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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2020 NMJL Annual Meeting

National Mah Jongg League 2020 Annual Meeting

On February 3, 2020 at 9 a.m., Larry Unger, President of the National Mah Jongg League called the meeting to order.  In attendance were Larry and David Unger, President and Vice President of the League, along with the recording secretary, treasurer, members of the Standardization Committee as well as individual members of the League.  The meeting is held on the first Monday of February and members are welcome to attend.

The meeting was held in the League conference room, as the main part of the office was filled with helpers opening envelopes containing 2020 card orders.  It was mentioned at the meeting that the League receives almost 10,000 mail orders A DAY during the card ordering season (now).   President Larry Unger verified that the 2020 card has been printed, but, alas, no sneak peeks...

The NEWS from the League is good!  Membership has increased, to approximately 338,000 members, with card sales of close to 500,000.  During the Q and A session, we were told that the discrepancy is from members who buy multiple cards.  Many members order two cards, one for their residence and one for their winter "home away from home."  Some members buy for their group or students.  Almost 25% of card sales are through Collectors - people who "collect" money for sales of over 35 cards.  The collectors receive a portion of the funds back as a donation for their designated charity - and Larry remarked on the number of local community groups receiving donations.  

Some other questions that came up:  Why don't the cards come out January 1?  Apparently, the schedule goes back to the founding days of the League in 1937.  There is a cycle of activities which corresponds to the fiscal year.  "Imagine trying to send out 350,000 cards during the (year-end) holidays," Larry asked.  Or the collectors trying to collect in the summer?  Or the Standardization committee trying to get together to play the new card while everyone is on vacation?  The system works like a well-oiled machine.  David talked about their visit to the mailing facility and what the League has to do to get the cards ready for mailing.  The membership list is scrubbed for errors and sent to the mailing facility where they are arranged by zip code for distribution.  The on-time arrival has vastly improved over the last several years, as those who order early will receive their card on or before April 1.  Remember the cutoff date is February 21!

Another question - Some people have not received a bulletin.  This may be because they are not in the League's 2019 member database, either because someone else bought their card for them or they did not purchase a card from the League, or they purchased a 2020 card.  In addition, the bulletins are of the type of mail that is not forwarded, so if a member has a new address, it's important to let the League know.  If anyone wishes, they may send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the League and one will be mailed.

A spirited discussion was had about the making of the card - ten members of the committee play for two months getting the combination just right.  The topic arose as to whether a computer could generate the hands, and the answer was a resounding no.  While artificial intelligence may calculate combinations of pungs, kongs, pairs and singles, no computer can factor in the "wow" that comes from winning a hand.  The consensus was that it's the human connection that makes it all work.  The committee creates the card working from their knowledge and experience of the game in a way that delights beginners and seasoned players alike. 

Another tidbit from the meeting - "Mahjongg Made Easy," the League's guide to playing, has been updated again.  The updates are not rule changes, but clarifications of existing rules based on questions the League has received from members.  The 2018 book was so popular it sold out! 

It's always a pleasure to have the opportunity to schmooze with the folks that bring you such a great game and a pleasure as well to report on the meeting.  It's reassuring to know that some traditions continue in our ever-changing world, and we have a new card and a new year of playing to look forward to.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience! It's great insight that we appreciate! Peace, Love and Mahjong!

  2. The League offices will be closed until at least May 1 and will be unable to reply to any questions regarding cards that have not been received.

  3. I’m new to MahJongg. Is it acceptable for me to make notes on my card to help me see the hands better. Not sure if this is allowable or acceptable. Thank you

    1. There's no rule against making notes on your card. Many people use highlighters or stickers to make certain hands stand out - like concealed hands. Keep in mind that a lot of rules are on the back of the card so some notes may not be necessary.