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After more than 50 years in the family’s hands, the Ascuaga’s sell the Nugget Hotel/Casino in Sparks, Nevada


John Ascuaga, owner of the Nugget Hotel/Casino and a portrait of the Orozko Restaurant (photo
John Ascuaga, owner of the Nugget Hotel/Casino and a portrait of the Orozko Restaurant (photo
The Nugget Hotel/Casino, in Sparks, Nevada run by Basque John Ascuaga and his family for the last 58 years, was sold and will change hands to a company that manages other casinos. The casino, a large building with two towers and various restaurants inside, was in its day the economic motor for the city of Sparks which adjoins Reno. Ascuaga and his family have stood by their commitment to the local community which received the news of its sale with regret.


Sparks, NV.  The Ascuaga family, owner of the Nugget Hotel/Casino in Sparks, announced the sale of this empire – complete with two towers, 29 floors high and several other casinos, hotels and surrounding buildings – to the Global Gaming and Hospitality and Husky Finance Company.  The casino has been run by this family of Basque origin for the last 58 years since the patriarch, John Ascuaga, closed the deal on a handshake with then owner Dick Graves, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

Graves was married to a Basque, Flora, and Ascuaga came from Idaho to Nevada to work in the casino.  In the end, he bought the business and during more than a half century he dedicated himself to expanding and improving it, converting it into the economic motor of the city.  The Nugget in Sparks was also the site for the first Western Basque Festival, a landmark event for the US Basque community in 1959, and its amphitheater and facilities were also the sight for years of the Zazpiak Bat Basque club’s annual festival currently celebrated in Wingfield Park, in this city whose Basque sister-city is Donostia-San Sebastian.

Hard Times

Ascuaga had left running the casino to his children Stephen and Michonne; but in the end, the family decided to sell the business to Global Gaming who ensures the making of million dollar investments so that the business continues to be competitive and will also maintain jobs.

“It has been a hard day,” said Stephen Ascuaga to RGJ, adding that it was a very emotional time for his father John Ascuaga who had no comment, but in a note thanked the community, his employees and customers for '58 incredible years.'”

Contribution to the Community

Ascuaga, who is 88 years old, has been a prominent Member of the community of Sparks where he was known for his social activism which led him to create annual scholarships for local students and to donate turkeys for the poor during holidays, among other activities.

Ascuaga was always proud of his Basque origin and has generously contributed to the activities of the local Basque community.  One of his restaurants in his casino is called 'Orozko', town in Bizkaia where his father was born.

News of the sale saddened the local community.  In the RGJ article you can read various reactions and comments, as well as additional information on the sale. 

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