Ascuaga resigns from Nevada Gaming Commission

Michonne Ascuaga

Michonne Ascuaga has resigned from the Nevada Gaming Commission in the wake of recent revelations that the casino she ran for 16 years was the subject of a federal investigation.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office announced today that he accepted Ascuaga’s resignation, which followed court filings this week that said the Nugget casino in Sparks was investigated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, also known as FinCEN. Ascuaga was CEO of the Nugget from 1997 until its sale in 2013.

Sandoval said in a statement that Ascuaga had served the commission well. The governor appointed her to the state’s top gambling regulatory body last April.

“I admire her and wish to recognize her family’s long history as leaders in the gaming industry,” Sandoval said. “I appreciate that she has put the credibility and reputation of the Gaming Commission first. Michonne is a consummate professional and will continue to be a leader in our community.”

The court documents indicated that FinCEN had looked into the effectiveness of the Nugget’s anti-money laundering program, among other issues. The filings were part of an ongoing legal fight between the Ascuaga family and Wolfhound Holdings LLC, which bought the Nugget in 2013.

The status of the investigation wasn’t clear but Ascuaga had said she wasn’t the target and that she hadn’t been in touch with investigators since November 2013.

“The Sparks Nugget was informed in November 2013 by the Department of Treasury that the Department was investigating whether it was appropriate to impose civil penalties for possible violations of anti-money laundering regulations,” she said in a statement. “The matter arose from an audit-type examination conducted by the IRS at the casino in 2010. This was all disclosed immediately to the buyer.”

Still, the issue put Ascuaga in a difficult position because the commission approves fines against gaming licensees. Ascuaga, along with her colleagues on the commission, voted in September to approve a $1.5 million fine against Caesars Entertainment Corp. due to lapses in anti-money laundering efforts at Caesars Palace.

A spokeswoman for Sandoval said he did not know about the investigation when he appointed her to the commission. He has not yet named Ascuaga’s replacement.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.