“One problem,” Mr. Reid recalled with a chuckle years later. “His sister was a nun. I got killed on that.”
After an ill-fated bid for the Las Vegas mayoralty in 1975, Mr. Reid’s career was floundering. But Mr. O’Callaghan again came to his aid, making Mr. Reid chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission at a moment when state officials were trying to root out the mob from Las Vegas’s casinos.
It was only then that Mr. Reid realized how entrenched the mob still was on the city’s famous Strip. “That was a real eye-opener for me,” he said later, “because I thought I knew the state very well, but I didn’t.”
As gaming commissioner, he was offered bribes and participated in F.B.I. stings. Near the end of his tenure, his wife, Landra Reid, came out of their house one day to find a bomb attached to the family’s station wagon.
Ms. Reid, who was his closest adviser, survives him, as do his children, Rory, Lana Reid Barringer, Leif, Josh and Key, and 19 grandchildren.
Following the 1980 census, Nevada, for the first time in its history, had a large enough population to merit a second House seat, representing the Las Vegas area. Mr. Reid won the new district, but after two terms a Senate seat again opened up, thanks to Mr. Laxalt’s retirement.
Mr. Reid again benefited from running in a good Democratic year, in 1986, and this time his bare-knuckled tactics paid off as he handily defeated Mr. Laxalt’s hand-picked successor, former Representative Jim Santini.