Carson Nugget founder
The last of the brother team who owned and operated the Carson Nugget for nearly 50 years died last week in Boise, Idaho.
L.A. “Hop” Adams was 92.
He and his brother Howard bought the Nugget in 1957. It was an 80-by-40 foot structure on North Carson Street with a small kitchen and dining area that had been built three years earlier. Over the years, they steadily expanded the property until it was Carson City’s largest casino, spread over four square blocks including parking lots and the Carson Nugget City Center Motel.
They operated it as a team until Howard Adams died in 1999 at age 90.
“Each of us did everything,” Hop Adams said in a 1997 interview with the Appeal. “When we were starting, Howard and I were the only ramrods we had. There’s not a thing in the casino I haven’t done. I’ve washed dishes, I’ve cooked, I’ve dealt.”
He said he liked being out on the casino floor best — “seeing that everybody is taken care of.”
“I like mingling with people. I never was an office worker. I always hated it.”
He said they built the business by being as fair as possible to the customer.
“Over 60 years ago, we put six machines in a place,” he said referring to their early slot houses in Idaho. “We had three tight ones and three loose ones. The loose ones got all the play. We found out a long time ago that the loosest way to run them is the only way to run them.”
They grew up in Boise raising cattle and, though they didn’t have specific career goals, knew they wanted out of that business.
“I did know I didn’t want to be a farmer any longer,” Adams said.
They first started in gaming with small slot machine houses in Idaho and Oregon.
“Greyhound even allowed us to have slots on buses,” he said.
But those businesses were shut down when Idaho and Oregon outlawed gambling. The brothers moved to Las Vegas in 1945 just as Bugsy Siegel was building the Flamingo.
They ran the Nevada Club in Las Vegas, the Royal in Henderson and the Bonanza in North Las Vegas for a dozen years but never liked Las Vegas.
Adams said they wanted a smaller community in the mountains — similar to Boise.
They found it in Carson City.
“We just came through here and liked the place,” he said. “Everybody was talking to you as if you’re a long, lost friend. There was a little casino here and we bought it.”
In the years they ran the Nugget, Carson City has grown from just 3,000 to nearly 60,000 residents.
Howard’s share of the casino passed to son Alan when he died. He said when the Gaming Commission approved his ownership that the Nugget would remain a family operation.
Adams’ death was announced in a simple two sentence obituary printed both in Boise and Carson City. A spokesman for the funeral home said the family didn’t want any more than that brief notice.
The family has always guarded its privacy and preferred to remain out of the limelight. They did the same when Howard Adams and his wife died in 1999.
Hop Adams is survived by his wife Mae and daughter Betty Jean. Services were held in Boise.