One of the pioneers who helped to shape Las Vegas was Morris Dalitz, who was also known as “Moe.” Dalitz was such a key figure in building this town that he was sometimes referred to as “Mr. Las Vegas.” Although he was a prominent businessman, he had a sordid criminal history as a bootlegger and racketeer.
Dalitz first began bootlegging at the beginning of Prohibition in 1919. Soon he was using his family’s laundry trucks to haul whiskey throughout the country. This eventually led to his involvement in the Cleveland Syndicate, a gang that operated in Ohio and Michigan. He later formed partnerships with other gangs that operated illegal casinos in the Cleveland area.
His success at operating casinos led him to Vegas in the 1940s. The original builder of the Desert Inn had run out of money, and Dalitz came to town to help out. He owned the casino until 1967 when it was sold to Howard Hughes. He hoped that by doing so, he would get law enforcement officers off his back, as they were investigating his ties to others that were suspected of violating anti-trust laws.
Even though he was frequently investigated by the FBI, no criminal charges were ever filed against Dalitz. He is credited with building several golf courses and shopping malls in the Vegas area along with Sunrise Hospital. Dalitz died August 31, 1989.