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Moe Dalitz

Morris Barney Dalitz (December 25, 1899 – August 31, 1989) — known as Moe Dalitz — was an American bootlegger, racketeer and casino owner who was one of the major figures who helped shape Las Vegas, Nevada in the 20th century. He was often referred to as "Mr. Las Vegas."


Born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Michigan, Dalitz worked in his family's laundry business early on, but began his career in bootlegging when Prohibition began in 1919, and capitalized on his access to the laundry trucks in the family business. He ran a leading criminal organization of Jewish American gangsters called the Cleveland Syndicate known for their violence and criminal ways, with partners Louis "Lou Roddy" Rothkopf, Leo "Charles Polizzi" Berkowitz, Morris Kleinman and Sam Tucker all of whom operated primarily between Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan during the Prohibition era. Additionally he developed a partnership with the Maceo syndicate which ran Galveston and supplied liquor from Canada and Mexico. Dalitz formed strong ties within Cleveland's Eastside, Little Italy community. He later merged his group with top underworld leaders from the Murray Hill and Mayfield Road area, such as brothers Fred "Freddy King" and John "Johnny King" Angersola, Alfred Polizzi and brothers Frank Milano and Anthony Milano of the "Mayfield Road Mob" to form the leading underworld organization in Cleveland. While converting his profits into legitimate businesses, he also owned several illegal casinos in Cleveland.

Las Vegas casinos

His investments in Las Vegas began in the late 1940s with the Desert Inn when the original builder of the resort, Wilbur Clark, ran out of money, and Dalitz took over the construction. When it opened in 1950, Clark remained the public face and frontman of the resort, while Dalitz quietly remained in the background as the real owner. He also ran the Stardust Resort & Casino for a time after the death of Anthony Cornero. Dalitz owned the Desert Inn until 1967, when he sold it to businessman Howard Hughes. Since he had been under constant pressure from law enforcement for many years, selling the resort was seen as an opportunity to get the authorities off his back. Dalitz had ties to both Jimmy Hoffa and Lew Wasserman of MCA, both of whom were subject to extensive criminal and anti-trust investigations in the 1960s. Hoffa had testified to his longtime relationship with Dalitz through union representation of his dry cleaners. Wasserman had first worked at a Cleveland club owned by Dalitz and his associates.

Moe Dalitz was also a longtime friend of Meyer Lansky, one of the main architects of modern organized crime. To the FBI, Dalitz played a vital role inside Lansky's powerful organization which many believed stretched as far as Israel. Aside from Dalitz, The Lansky Group, as they were called included several other big names. Among those were Sam Cohen, Vincent Alo, Harry Rosen, Doc Stacher, Dino Cellini, Yiddy Bloom, Bugsy Siegel, John Pullman and actor, George Raft.

Later years

In the 1970s, Dalitz filed a massive defamation suit against Penthouse magazine over an article written by Lowell Bergman about Rancho La Costa, a resort funded by the Teamsters. Dalitz was an associate of Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt, and contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns. The last casino that Dalitz owned was the Sundance Hotel Casino, later renamed the Fitzgerald, and more recently, The D Las Vegas. Dalitz built the Las Vegas Country Club, Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, and many other important Las Vegas institutions. He was a frequent donor to the Las Vegas Public Library system along with other community organizations in Las Vegas.

He counted among his frequent visitors in his later years such well known personalities as Barbara Walters, Harry Reid, Suzanne Somers, Wayne Newton, Buddy Hackett, and Frank Sinatra. Dalitz was proud of helping performers like Sinatra get their first big breaks in show business. In 1982, Dalitz received the "Torch of Liberty" award from the Anti-Defamation League.

Dalitz continued to be active in the Las Vegas community, but — except for trips to visit friends in the Las Vegas area or occasional trips in his Rolls Royce to Mt Charleston — he stayed in his Regency Towers penthouse apartment. When he died in 1989 many organizations received substantial donations he left in his will.