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The Gaming Hall of Fame

1989 Inductee

Grant Sawyer

Grant Sawyer

Industry Leader


Grant Sawyer (1918-1996) helped to create the Nevada system of gaming regulation.

Born in Twin Falls, Idaho, Sawyer grew up in Fallon, Nevada, and became a pioneer in both Nevada politics and gaming law.

Sawyer attended the University of Nevada Reno before receiving his law degree from George Washington University. After serving as District Attorney of Elko County, Sawyer, a Democrat, was elected governor of Nevada in 1958.

Sawyer presided over the state--and its gaming industry--when it was facing several crises. Under his mediation, Las Vegas casino operators agreed to end a de facto policy of racial segregation in 1960. His years as governor also saw a newly-powerful regulatory apparatus extend its powers: the first list of excluded persons, issued in 1960, established in law that the state could bar undesirables from even entering casinos, and an abortive attempt by Robert Kennedy to raid several Nevada casinos was only forestalled by Sawyer's shuttle diplomacy.

Sawyer won a second term in 1962, but lost to Paul Laxaly in his 1966 re-election bid. After leaving the governor's mansion, Sawyer founded the law firm Lionel Sawyer Collins, which became one of Nevada's largest and most important firms, with an internationally-recognized gaming law practice.

Today Sawyer is memorialized at the Grant Sawyer Building, the downtown Las Vegas complex that hosts, among other state offices, the Gaming Control Board, and the Grant Sawyer Center for Justice, a University of Nevada Reno center that brings together faculty, departments, and students with an interest in broad issues of justice to work together on research, teaching, and service activities of mutual interest.

Sawyer's oral history, Hang Tough!, recounts the turbulent years of his governorship and recounts the major episodes in the life of one of Nevada's most important figures.

Further resources


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Last modified Friday, 08-Apr-2022 11:31:07 PDT



This page last updated Friday, 08-Apr-2022 11:31:07 PDT .