Morris "Moe" Dalitz was a bootlegger who would rise to become an important pioneer in the history of
Early Life and bootlegging
Morris Dalitz was born in 1899 in Boston to Barnet Dalitz and Anna Cohen. He had one older brother named Louis.
Both brothers attended the Central High School in Detroit, from which Morris never graduated. He started to work in his families laundry business in Michigan, but when Prohibition became law in 1919 he started bootlegging.
With access to the trucks used in the laundry business he started to smuggle alcohol to cities such as Boston, Cleveland and Ohio with his partners Louis Rothkopf and Morris Kleinman, amongst others. Some sources declare that Dalitz was also a member of the Purple Gang and/or the so called "Little Jewish Navy", a crew of rumrunners, but that can be speculated. Dalitz himself later confessed he knew Purple Gang leader Abe Bernstein when he attended school and also worked with them in the whiskey trade, but was not part of the gang itself.
Dalitz became a big player in bootlegging and backed with the Purple Gang did business with Mobsters such as Vito Tocco from Detroit, Meyer Lansky from New York and Chicago boss Al Capone, amongst others. They even sold booze to Capones mortal enemy Bugs Moran. When Prohibition ended in 1933 Dalitz had become a well connected and rich man.
He invested in several legitimate businesses such as the Michigan Industrial Laundry Co. in Detroit, the Pioneer Linen Supply Co. in Cleveland, his real estate company called Dalitz Realty and the Detroit Steel Corp. During the 1940's he enlisted in the military and became a second lieutenant. Through the Mafia he also became acquinted with Jimmy Hoffa and his Teamsters Union, which the Mafia would use as some sort of private investment bank.
With all these financial means he decided to make investments in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Godfather of Las Vegas
Backed by a couple of his Cleveland buddies such as Sam Tucker, he bought the Desert Inn which was then still under construction. The owner of the building had run into financial problems but was saved by Dalitz who bought about 75% of the casino. The Desert Inn opened it's doors in 1950 and was a great success. In 1951 however he was called to appear in front of the Kefauver committee in Washington DC which investigated organized crime. There he admitted he was involved in bootlegging, but further denied his part in organized crime. By that time he had only been indicted once for bootlegging charges in Buffalo about 20 years earlier, but was acquitted.
In 1958 Dalitz made a second large investment when he took over the Stardust Hotel & Casino, which was first owned by gangster John Cornero until he suddenly dropped dead aged 60. The Stardust became one of the most known casino's in Las Vegas and grossed millions of dollars a year. It also frequently welcomed stars from the music and movie industry. In 1966 the entire ninth floor of the Stardust was rented by exentric billionair Howard Hughes and his entourage, who eventually bought the Desert Inn from Dalitz and his partners for about $13 million. Hughes would later on invest in a couple of other casino's with the means to remove organized crime from Las Vegas, his plans however were shortlived.
By the late 1970's Dalitz was a respected senior member of the Las Vegas Casino community, but because of an incriminating article in Penthouse Magazine he suffered a sudden bad image when they linked him to organized crime. The article dealt about a resort build in San Diego called "La Costa" which they believed had been funded by Dalitz and the Mafia. Dalitz denied these accusations and even sued Penthouse Magazine. Many friends of Dalitz also supported him by stating that he was a legit man who did much for charity. He had even been named "Humanitarian of the Year" by the American Cancer Research Center and Hospital in 1976.
Over the years Moe Dalitz had become very rich, FORBES magazine even placed him as one of the 400 richest Americans in 1981 with an estimated fortune of $110 million. He eventually passed away at the ripe old age of 90 in 1989. Much of his fortune was donated to several Las Vegas casino's and his only child Suzanne Brown.