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I knew Bob Faiss for more than sixty years. We attended school together, in Las Vegas and at the university in Reno. For more than a decade, we practiced law together, and I had the honor of delivering one of the eulogies at his recent memorial service after his death at the age of seventy-nine. I should add that the writer of this feature was honored to call Bob a friend. But that isn’t why we’re talking about him. It’s because he was one of the most significant figures in modern Nevada history.
Bob was born in Centralia, Illinois, in 1934. His parents, Wilbur and Theresa, would be married for more than seventy-nine years. Wilbur Faiss became a state senator from North Las Vegas. He ran a service station after moving here, and the family lived right behind it. Bob was the sports columnist for the Las Vegas High School Desert Breeze newspaper, started working for the Las Vegas Sun, and eventually left the university to be a reporter and city editor. In 1959, he moved to Carson City to be assistant to the executive secretary of the newly created Nevada Gaming Commission. He wrote a how-to guide for license applicants and administrators. In 1963, he became the top assistant to Governor Grant Sawyer, handling myriad duties.
After Sawyer’s defeat for a third term in 1966, Bob went to Washington. He worked in the White House for Lyndon Johnson, and for a federal agency. He finished his journalism degree at American University and was thinking about going back to newspapers. Then Sawyer played golf with him in Washington and suggested that he go to law school. Then he could come back to Las Vegas and practice at his new law firm, which he had founded with Sam Lionel. That’s what Bob did. He was a cornerstone of Lionel Sawyer and Collins for forty years.
Bob’s specialty was technically administrative law, especially gaming, although that doesn’t begin to describe it. He represented some of the most important operators in the industry’s history, including Del Webb, Hilton, and MGM. He spent a lot of time at the legislature, and shaped important legislation, including enabling Nevada gaming companies to own casinos outside the state; the first regulations for internet gaming; gaming enterprise districts; and standards requiring applicants to make contributions to their community in which they built. Other jurisdictions brought him in to help set up their regulatory systems, in the U.S. and abroad, and he served on federal panels. He taught gaming law for the National Judicial College and UNLV’s Boyd School of Law and did so much to make gaming, and gaming law respectable and respected.
Bob received every honor imaginable, from his profession and from the community. But he never changed. He believed in giving credit to others. He took pride not in his achievements, but in his family, including his wife Linda, who runs a leading local advertising agency, and his five children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren; in the attorneys he trained as a mentor at Lionel Sawyer and as an adjunct professor; and in the honors that went to the people who mattered most to him. When Grant Sawyer died, Bob Faiss began his eulogy by saying, “The best man I ever knew died this week.” A lot of people said the same thing about Bob Faiss.