Saying farewell to Bob Faiss, the nicest man I ever met


Bob Faiss was far and away the kindest, nicest man I’ve ever met.

A shareholder at Lionel, Sawyer &Collins and chairman of the firm’s gaming and regulatory law department, Faiss was widely regarded as one of the foremost gaming attorneys in the world. He literally wrote the book on gaming law, “Gaming Regulation and Gaming Law in Nevada, As Remembered by Robert D. Faiss.”

Faiss died in his beloved hometown of Boulder City late Wednesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 79. He will be missed by many, including me.

Faiss had a way of making you feel as if you were the most important person in the room, no matter who else was in that room. You could tell from the way others interacted with him that he treated everybody that way, but it didn’t diminish his courtliness or sincerity in the least.

Quick to praise others and extremely reluctant to talk about himself or his many accomplishments, Faiss was unfailingly polite. He once wrote in a gaming law publication that a lawyer could be as tough as necessary to represent his clients, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t also be nice. And he lived up to that, always.

Faiss hearkened back to a different era in politics, one in which a disagreement over political ideas didn’t make you a blood enemy of someone with whom you disagreed. He probably got that from his father, the legendary Nevada state Sen. Wilbur Faiss, who was well-known for preferring compromise and comity over conflict.

I’ll always remember the time Bob Faiss called me to correct something I’d written in my column, based on information provided by a particularly ill-informed source. Faiss wasn’t rude in the least, and he didn’t ask me to take his word for it, although I could have. Instead, he was more than happy to fax me pages of decades-old state Senate hearing transcripts that proved the point. I soon learned to rely on Faiss for anything and everything related to gaming law.

No matter the issue, the quietly persuasive Faiss was able to give you a new way of thinking about it. There are many people who want to re-name McCarran International Airport, because of the late U.S. Sen. Pat McCarran’s well-publicized dark side. I was sympathetic, until a dinnertime conversation with Faiss altered me to a key fact: Las Vegas may not ever have existed had McCarran not stepped up at a key moment in history to defeat a proposed federal tax on gambling. (As usual, Faiss took no credit for the idea, instead pointing me to the work of one of his students at UNLV’s Boyd Law School, Ryan Draney, who’d been looking into McCarran for a paper Draney was writing.)

Faiss was always helpful, whether he was assisting one of his students, a colleague or a friend. His encouragement made people feel they could do almost anything, and his praise was never insincere.

Calm, reasoned, quick to listen and slow to speak, Faiss was the perfect counterpoint and companion to his passionate, outspoken wife, Linda, one of the partners in the Las Vegas public relations firm Faiss Foley Warren. My wife worked at the firm with Linda for about seven years, and the Faisses were kind enough to offer us the use of their beautiful home in Boulder City overlooking Lake Mead for our wedding. That’s just who they were.

It cannot be said about a great many people that simply being around them encouraged you to become a better person yourself. But I can say that without reservation about Bob Faiss. It’s not a stretch in the least to say that the world, especially this small corner of it, will be worse off for his absence. He was one in a million.

Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.