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Morris Barney Dalitz (December 25, 1899 – August 31, 1989) was an American gangster,[1][2] businessman, casino owner and philanthropist. He was one of the major figures who shaped Las Vegas in the 20th century. He was often referred to as "Mr. Las Vegas".[3]

Moe Dalitz
Morris Barney Dalitz

December 25, 1899
DiedAugust 31, 1989(1989-08-31) (aged 89)
Other namesMr. Las Vegas
OccupationBusinessman, gangster, casino owner, philanthropist
Spouse(s)Averill Dalitz
ChildrenSuzanne Dalitz


Early lifeEdit

Dalitz was born on December 25, 1899, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Jewish parents, Barnet "Bernard" Dalitz (b. 8 May 1874 in Austria) and Anna Cohen (b. October 1876 in Austria). He grew up in Michigan.

He 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. Additionally he developed a partnership with the Maceo syndicate which ran Galveston and supplied liquor from Canada and Mexico.[4] Though he admitted under oath that he had been a bootlegger and had operated illegal gambling houses, Dalitz was never convicted of a crime.[5] During Senator Estes Kefauver's committee hearings investigating organized crime, when questioned about his bootlegging, Dalitz said, "If you people wouldn't have drunk it, I wouldn't have bootlegged it."[6]

With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Dalitz turned to gambling and operated illegal but protected casinos in Steubenville, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky. For part of its ten-year run, Dalitz ran The Pettibone Club,[7] an illegal gambling hall that operated in far southwest Geauga County, Ohio (on Pettibone Road east of Solon) from 1939 to 1949.[8][7] He enlisted in the Army in World War II on 25 Jun 1942 and rose in rank from private to first lieutenant.[9] He discharged 29 May 1945.


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, Dalitz and the Cleveland Mayfield Road Gang bailed him out.[10] The casino opened in 1950. Clark remained the public face and frontman of the resort; Dalitz quietly remained in the background as the real owner. He also ran the Stardust Resort & Casino for a time after the death of Tony Cornero. Dalitz owned the Desert Inn until 1967, when he sold it to businessman Howard Hughes. The last casino that Dalitz owned was the Sundance Hotel Casino, later renamed Fitzgerald's,[9] and most recently, The D Las Vegas.

With Allard Roen, Irwin Molasky and Merv Adelson, he founded Paradise Development, a real estate development company in the 1950s.[11] Together, they founded the Sunrise Hospital, The Boulevard Mall and the Las Vegas Country Club.[11] Later, they co-founded the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California.[11]

In a 1983 SUN interview, Dalitz said he considered construction of the Las Vegas Convention Center to be his greatest achievement. "Las Vegas used to be just a gambling town. Now we are a resort destination. The Convention Center complements our purpose," he said.[12]


In 1982, Dalitz received the "Torch of Liberty" award from the Anti-Defamation League. It was presented by comedian Joan Rivers.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Dalitz was married to Averill Dalitz and they had one daughter, Suzanne.[9] They lived in Las Vegas, New York, Mexico and Switzerland. His first marriage was to Edna Louise Keating whom he married 23 Mar 1922 in Indiana, and after that to Toni Clark, whom he married 8 Dec 1945 in Dade County, Florida. He had a son, Andrew B. Dalitz, 17 Sep 1946 - August 1972, with Toni; Andrew predeceased him.


At 2:00 a.m. PST on August 31, 1989, Moe Dalitz died. He had been seriously ill since 1986. Death was attributed to congestive heart failure, chronic hypertension and kidney failure. He also suffered from failing eyesight. Services were held September 5, 1989 at Congregation Ner Tamid.[9]


  1. ^ "The Unlikely, Still-Ongoing Journey of the Late Moe Dalitz", Suzanne Dalitz, Vegas Seven, April 9, 2014
  2. ^ "Moe Dalitz", John L. Smith, Las Vegas Review Journal, February 7, 1999
  3. ^ a b Balboni, Alan (1999). "Moe Dalitz: Controversial Founding Father of Modern Las Vegas". In Davies, Richard O. (ed.). The Maverick Spirit: Building the New Nevada. Wilbur S. Shepperson series in history and humanities. University of Nevada Press. pp. 23–43. ISBN 0874173272. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  4. ^ Newton, Michael (2009). Mr. Mob: The Life and Crimes of Moe Dalitz. McFarland. pp. 40–41.
  5. ^ Narvaez, Alfonso (September 1, 1989). "Reporter". The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  6. ^ Thompson, William Norman (2001). Author. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. pp. 83–85. ISBN 1-57607-159-6. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c d Hyman, Harold (September 1, 1989). "Reporter". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  10. ^ Koch, Ed; Manning, Mary (May 15, 2008). "Reporter". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Ed Koch, Desert Inn, Stardust chief helped integrate Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas Sun, September 1, 2008
  12. ^ Hyman, Howard (September 1, 1989). "Las Vegas gaming pioneer 'Moe' Dalitz dies at 89". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved February 15, 2015.

Further readingEdit