Ascuaga family to sell John Ascuaga's Nugget

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Updated: 10/10/2013 4:24 pm
SPARKS, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- Sparks Nugget Inc. announced today that it has reached agreement with Global Gaming & Hospitality (GGH) and Husky Finance in the sale of John Ascuaga’s Nugget. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Husky Finance, a middle-market lender, will provide acquisition financing and growth capital for renovation of the Nugget, while GGH, a private casino management and merchant advisory firm, will assume responsibility for operations of the property.

"My family and I believe that the sale of John Ascuaga's Nugget at this time is the best possible scenario for our employees and the future of the Nugget. The new owners have the financial resources needed to invest in the property and allow it -- and its 1,300 employees -- to prosper in the years ahead," said Michonne Ascuaga, CEO of John Ascuaga's Nugget.

The sale requires regulatory approval by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission and is expected be completed by Jan. 1, 2014. The Ascuaga family will remain in a leadership role through the transition. Once the sale is complete, John Ascuaga will be Chairman Emeritus. Michonne Ascuaga and Stephen Ascuaga, COO, will assume advisory roles.

GGH Co-Owner Carlton Geer will be the new President & CEO of the Nugget. Geer has been involved in the gaming and hospitality industry for 40 years. He has spent four years at the Eldorado Hotel Casino in the early 80s followed by 13 years at the Peppermill Hotel Casino, the last three as its general manager.

The new owners expect to invest $50 million in the property over the next few years. GGH’s improvement plans for the Nugget include renovating and updating the casino floor, hotel rooms, restaurants, convention space and exterior. Capital plans include spending about $20 million over the first two years in new slot equipment, renovating restaurants, substantial casino and public area refurbishment and room renovation, among other upgrades.

According to GGH, the name John Ascuaga’s Nugget will remain in the near term, with a potential name change in the future. Nugget customer programs, such as John’s Club will remain intact. No lay-offs are planned as a result of the sale and current employees will retain their seniority and benefits.

The Nugget's long-standing community programs such as providing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at St. Vincent's Dining Room and the Nugget Scholarship program will continue. The Nugget's special events like the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off and Star Spangled Sparks will also carry on.

Dick Graves opened The Sparks Nugget on March 17, 1955 as a 60-seat coffee shop with a handful of slot machines. John Ascuaga, then general manager, purchased the Sparks Nugget in 1960 for $3.775 million on a handshake. Under John and two of his children, Michonne and Stephen's, leadership, the Nugget has grown into one of the largest Northern Nevada hotel casinos with over 1600 hotel rooms, 75,000 square feet of casino gaming, 110,000 square feet of convention space, nine restaurants, a sports book, bingo parlor, poker room, a unique indoor/outdoor swimming pool, wedding chapel, salon and spa, arcade, a cabaret, the legendary 700-seat Celebrity Showroom and more.

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Jack21 - 2/18/2014 3:12 PM
0 Votes
It became clear to me what is going on at the Nugget! I have been going to the Nugget Casino an average of 4 times a year for the past 14 years. I have won a few hundred dollars here and there, but mostly lost thousands over the years. My trek to the Nugget from where I live is 240 miles (480 RT). It has been worth it to me for I found the staff and accommodations pleasant. I enjoyed my casino host, complimentary shows, Rooms, and especially dining at Trader Dicks Restaurant. The dealers and players are the friendliest I have found. My last journey, (and I repeat "LAST") To the Nugget was the end of September 2013. I lost again. Another $800 bucks. Shrugged it off as usual. The clincher was two weeks later I get a newsletter via e-mail the Nugget is being sold. A couple of weeks later I check my Johns club card online to see my offers, only to find out I have none and I no longer have a host!? I called marketing to see 'what gives'?. Only to be told I am not a big enough spender anymore. Really!? Following up ... I find out they are closing Trader Dicks Restaurant and replacing it with a saloon and dance hall. Well, "HOW - DEE", aint that a kick in the boot! Now, I'm just saying... I happen to be an old dude at 65. Could it be that the new owners are trying to get a bit younger crowd in there, and push the old timers out?. Well, That is my opinion, and how I feel. It has been fun over the years. I hope they are not going to treat the retired and faithful locals that have been coming to the Nugget over the years the same way. Good bye to the Ascuaga family. I have enjoyed your hospitality over the years.

mongo - 10/11/2013 6:12 AM
0 Votes
@klove - Thank you for correcting retired51. I agree with your entire comment.

klove - 10/11/2013 1:13 AM
0 Votes
@retired51 - Please research before you make assumptions that the Nevada Gaming Commisions controls the payouts at the casino. They simply enforce that the machines are in compliance and are paying at their minimums. The casinos themselves can change the payback percentages as often as they wish. Mongo is right, it makes absolute sense that they reduced payouts to show a better profit margin to potential investors. Also, it should be worth to note that in the article they plan on doing $50 million worth of renovations. Who do you think will be paying for that? I will avoid Nugget for quite some time as they will be in recoup mode for several years. The great thing though is that Reno/Sparks has some of the loosest slot payouts in the country so there are many, many other options for the near future.

steve - 10/11/2013 12:27 AM
1 Vote
When I went to visit the nugget the workers looked worn out and underpaid and I noticed a lot of newly hired workers constantly replacing fired workers.

retired51 - 10/10/2013 10:50 PM
0 Votes
@Mongo,This is not controlled by the casino's! The gaming control board sets the payout percentages for every slot in nevada. The casino's cannot "tighten" their machines.

mongo - 10/10/2013 7:58 PM
0 Votes
I've been a loyal customer at the Nugget for a long time. I suspected something had changed as far back as a year. I played at the Nugget because I felt my odds were better at winning. I've done well playing at the Nugget. That is up until at least a year ago. There is no doubt in my mind that around the time I noticed the change is when the Nugget tighten their slots. I feel that the Nugget did this knowing they were about to sell the casino. Why would they do that? To improve the bottom line. If you can show your making more money it's easier to pitch it to buyers. If my instincts are correct I think that's a very low thing to do to people who have been loyal to the Nugget. Very low...

Kramer - 10/10/2013 5:28 PM
1 Vote
Gotta love the way the Nugget pumps the kitchen aromas out onto I-80. gotta get a toll booth there so we can have a bite!!

kimserrahn - 10/10/2013 1:40 PM
1 Vote
So there should be only 2/3 family owned casinos left in the Reno/Sparks area. Holy cow!

Teresa - 10/10/2013 1:33 PM
0 Votes
OMG! I have been going to the Nugget for the past 25 years! I love this place. We always go to the Rib Cook Off and 4th of July every year. We love to go there just to get away from home. We usually go up there 5 or 6 times a year. Oh, and their New Year's Eve Party is always over the top. I love everything about this place including seeing John walking through the casino just to see how everything was going. I hope they don't change a lot. I'm really going to miss what I know and love about "The Nugget". I feel like someone just hit me in the stomach. This was like our home away from home. I've been going there so long and have been so lucky that I don't even visit the other casinos. Why look for more when you know you have the best. I am truly devastated! Sad, sad fan of the Nugget!

will smith - 10/10/2013 12:01 PM
0 Votes
does this mean former employees of the nugget who were fired from supervisors who should have never held that position be able to return. if so then please inform human resources there's a new sheriff in town.
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