjong players slam 'needless' crackdown on games

Police arrest 129 people, some as old as 90, in crackdown on gambling at apartment complex

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 5:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 5:15am

Police arrested 129 people when they closed down 11 illegal mahjong parlours in a Shau Kei Wan residential block yesterday.

But the raids upset elderly customers of the informal parlours, who said they had been enjoying low-stakes games there for 20 years.

More than 60 officers swooped on the mezzanine floor of Eastway Towers in Shau Kei Wan Main Street East yesterday.

Police found that 11 of the 23 shops there were operating as locations for illegal gambling. Police arrested 74 men and 55 women aged from 20 to 90.

Some HK$8,000, alleged to have been paid as commission by the players to the operators, was seized in the raid. Officers believe the gambling dens had been operating for more than a year.

But a group of elderly residents in the area said they had existed for more than 20 years.

"Most visitors were old people, including retired fishermen. We played mahjong games there for leisure and each game involved HK$20 to HK$30," said one regular customer who escaped arrest yesterday.

"Each of us was charged HK$20 for an hour and a half's play. We were offered Chinese tea and bread for free, in an air-conditioned environment," the elderly customer said.

She said the operators needed money for hiring staff to serve customers and to pay utility bills and rent.

Her friend, also an elderly woman, said they usually came in the afternoon after lunch and went home before 6pm to prepare dinner.

"Aside from playing mahjong games, sometimes we went there to chat and take a rest. It was a good place for us to get together," the woman said.

The residents claimed the shops had private club licences, deeming the police raids needless.

But Chief Inspector Sunny Lam Kai-chor, of the Hong Kong Island crime unit, said collecting money from players and charging them was in breach of Hong Kong laws.

Thirteen of the suspects were arrested on suspicion of managing and operating the mahjong parlours.

The others, including three mainland visitors, were gamblers.

The gambling dens were understood to have operated from 11am to 10pm every day.

"Each shop is a different size and can house up to 20 mahjong tables," Lam said.

There was no evidence to suggest there was a single syndicate or a triad gang behind them, Lam added.

The operation was initiated after police received intelligence that several shops were being used as gambling dens on the mezzanine floor of the building.

Last night, most of the arrested suspects had been released on bail.

 

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11

This article is now closed to comments

sipsip1238
Seriously...Mahjong is part of Hong Kong culture and these little shops (legal or otherwise) exist partly because old people have no one else to play with them at home.
If these elderly have the financial capabilities to pay the 20 odd dollars for an hour or so of entertainment, then so be it.
If the government cracks down on such establishments, how about they also start building facilities that caters for the elderly and provides a decent lifestyle to them for the same price.
As bad as illegal gambling is, mahjong is also known to reduce the onset of alzheimer, which I think already reduces the health care cost that the government would have to cover otherwise.
You cannot just take away things without providing at least another decent alternative.
Giwaffe
Yes, let's bully the elderly...

It also goes to show that HK laws are outdated and draconian.
blue
First it was a raid on a sex club, and now it's mahjong. Can the police please focus on real crimes?
zvichadashote
Of course HK Police have alot of confidence in busting a bunch of geriatrics playing a harmless game. Why don't they shut down the touts (who are engaged in illegal activities like selling fakes), that cost Hong Kong and China millions of dollars in lost revenues because foreign companies thinking of manufacturing in China don't - because they see the rampant and open sale of copies on the main street of TST? I recently had a client who paid a deposit to a registered HK company for an order to be made in China. The factory owned by the owner of the HK Company went bankrupt so the order was never delivered. When we complained to HK Police that if the HK Company is still operating, they should be cited for fraud but the "lazy" police just said this is a civil matter and not criminal! Maybe we should revisit this case and tell the police that this swindling company was running a mahjong game!
fink
I suspect that if any of the commenters on this article lived above an illegal mahjong parlour they'd be on the phone to the police within a day to complain about the intolerable noise.
chuchu59
Point taken but these folks were arrested for gambling-related activities not for raising the noise levels to **** decibels.Surely if noise were the problem the EPD would deal with it.
boondeiyan
Dear old folks: hurry up and die. Because if you stick around, the government will let you be stuffed into cage homes when you can't afford the rising rents on "normal" shoebox flats, and then arrest you for trying to enjoy yourselves unless you have paid your tithe to the Jockey Club.
.
Shame on our government, yet again.
pbhawk
What an absolute disgrace; prostitution and drug dealing are rife from Mong Kok to Wan Chai and this is how the police assign priorities; Andy Tsang, you should be ashamed
blue
Who cares about prostitution? Again, people should be free to do what they want as long as it doesn't hurt others. Also as long as it doesn't involve more than two people, prostitution isn't illegal you tool.
chuchu59
There are plenty of law-breaking activities being conducted everyday and I just dont understand why the Police would prey on the elderly as if they were criminals. Yes, they are breaking the law in a legal sense but c'mon the stakes were so low it can be regarded as loose change for many. The manpower resources could easily have been diverted to counter more serious criminal activities. Where else could these poor folks go to for their favourite pastime ie mahjong and chatting with friends for such an economical fee? Low stakes, low service fees! Peanuts compared to what the illegal bookmakers are reaping in and to a lesser extent the HKJC.

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