Mr. Moe Dalitz and his Impact on Las Vegas

My take on an incredible man, his vision, and legendary generosity.

Moe Dalitz (Morris Dalitz) was born Dec. 24, 1899, in Boston.
In the 1940's Moe served his country by joining the Army, rising to the rank of second lieutenant. When the war ended, he migrated to Las Vegas, where casino games were legal and gamblers were men of respect.

Moe led a group of Cleveland investors which included Morris Kleinman, Thomas McGinty, and Sam Tucker. They purchased the Desert Inn, which was still under construction, and they opened it on April 24, 1950.

The Desert Inn was a huge smash, and it was the swankiest spot on the Las Vegas Strip for many years.
He was a 13.2% owner of the Desert Inn. His longtime partners, Morris Kleinman and Ruby Kolod, each held a similar percentage. Wilbur Clark, the Desert Inn's co-founder who was not originally a member of Moe’s Cleveland group, held 17.1%.
Wilbur Clark may have been the largest holder of the Desert Inn, however it was Moe who called the shots. It has also been said that Wilbur ran everything but the casino.
Moe not only was an experienced casino operator, he also understood that gamblers wanted more than gambling. He then gave them the Desert Inn Country Club. It was a world class 18 hole beauty. Moe then created the Tournament of Champions golf tournament, which focused a positive national spotlight on Las Vegas.

In 1958, Moe and his associates used millions in loans to take over the Stardust from a group led by Jake Factor. The new crew of experienced casino operators turned the Stardust into a success. The first few things they did: expand the casino area, add more hotel rooms, and brought in a Parisian-style floorshow.
Moe Dalitz in front of the Stardust
Moe was also a driving force behind Pat McCarran, one of Nevada's most powerful U.S. senators. It was Moe who pushed McCarran to publicly fight a huge federal tax on sports betting, eventually reducing a wagering surcharge to a paltry quarter of 1% from more than 10%.

Moe and his partners used a $1 million loan in 1959 to build the Sunrise Hospital. Moe’s investment dollars flowed into golf course and shopping mall development during years, in which most lending institutions laughed at lending money to entrepreneurs from the notorious Las Vegas.

Moe was one of the lucky ones who made the transition from underworld figure to exemplary citizen. By the time Moe reached his prime, his financial empire and formidable string of businesses were all legitimate. In his lifetime of unproven allegations, Moe was only indicted twice. Once in 1930 in Buffalo, N.Y., for bootlegging. Once in 1965 in Los Angeles for tax evasion. Both charges were dismissed.

By the late 1970s, Moe was considered a senior member of Las Vegas casino society. "Moe was always such a gentleman," Las Vegas advertising executive and longtime friend Mary Martin said. "He gave back to the community. When the Maude Frazier Building (at UNLV) was built, it had no furniture. He bought all the furniture and didn't want anybody to know about it. He was that kind of person he was.

Las Vegas cab company owner and former Stardust Hotel general manager Herb Tobman knew Moe well.
"He never turned me down for anything charitable," Tobman recalled. "I was in awe of meeting him. As far as I'm concerned he was a great man ... Moe's charity is legendary around this town. There has never been a greater influence on this city."

Moe was named Humanitarian of the Year by the American Cancer Research Center and Hospital in 1976. In 1982 he received the Torch of Liberty Award by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. In 1979 he set up the Moe Dalitz Charitable Remainder Unitrust, a million-dollar fund to be divided upon his death.
When Moe died in 1989, 14 nonprofit organizations split a total of $1.3 million. His contributions to Las Vegas were enormous and legendary.

Moe Dalitz is one person I am sorry I never got a chance to meet. I am a huge fan of him and what he accomplished in Las Vegas throughout his life. People like Moe are one in a billion and in my humble opinion, Las Vegas is not better without him one bit.

Moe was so much more than this article shows. If you have insight about Mr. Moe Dalitz you would like to share - please email me here.
Pete Rizzo

Much of this article was originally published by the great John L Smith of the LVRJ. I interjected some of my own thoughts and opinions throughout this article.