FORMER GOV. BOB MILLER was never shy about his father: Ross Miller Sr. was a mob-connected, rough bar owner and bookmaker in Chicago who came to Las Vegas to work in the then-new casino industry, part of a wave of wiseguys who gave gambling its desert start. (After all, Miller argues in his new book, Son of a Gambling Man, who else could have been found at the time to run casinos? There was no hotel college, so time spent working with illegal gambling was the only real experience available.)
But the extent to which Miller’s relationship with his father influenced him is one of the most fascinating and recurring themes of this book. The ex-governor frankly acknowledges that Las Vegas would not have become the town it was without the mob, even as Miller became the top law-enforcement officer in Clark County and the first governor who had some personal connection to someone in organized crime.
Miller named his son, the current secretary of state and a potential future governor himself, after his father. He flinched when his family’s mob history was repeatedly introduced into political campaigns. And the passage where the stoic Ross Miller Sr. shares a tender moment with his son is one of the book’s most memorable passages.
It’s not clear the extent to which Ross Miller’s influence on his son helped Bob Miller’s political career. (Certainly, Ross Miller’s stand-by-your-word honesty is something rarely practiced in politics.) But it’s clear that Bob Miller worked hard, in part, to show the state of Nevada that the son of a gambling man could rise to be a good district attorney, a good governor. The taint of the past can never be fully erased, but perhaps Miller’s legacy is that it needn’t always be, either.
SON OF A GAMBLING MAN: MY JOURNEY FROM A CASINO FAMILY TO THE GOVERNOR’S MANSION Bob Miller, Thomas Dunne Books, 272 pages