A Life’s Legacy: A Tribute to Bob Faiss

Bob Faiss with a portrait of his mentor, Governor Grant Sawyer, founding Partner of Lionel Sawyer & CollinsFor many he was “the nicest man” they’d ever met, for others he was “the greatest mentor” for whom they could have asked, for everyone in gaming, he was someone who left an industry-wide impact.

With more than 40 years in his gaming law career, Robert “Bob” Faiss built Nevada gaming law and paved the way for the expansion of the gaming industry. After a long battle with cancer Faiss died June 4, 2014, at Boulder City Hospital.

Faiss, 79, was a partner and the chairman of the gaming and regulatory law department for Lionel Sawyer & Collins, the largest private law firm in Nevada. Through the course of his professional career, he played a key role in corporate America’s expansion into the gaming industry, helping casino operators earn gaming licenses and expand from Nevada into other states and overseas.

Not only a defender of regulatory law, Faiss wrote the gaming law book “Gaming Regulation and Gaming Law in Nevada,” which was the first state publication on regulations and paved the way for Nevada’s gaming system.

“He was a refutation of every nasty lawyer joke ever told. Attorneys don’t always have the best reputation, but Bob had a wonderful reputation,” said Nevada-based historian and University of Nevada, Las Vegas history professor, Dr. Michael Green. “There aren’t a lot of things that politicians and gaming executives can almost all universally agree on. Bob was one of those things in terms of the respect that he was viewed with, throughout the industry and throughout Nevada.”

Bob Faiss with President Lyndon B. Johnson during Faiss’ time working as an assistant to the chief-of-staff. Faiss was born in Illinois in 1934, moved to Nevada when he was 10 years old and later studied journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. With an original passion for journalism, Faiss worked as the city editor of the Las Vegas Sun after dropping out of the university, then moved to Washington D.C. where he was an assistant to the chief-of-staff for President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1968, friend and former Nevada Gov. Grant Sawyer had taken up work in a partnership law firm. While golfing with Faiss, Sawyer asked him to alter his decision of returning to the journalism field and instead attend law school and work for him at his one-year-old firm in Las Vegas. Faiss accepted the commitment and after that, the rest was history. Faiss’ passion for law grew and his involvement became prominent in the industry. Down the road at Sawyer’s funeral, Faiss gave a eulogy and began it by saying, “The greatest man I ever knew died last week.” Years later, people are saying the same thing about him.

“He was the best; he was a mentor and a friend,” Lionel Sawyer & Collins coworker Jennifer Gaynor said through suppressed tears. “His smile could light up a room and the best thing about him was that he was who we saw. Bob was just himself and he was a great person.”

Although his career serves as a history of his home state’s gaming status, Faiss was key to the progression of gaming law and the growth of the casino industry throughout the country and the world.

In his book foreword to the Japanese edition of Bob’s gaming law treatise, Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett said, “That the world of gaming regulators, casino industry operators and the gaming bar have been shaped by Mr. Faiss, and is better because of that, goes without saying. Were it not for a dignified gaming bar led by Mr. Faiss, ours would be an arena lending itself to the current world of courtroom litigation, where animosity sometimes reigns and battles are fought to the endless detriment of everyone.”

Faiss’ memorial service took place June 13, 2014, at the historic Fifth Street School in downtown Las Vegas. Hundreds of individuals were in attendance at the memorial, taking a moment to spend the afternoon memorializing Faiss and all he did in his profession and for all he was as a colleague, family member and friend.

From the walls of his memorial service setting, to the surrounding streets, from his start at the Fifth Street Grammar School, his education at Las Vegas High School and his years spent with Lionel Sawyer Collins, much of Faiss’ life can be traced back to the four-block radius of the community he cherished.

While it’s safe to say that most individuals would not reflect back on their life and say ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office,’ Faiss was the exception to this. He had previously shared with his wife that he wanted his retirement to be the same day as his funeral or celebration of life. With that story known, at Faiss’ memorial service, former classmate, friend and mentor, Sen. Richard Bryan said openly that he had shared that very story with Gov. Sandoval and that the governor would acquiesce to his request and would proclaim that day [June 13] Bob Faiss’ official retirement day.

Working all the way to the very end of his fight with cancer, coworker and friend Greg Gemignani confirmed Faiss’ love for his work.
“He had a mind like a steel trap. Unfortunately his body just wasn’t as cooperative for him; I think that had to be [a] frustration, but he never showed it. He was sharp right until the end, in fact, I worked on an article with him that was submitted on June first,” Gemignani said.

Throughout his impactful career, Faiss received multiple awards and recognitions including; Mountain States Super Lawyers’ “The Top 75,” one of Lawdragon’s selected “500 Leading Lawyers in America,” Best Lawyers’ “2011 Lawyer of the Year” in gaming law in Las Vegas and one of Global Gaming Business’ “Gaming’s 10 Most Influential People.” In 2012, Faiss was the sole gaming law attorney in the world to be rated as “star individual” in both Chambers Global and Chambers USA and was named “star performer” in the 2013 edition of both and in 2013 he received the “Distinguished Nevadan” award, the highest award granted by the Nevada Board of Regents.

Bob Faiss with his parents, the late Theresa and Wilbur Faiss and President Barack Obama in March 2012. Theresa and Wilbur were honored by the president for being named Longest Married Couple in America. They had been married 79 years.Faiss was a founding member of the American Bar Association, General Practice Section, Gaming Law Committee. He was a former president and charter trustee of the International Association of Gaming Advisors, Associate editor of Gaming Law Review and Economics Journal and founding member of the International Masters of Gaming Law.

“Bob Faiss was one of the finest men we will ever know,” said Sandoval. “He had the voice and touch of a commoner, with whom he proudly identified and associated with, but he conducted his professional life with the grace and poise of an old world barrister and had the vision of a benevolent world leader.”

Despite his passion for gaming law and the subsequent regulation of it, Faiss worked diligently on a daily basis dealing with the gaming industry and at the end of a long workday would head home to the ironic location of Boulder City, the one town in the state of Nevada where gaming is illegal.

Gaming law was far from his only passion in life, however. In addition to his experience and impact on gaming law and the gaming industry, Faiss was a person of enthusiasm and warmth toward community, family and humanity in general.

“He was the most wonderful person you would ever want to meet. He was kind and considerate and everybody was his friend. He just enjoyed people,” said Sandy Similey, Faiss’ assistant for approximately 34 years. “He worked with everyone trying to show them the right way to do things and was very mild-mannered while he did it. If people know Bob they know who he was and what he represented.”

One aspect of the community service he provided out of a desire to share what he knew was important; Faiss was an adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’  William S. Boyd School of Law from 2001 to 2013. Teaching at the university, Faiss believed it only right to share his knowledge on the importance of gaming law and education.

“As much as he cared about people, he also cared about gaming as an institution and wanted the law school’s gaming program to be part of his legacy. By force of will and experience, and kindness and generosity, established the gaming program here at the law school. He worked for well over a decade to make that a reality,” said Ngai Pindell, associate dean of academic affairs and director of the gaming program at the Boyd School of Law.

In the 1990s, Faiss hosted a talk show on Boulder City’s Public Access TV channel called “Hi Bob!” The show featured prominent Nevada guests as they shared their knowledge in a number of fields.

In addition to performing his own community service and community education, Faiss put emphasis on establishing the resort hotel standards, which includes a requirement that applicants for non-restrictive state gaming licenses must make contributions to the community to help foster growth, thus continuing to show his love for community.

“He felt this was his greatest accomplishment [the resort hotel standards] and that one of the things hotels and casinos would have to do was to make contributions to the community,” said Green. “In this way he did a good deal for the reputation of the gaming industry, creating a culture where there would be this involvement.”

An industry pioneer and esteemed attorney, Faiss was an all around career professional, community asset and family man.
Faiss is survived by his wife, Linda; sons Michael Faiss, Mitch Faiss, Philip Faiss and Justin Cooper Chamber; daughter Marcy Cooper-Ayers; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“Any time his wife called he would absolutely stop everything and light up. He was absolutely and completely in love with his wife Linda,” said Gemignani. “I knew him in the 70s and 80s and he was like a high schooler, he was ageless when she’d call, there was a twinkle in his eye. He truly loved his wife and he loved his family.”

Bob Faiss with wife, Linda Faiss, at their home in Boulder City, Nevada.A gentle father, neighbor and friend, Faiss leaves an emotional impression on the hearts of those who knew him.

“He was somebody who was a father-figure to a wide variety of folks, professionally, and as I grew up I included myself as one of those people. After I became a professor in this field and ultimately the executive director of the gaming institute, he and I would go to lunch regularly and again it was the same kind of paternal, gentle character that stood out with Bob. Not only the hundreds of days that he drove me to school but the dozens and dozens of lunches that helped shape a career,” said Dr. Bo Bernhard, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at UNLV, and former neighbor and friend. “I’ve known Bob since I was a little kid and then I knew him as a professor in college at UNLV, a relationship that spans my whole life. It’s one of those things that makes you look back at the kind of impact one life can have on others. I’m 41, almost 40 years of influence and that’s a pretty special gift.”

Regardless of the context of knowing or interacting with him, one thing remains true, Faiss’ lifetime accomplishments will not be forgotten. From forming the foundation for Nevada gaming law and gaming regulation around the world, thinking of others’ first, teaching and showing the next generation of gaming lawyers the right path and raising a loving and considerate family. These are all part of the legacy he leaves behind, which will continue to flourish for years to come.

“His life validated the noblest search, which is the search for excellence,” Sandoval said.

To view CEM’s video tribute Click Here.

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