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Renowned gaming lawyer Bob Faiss, 79, loses battle with cancer

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Bob Faiss

Updated Thursday, June 5, 2014 | 6 p.m.

At the conclusion of Bob Faiss’s tenure in Washington, D.C., as assistant chief of staff for then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, Faiss was at the crossroads as to which direction he would take his career.

While golfing with former Nevada Gov. Grant Sawyer in 1968, Faiss, who had been city editor of the Las Vegas Sun in the 1950s, confided that he was strongly considering returning to journalism.

“Why don’t you go to law school, and come to work for me, Bob?” said Sawyer, who was a chief partner in the then one-year-old Las Vegas law firm of Lionel, Sawyer and Collins. Faiss, then 34, quickly decided that he would make that commitment. It forever changed the course of Nevada gaming law history.

Robert D. Faiss, an internationally acclaimed attorney who wrote the first “how-to book” on gaming law that has long been used by lawyers, journalists and gaming license applicants to help guide them through the often complex system of regulations, died late Wednesday night in Las Vegas. He was 79.

The cause was cancer. Faiss had survived kidney cancer about 10 years ago, but was stricken with cancer in his chest about two years ago.

Services for the 70-year Las Vegas resident will be held Friday, June 13 at 3 p.m. at the Historic Fifth Street School in downtown Las Vegas.

“Bob Faiss should and will be remembered as one of the inventors — and I think the most important inventor — of gaming law,” said UNLV history professor Michael Green.

“But Bob would say the most important things he did were as a son, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He was a modest man with nothing to be modest about, a nice guy, usually quiet but with a deceptively great sense of humor.”

Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard, in an email to Faiss’s family and fellow commissioners today, said a special tribute to Faiss and his role in developing effective gaming regulations will be made at the scheduled June 19 commission meeting.

“That role will continue in perpetuity with all existing and future regulators using the groundwork that Bob established, which has become the gold standard of regulatory principles in every jurisdiction around the world,” Bernhard said.

Faiss comes from a prominent Las Vegas family. His parents were former Nevada State Sen. Wilbur Faiss, a Democrat representing North Las Vegas from 1976-1984, and 1996 Clark County Pioneer Mother of the Year Theresa Faiss.

Faiss also was the brother of prominent retired gaming figures Don and Ron Faiss and the husband of longtime Las Vegas public relations executive and journalist Linda Faiss, who, as Linda Cooper, was city editor of the old Valley Times North Las Vegas daily newspaper.

“Bob had so much reverence for Grant Sawyer that he gave up his dream of going back into journalism to go and get his law degree and work for him,” Linda Faiss said today. “He didn’t have to think long about it. He simply said ‘OK’ to Grant’s offer and he never looked back with any regrets.

“Bob was just a happy guy in everything he did throughout his life.”

Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, spoke of Faiss’s professionalism, humility and wisdom.

“Nevada and the global casino resort industry have lost a leading light in the passing of Bob Faiss,” Murren said. “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, his contributions to his native state, its economy and its people cannot possibly be overstated. I will remember Bob as someone who displayed the most extraordinary sense of humility of virtually anyone I’ve known in this or any industry.”

Faiss holds the distinction of being the second head of the Gaming and Administrative Law Department at Lionel, Sawyer and Collins. Sawyer was the first.

The firm's patriarch, Sam Lionel, called Faiss' passing "a terrible loss. This wonderful man was a friend to everyone. His unblemished character and friendship will be missed by all who knew him. I will miss my beloved friend and partner."

Another partner in the firm, former Nevada governor and U.S. Senator Richard Bryan, recalled attending school with Faiss — first at Las Vegas High School and then at UNR — and remembered him as an outgoing cheerleader, a persona far different from the quiet, reflective lawyer who would emerge. "Later in life, he was so soft-spoken, not bombastic," Bryan said. "He didn’t foil with his hands in the air and raise his voice and pound that table. That brought him an enormous amount of respect fromwel clients and regulators."

Faiss also served his employers and clients well with his writing skills, Bryan said. "Bob wrote everything with an editor's touch for clarity and simplicity. He never lost that city editor gene."

Before he even got into law, Faiss, serving in 1961 as the assistant secretary of the nascent Nevada Gaming Commission, wrote the first state publication on gaming regulations that paved the way for the creation of Nevada’s gaming system.

Sawyer, then governor, called the publication “the first how-to book on gaming” and called Faiss “an absolutely phenomenal writer.” In 1963, Sawyer hired Faiss to serve as his executive assistant, the post Faiss held before joining LBJ’s staff in Washington, D.C., for four years.

Faiss, who represented the gaming industry at the Nevada Legislature for more than 30 years, also was instrumental in changing or instituting the following key gaming laws:

• Helped change the statute in the late 1970s that allowed Nevada casino companies to become involved in out-of-state gaming ventures.

• Created the first legislation in 2001 that set the regulations for Internet gaming in Nevada, creating the foundation for how that form of gambling eventually will be regulated.

• Helped create the gaming enterprise districts that allow the general public to have a voice as to whether a resort will impact particular areas of the community. It’s otherwise known as the regulation that restricts the proliferation of neighborhood casinos.

• Set up gaming control systems in other states and countries.

In his 2006 UNLV oral history, Faiss said that he felt his greatest accomplishment in gaming law was the creation of the resort hotel standards, particularly the requirement that applicants for non-restrictive state gaming licenses must make contributions to the community in the form of construction money to help the community grow.

An adjunct professor of gaming law and policy since 2001 at the William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV, Faiss also was an instructor in gaming law for the National Judicial College. UNLV officials are in the process of creating a gaming law degree at the law school as a tribute to Faiss.

In the 1990s, Faiss hosted a talk show on Boulder City Public Access TV, “Hi Bob!” The show featured prominent Nevada guests from a number of fields.

Born Sept. 19, 1934, in Centralia, Ill., Faiss moved with his family to Las Vegas in 1944.

Faiss attended UNR before graduating from American University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in 1969. He earned his law degree from the American University School of Law in 1972. Faiss was awarded his bachelor's degree from UNR in 2000.

Among the many honors Faiss has earned as one of the world’s foremost authorities on gaming law, are being named:

• One of 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.

• One of the “500 Leading Lawyers in America.” in 2008 by Lawdragon.

• Lawyer of the Year in gaming law in Las Vegas in 2011 by Best Lawyers.

• “Star performer” in the 2013 edition of Chambers Global.

• The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in gaming law from the Nevada Gaming Attorneys and the UNLV International Gaming Institute.

• A “Distinguished Nevadan” in 2013, the highest award granted by the Nevada Board of Regents.

From 1998 to 2003, Faiss served on the Bank Secrecy Act Advisory Group of the U.S. Department of Treasury as the representative of the U.S. casino industry. He testified before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission on casino credit practices and procedures.

Faiss also consulted with officials from Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam regarding the creation of gaming control systems in those Asian nations.

Faiss was a member of the American Bar Association, International Association of Gaming Attorneys (charter trustee and past president), International Masters of Gaming Law, Associate Editor of Gaming Law Review and Economics Journal,

State Bar of Nevada and Bar of the District of Columbia.

He was licensed to practice law in Nevada federal court and before the U.S. Supreme Court.

An avid bowler, Faiss and his then-92-year-old father Wilbur were members of The Bowlers From Hell, which won the Boulder City league championship in the early 2000s.

Faiss Drive in Sun City Summerlin was named for Bob Faiss by the Del Webb Corporation in honor of Faiss’s contribution to the gaming world.

In addition to his wife and two brothers, Faiss is survived by four sons, Michael Faiss, Mitch Faiss, Philip Faiss and Justin Cooper Chambers; a daughter, Marcy Cooper-Ayers, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

The Faiss family suggested donations can be made in Bob’s memory to the Boulder City Hospital, UNLV Boyd School of Law or Faiss Middle School.

Ed Koch is a former longtime Las Vegas Sun reporter.

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