John Ascuaga, a Northern Nevada gambling icon, dies at age 96

SPARKS — John Ascuaga, the son of Basque sheepherders who became a northern Nevada playing icon after he sold a cramped espresso shop with just a few slot machines in Sparks in 1960 and became it correct into a prime resort-casino he operated for more than a half of century, has died. He became as soon as 96.

Ascuaga became as soon as known for roaming the casino ground and greeting patrons for my half at the Nugget that bore his establish along U.S. Interstate 80 appropriate east of Reno till it first became as soon as sold in 2013.

Anthony Marnell III, CEO of Marnell Gaming which received the property now called the Nugget Casino Resort in 2016, mentioned Ascuaga’s household notified them of his loss of life on Monday. The cause for loss of life became as soon as disclosed.

“John became as soon as now not entirely an icon in northern Nevada and right by the web site online, he became as soon as opinion to be one of the appropriate pioneers in Nevada gaming and helped form the route of your total insist,” Marnell mentioned in a instruct.

Ascuaga’s father moved to Idaho from Spain in the early 1900s. He became as soon as born in Caldwell, Idaho, in January 1925, served in the U.S. Navy in his formative years and earned degrees in accounting at the University of Idaho and restaurant administration at Washington Negate University.

He got his originate in the industry as a bellman at a hotel in Idaho where he met casino pioneer Dick Graves. Graves owned cramped Nugget casinos in Reno, Carson City and Yerington ahead of opening one in Sparks in 1955 and hiring Ascuaga as a manager.

Ascuaga sold it in 1960 and rapidly began a vary of enlargement projects that became it into today’s 1,600-room property in two towers with a convention heart and more than one restaurants.

One amongst the main additions became as soon as a 600-seat present room, dubbed “The Circus Room,” where Crimson Skelton, Liberace, Wayne Newton, Ella Fitzgerald, George Burns and Ray Charles preformed. The opening act most often starred Bertha, an elephant Ascuaga sold from a circus museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, for $8,000 in 1962.

Tributes pour in

Truckee Gaming CEO Ferenc Szony, the extinct Sands Regency CEO who became as soon as furthermore an government for the extinct Reno Hilton, mentioned constructing a winning casino alternate delivery air the more established downtown Reno became as soon as rather an accomplishment.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak mentioned he “brought a boundless vitality to work on daily foundation,” transforming “a cramped espresso shop in Sparks correct into a household-bustle gaming juggernaut of more than 50 years.”

“He became as soon as surely opinion to be one of Nevada’s most popular and winning businessmen who in actuality helped form our metropolis,” added Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson.

Old Sparks Mayor Geno Martini mentioned he became as soon as a 10-year-worn eating an “Awful Awful” burger at the Nugget when he first met Ascuaga. He final saw him quickly after the initial sale of John Ascuaga’s Nugget casino to Las Vegas-essentially based Global Gaming and Hospitality in 2013.

“He became as soon as doing what he at all times did and became as soon as walking around and talking to every person,” Martini urged the Reno Gazette Journal.

Old Gov. Brian Sandoval, now president of the University of Nevada, Reno, mentioned Ascuaga “became as soon as a account.”

“He became as soon as higher than life — an infinite personality, with an infinite coronary heart who cared deeply for the community, his website online visitors and his household,” Sandoval mentioned.