Nevada Gaming Legend John Ascuaga Lifeless at 96 


Posted on: June 29, 2021, 02:46h. 

Final up to date on: June 29, 2021, 02:55h.

John Ascuaga, whose title was connected to a Northern Nevada landmark on line casino for many years, died Monday. He was 96.

John Ascuaga
Nevada gaming pioneer John Ascuaga is seen on this portrait. In 1960, Ascuaga turned proprietor of the Nugget in Sparks. (Picture: Report-Courier)

Anthony Marnell II famous that Ascuaga was one of many state’s most outstanding gaming figures. Marnell is CEO of Marnell Gaming, which owns the Nugget On line casino and Resort in Sparks, simply east of Reno. When Ascuaga owned the property, it was referred to as John Ascuaga’s Nugget.

“John was not solely an icon in Northern Nevada and all through the area, he was additionally one of many true pioneers in Nevada gaming and helped form the path of the complete state,” Marnell mentioned in an announcement.

Ascuaga grew up in Idaho because the son of Basque immigrants. His household was concerned in sheep herding and farming. However he pursued faculty levels in accounting and resort administration, in keeping with the Report-Courier in Gardnerville.

Within the Fifties, Ascuaga adopted Idaho restaurateur Dick Graves to Northern Nevada and assisted Graves in establishing Nugget casinos within the space. Ascuaga had labored for Graves in Idaho as a resort bellman, in keeping with the Nevada Handbook.

In 1955, Graves opened a 60-seat espresso store in Sparks. The espresso store, referred to as the Nugget, is reverse the present hotel-casino.

Ascuaga finally purchased the Sparks Nugget from Graves and “turned it right into a humongous advanced, constructed below and round Interstate 80, which got here by way of the world within the early Nineteen Seventies,” in keeping with A Journey Information to Basque America.

Because the Nevada Handbook states, the Nugget’s location makes it “the one on line casino on the planet, in all probability, holding up a superhighway.”

‘Reside Elephants’

Ascuaga was recognized for roaming the Nugget with a smile on his face, speaking informally with staff and visitors. For years, an elephant named Bertha carried out in a showroom on the resort and took part in parades all through the area. Elephants named Tina and Angel additionally had been concerned in these occasions.

In 2017, the College of Nevada, Reno unveiled an exhibit of images and different memorabilia related to Bertha and Ascuaga’s possession of the Nugget. His household offered the property in 2013.

The Nugget is and was a real icon in our area, and nobody had stay elephants of their on line casino,” Jacquelyn Sundstrand, the college’s manuscripts and archives librarian, mentioned on UNR’s web site.

One other characteristic on the property was an 18-karat gold rooster sculpture on show within the Golden Rooster Room. The rooster remained on the property from Might 1958 till the household took possession of the 14-pound object after promoting the hotel-casino.

All through the years, the Nugget has not been with out controversy, together with a taking pictures loss of life on the gaming ground and a $1 million fantastic in an anti-money laundering case.

Basque Tradition

In 1959, when Ascuaga labored for Graves in Sparks, the Nugget sponsored the primary Western Basque Pageant. 

This occasion put Sparks “within the forefront of recent Basque cultural manifestations in Nevada,” in keeping with A Journey Information to Basque America.

To today, the Basque tradition stays sturdy in Northern Nevada, with festivals and household fashion Basque eating places all through the world. Lots of the Basque traditions in Nevada and different states within the area originate from the Pyrenees mountain vary alongside the border of Spain and France.  

Basque occasions are one among many sporting and cultural choices that tourism officers in Northern Nevada promote to draw guests for actions apart from playing. This various strategy to advertising and marketing is credited with serving to Northern Nevada rebound higher from the pandemic than the Las Vegas Valley within the southern a part of the state. 

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