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Meth-Dealing Kiwi Poker Champ Gets Add-On for Smuggling Drugs in Prison

A poker player from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, imprisoned in 2018 for drug smuggling, saw his sentenced increased this week – because of more drug smuggling.

Shane Thompson, Shane Tamihana, New Zealand, poker, meth
Shane Thompson, above, won the Sky City Festival of Poker main event in 2016. In 2018, a judge described him as “the most comprehensive methamphetamine dealer Hawke’s Bay has ever seen.”(Image: New Zealand Herald)

Shane Thompson, also known as Shane Tamihana, enjoyed success at the poker tables in the mid-2010s. The highlight was winning the main event at the Sky City Casino’s Festival of Poker in 2016 for US$36,555. It was probably the only “honest” money he made that year.

His luck ran out in 2017 when he was nailed for dealing meth. When police raided his home, they found 2.6kg of the drug and more than NZ$170K (US$100K) in cash.

In 2018, a judge described Thompson as “the most comprehensive methamphetamine dealer Hawke’s Bay has ever seen,” before sentencing him to 13 years in prison.

But Thompson made it 15 years Friday after he was found guilty of organizing a small quantity of methamphetamine to be smuggled in for another prisoner in January this year, The New Zealand Herald reports.

Illegal Cellphone

Judge Bridget Mackintosh at Napier District Court sentenced Thompson to 23 months, which will be added to the term he is already serving. That’s for supplying methamphetamine, smuggling, and unauthorized possession of a cellphone.

Thompson used the illegal cellphone to contact an unknown person to provide the drugs, which were handed to a woman who was due to visit another inmate.

Johnson’s lawyer, Eric Forster, argued the Thompson had done this “simply [as] a favor” to the inmate and not for any personal gain.

But Mackintosh said Thompson’s behavior “undermine[d] any rehabilitation programs in prison and undermine[d] prison discipline.”

‘Later Bo’

Thompson was reportedly an aggressive poker player who liked to call out the phrase “Later Bo” as he knocked an opponent out of a tournament in an unpleasant breach of poker etiquette.

Prosecutors accused Thompson of being the head of a sprawling criminal network that flooded $4.2 million worth of meth into the Hawke’s Bay region over 11 months in 2016 and 2017.

In 2018, New Zealand’s Police Asset Recovery Unit seized five vehicles and NZ$130K in cash from Thompson and his second in command, Petera Gamlen.

In 2022, authorities were granted court orders to seize Thompson’s home, an additional vehicle, and bank deposits totaling more than NZ$90K, despite his attempt to hide these assets by registering them under aliases.

In May 2023, Thompson attempted to have his sentence reduced in New Zealand’s Supreme Court. He argued that the no-parole period of six and a half years attached to his sentence undermined the established legal standard of granting discounts for guilty pleas. The bid was unsuccessful.

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Caesars Spends $4M on New Sportsbook, Poker Room at Illinois Casino

Caesars Entertainment is spending $4 million on enhancements at the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Ill.,  an effort resulting in a refurbished sportsbook and a new World Series of Poker (WSOP) poker room.

The Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Ill. Caesars is opening a new sportsbook and poker room there. (Image: Downtown Elgin)

Eldorado Resorts — the company that acquired Caesars in 2020 — purchased the Illinois casino in 2018 for $327.5 million in cash.

Grand Victoria Casino, located in Elgin, Illinois, is approximately 40 miles west of downtown Chicago along the banks of the Fox River. The property features 1,088 slot machines, 30 table games, a 12-table poker room and four dining options,” according to a statement.

The new sportsbook and WSPO poker room will be in space previously occupied by Indulge Kitchen Buffet. The sportsbook commands 2,100 square feet, while the poker room occupies 4,400 square feet and features 20 tables. The sporsbook has three customer service windows and four self-service kiosks. In November, Grand Victoria is hosting the first WSOP event in Illinois history.

Perhaps Good Illinois Timing

News of the revamped poker and sports betting options at the Grand Victoria Casino could amount to good timing for Caesars in a market that’s increasingly competitive.

Earlier this month, Penn Entertainment announced it is spending $360 million to bring its Hollywood riverboat casino in Aurora ashore. Another $185 million is allocated to bring a riverboat gaming vessel ashore in Joliet.

Additionally, Illinois, in less than three years on the regulated US sports wagering scene, is fast climbing state-by-state rankings.  Recent data from the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) indicate the state hauled in almost $565 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR) in August. That makes it the second-largest sports betting state by that metric, surpassing New Jersey in the process and trailing only New York.

Illinois sportsbooks have notched about $1 billion in GGR since going live in March 2020, delivering $175 million to state coffers along the way.

Caesars operates two other casinos in the state – Harrah’s Joliet and Harrah’s Metropolis.

Caesars Sportsbook Update

Caesars Sportsbook is the brand through which bettors in Illinois and other stages place online and mobile bets with the gaming company.

On a national basis, the operators is usually around the fourth-largest behind FanDuel, BetMGM and DraftKings, depending upon the state. But Caesars was among the first sportsbook companies to markedly pull back advertising spending, indicating it’s amassing market share on a cost-effective basis.

Analysts expect that unit will report a third-quarter loss. But that loss is forecast to be among the lowest since the unit’s inception, paving the way for the operator to potentially be among the first to turn a profit from online gaming and sports betting.

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