Mahjong is a popular Chinese tile game. In People v. Li Ai Hua (N.Y.C. Criminal Court 6/5/2009), Queens Criminal Court Judge Charles Lopresto had to determine whether Mahjong is a game of chance or a game of skill. The distinction was critical for determine whether the accusatory instrument was facially sufficient to charge Promoting Gambling in the Second Degree.
The criminal complaint charged:
Deponent [Detective Philip Adaszewski] states that on the
above-mentioned date and time and place of occurrence, the defendant
Liu Al Hua, opened the front door and greeted the deponent.
Deponent further states that he observed two (2) tables with
over ten (10) people, handing the defendants, Kan Fan Chan and Qing Z.
Zhang, a sum of United States Currency to play "Mahjong" which is a
game of chance.
Deponent further states that he observed the defendant Kan Fan Chan hand the defendant Pan Yi Zhu, said United States Currency.
Deponent further states that he observed the defendant Pan Yi
Zhu place said United States Currency on said tables and write entries
on a betting slip notebook pad.
Deponent further states that he observed and recovered from
said table seven hundred ninety ($790.00) Dollars United States
Currency and said notebook pad.
Deponent further states that the defendant Liu al Hua admitted
to him in sum and substance that he was sorry and that he will close
the location tomorrow.
Deponent further states that his conclusion that the said
betting slip notebook pad is a gambling record and that said records
are commonly used as instruments of gambling, is based upon his
experience and training as a police officer in the identification of
In response to the defendant's motion to dismiss, the People attached printouts of websites that describe Mahjong.
The court found the complaint facially insufficient. The deponent failed to state the basis for his belief that Mahjong is a game of chance. Moreover, the court noted that there were no reported cases discussing the game. Finally, the court said it could not consider the People's exhibits because they were not part of the accusatory instrument and were, in any event, hearsay. (LC)