Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2018

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Las Vegas gaming pioneer ‘Moe’ Dalitz dies at 89

Morris "Moe" Dalitz, Las Vegas' most distinguished citizen for four decades, died at 2 a.m. Thursday in his Regency Towers apartment. He was 89 and had been seriously ill since 1986.

Death was attributed to complications from congestive heart disease, chronic hypertension and kidney failure. He also suffered form failing eyesight.

He had been attended round the clock by two nursed for the past year, and had been bedridden for the last three weeks. His condition began to worsen at 1 a.m.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Congregation Ner Tamid, 2761 Emerson Ave. Rabbi Sanford Akselrad will officiate.

Private internment will follow in the Garden of Eternal Peace at Palm Valley View Cemetery, 7600 Eastern Ave.

Dalitz is survived by one daughter, Suzanne Brown, of Cardiff, Calif., his son-in-law, David Brown, and the couple's two children, Chelsean and Christopher, also of Cardiff, and another grandson, Michael Dalitz, of the Navy in Long Beach, Calif.

Some of Las Vegas' greatest and best-known landmarks were created by Dalitz beginning landmarks were created by Dalitz beginning with the Desert Inn Hotel, which completed original construction in 1950.

Other Dalitz projects include, but are not limited to, the Stardust Hotel, Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas Country Club, Sunrise Hospital, Boulevard Mall, Commercial Center, Winterwood golf course, several UNLV buildings, the Nathan Adelson Hospice and whole residential neighborhoods.

His last construction project was the 33-story Fitzgerald's Hotel, the tallest building in Nevada built in 1980. It was originally called the Sundance Hotel.

A major Dalitz construction project out of state in 1971 was the mammoth Rancho La Costa resort in Carlsbad, Calif.

All were built under Dalitz' umbrella organization, Paradise Development Co. Dalitz' partners in those ventures included Las Vegans Irwin Molasky, Allard Roen and Merv Adelson.

Dalitz was also a great philanthropist and contributed large sums to many charities and civic projects, sometimes anonymously.

He established a $1 million trust fund with United Way to be distributed after his death. Half the sum will go to United Fund charities while the other half will be directed to non-United Fund charities and religious groups.

A favorite Dalitz philanthropic group was the Variety Club, consisting of show business personalities, musicians, publicist, writers and others directing charitable efforts . When Dalitz built the Sundance, he provided a permanent home for the Variety Club with a spacious 12th-floor lounge and office suite.

Born in Boston on Dec. 24, 1899, Dalitz moved with his family to Detroit when he was 5. He spent his teenage years in Ann Arbor, Mich., and young adult years in Cleveland.

He became a bootlegger during Prohibition and headed a liquor smuggling organization called The Mayfield Road Gang, named for an East Cleveland district where he resided.

With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Dalitz turned to gambling and operated illegal but protected casinos in Stubbenville, Ohio, and Covington, Ky.

He enlisted in the Army in World War II and rose in rank from private to fist lieutenant.

Dalitz came to Las Vegas in 1949 at the invitation of the late Wilbur Clark to help Clark financially with the Desert Inn, which then merely was a stalled construction project.

Clark remained president and chief spokesman for the hotel, but Dalitz and two Midwestern partners, the late Morris Kleinman and Sam Tucker, were 75 percent owners.

Dalitz, always an innovator, brought original showroom ideas to the DI, and designed the hotel's logo, a Joshua tree and a rising sun that is today recognized worldwide as a Las Vegas symbol.

At the DI, Dalitz also built the fist entertainment lounge in a Strip hotel, and brought about non-stop entertainment there by installing a revolving stage so that one musical group could exit while another was starting to perform.

He also built the Desert Inn Country Club, the first professional-level golf course attached to a Las Vegas hotel-casino, for the DI's gaming customers.

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.

To make the Convention Center into a useful, workable tool for the city, Dalitz, with the help of city and county commissioners, created the original Las Vegas Fair and Recreation Board to lure out-of-town conventions.

The board still exists but has long since changed its name to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Headquartered at the Convention Center, it has a staff of hundreds and is responsible for bringing millions to visitors to Las Vegas each year.

On learning of Dalitz' death, former Gov. Grant Sawyer said: "He was a success of Southern Nevada's gaming economy as any one person could be. His conduct has always been exemplary and in my opinion, he was a good citizen in every way."