Bob Faiss, the legendary attorney known as the
“Father of Gaming Law,” died last month at 79.
Faiss was responsible for crafting gaming regulations in Nevada that eventually drove organized crime out of the state’s casino industry and ushered in an era of growth and stability. His accomplishments included opening up the industry to corporations, the spread of corporate gaming ownership, the approval of private gaming salons in Nevada, the introduction of online and mobile gaming in the state and much more.
Before he was a lawyer, he was a journalist. He became the youngest city editor for the Las Vegas Sun at the time in the early 1960s, and eventually worked for the Lyndon Johnson administration. After serving as an aide to Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer for two terms, he attended law school in Washington, D.C., with the promise that he could practice law in Sawyer’s firm.
But nothing had prepared him for the battle with the mob.
Though Nevada gaming had been infiltrated for years by organized crime, efforts were made in the 1950s and ’60s to eliminate any influences of the undesirables. Progress was limited, until Faiss (backed by his mentor, Sawyer) began to re-shape Nevada gaming regulations.
“You have to remember that after the legalization of gaming in 1931, the state played no role in gaming,” he told Global Gaming Business in 2009. “It wasn’t until 1945 that there was a state tax, and the Gaming Control Board was not even set up until 10 years after that. So people had been in business for a long time and had been doing things the way they thought best, and suddenly this system started to be foisted upon them. So there was resistance.”
The Gaming Control Act passed by Sawyer gave the board and the Gaming Commission great discretion. Both the courts and public opinion supported this approach. Further tweaks to the system allowed gaming to operate successfully as long as the integrity of the operation and the games was assured. Faiss, who was a longtime partner in Lionel Sawyer & Collins, was involved with creating many of the regulations and guidelines.
Tributes poured in upon learning of his death.
“Nevada is a much better place because of the Faiss family,” said U.S. Senator Harry Reid. “I’m terribly saddened at the loss of my friend Bob. He has accomplished much for our community, and his commitment to a better Nevada has always been at the forefront of his endeavors.”
“Nevada and the global casino resort industry have lost a leading light in the passing of Bob Faiss,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “Bob’s professionalism, intellect and respect for the rule of law led to the creation of the fundamental regulations that helped to create a stable and well-regulated industry here in Nevada, as well as in jurisdictions across the country and around the world.”