Regents Get One Right by Honoring Faiss

The Board of Regents has a history of doing the wrong thing or nothing at all. But every now and then the Nevada System of Higher Education’s governing body gets one right, and should be applauded for it.

Each year, the board approves honorary degrees and “Distinguished Nevadans.” This year, one of the recipients of that honor is Bob Faiss. If you don’t know him, he’s done a lot to make Nevada a better place.

Faiss moved here with his family in 1944 at age 10. His father Wilbur ran a gas station at Lake Mead and Las Vegas Boulevard North, and went on to work at the Test Site and serve in the state legislature. Bob Faiss went to UNR, edited the Las Vegas High School newspaper and went to work at the Las Vegas Sun, becoming city editor in his early twenties.

In 1959, Faiss went to work for the state. He worked for the Employment Security Department and then the newly created Gaming Commission, where he pretty much wrote the rule book for how it functions. Joining Governor Grant Sawyer’s staff, he wrote speeches, worked on policy and did everything but the dishes until Sawyer left office. Then Faiss worked in Lyndon Johnson’s White House as an untitled deputy chief of staff (titles like that didn’t exist in the late 1960s). While working for the federal government, he took Sawyer’s suggestion that he go to law school and come back to practice with the law firm that he and Sam Lionel were building.

Since 1973, that’s what Faiss has been doing. He’s helped write a lot of the laws that govern the gaming industry. He’s represented clients here and around the world on everything from licensing to regulation. He has done a lot to help build that firm’s good reputation.

He also has put an emphasis on the past, helping to fund oral histories of prominent Nevadans and, to his consternation, sitting down to be interviewed for one himself. But he also has been concerned about the future, pushing for the most professional gaming industry and regulation possible and teaching gaming law classes at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law, where he has encouraged students to publish their findings and present them to regulators and industry leaders.

He also has represented Nevada to the world, as an appointee to federal boards and as a leader in international organizations. What others think of him may be gleaned from this: there’s a publication called 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America. One Nevadan has been in it. Him.

Now let’s get personal. I met Bob through his wife Linda, who I worked with too many years ago at a newspaper, The Valley Times. We’re friends. One of the oral histories he helped fund was of our mutual dear friend Ralph Denton, and I conducted the interviews. I wrote the introduction to Bob’s oral history of his years in gaming regulation and gaming law.

Lawyers get a bad rap (my copy of Truly Tasteless Lawyer Jokes must be around here somewhere). But Bob Faiss may be the most respected person associated in any way with the gaming industry. That doesn’t mean he’s made everybody love him—that isn’t what attorneys are supposed to do. It means he does what he thinks is best and right, that he listens when everybody else wants to talk and talks when everybody else should listen.

That doesn’t mean he’s always been thrilled with his clients. Bob probably would admit to seeming rather staid, but he wound up representing Mike Tyson before the Nevada Athletic Commission and emerged unscathed—and, more amusingly, with the ability to do a great Tyson impression. They aren’t exactly a likely pair.

Bob probably wouldn’t even have said an unkind word about the Board of Regents before this (and I was there when one former member severely tested him). But here’s to regent Andrea Anderson and her colleagues for getting one right. Bob Faiss is distinguished and a Nevadan.