Not So Fast With the “Mob Boss” Label

In an article that ran Sept. 24 in one of the dailies, there was a parenthetical reference to Moe Dalitz as “mob boss Moe Dalitz.” That’s not only inaccurate, it’s downright disturbing.

Historical accuracy isn’t much cherished in Las Vegas. How many people remain steadfast in the belief that the Flamingo was the first big-time casino resort on the Strip when it opened in December 1946, even when presented with evidence that the El Rancho Vegas (1941) and Hotel Last Frontier (1942) pre-dated it? But this is a case of playing fast and loose with the facts just, apparently, for the fun of it.

I’m not saying that Dalitz was a choir boy—he probably wouldn’t claim that either. But there is a world of difference between a mob boss and a former bootlegger turned legal casino operator who might still have a few questionable characters in his rolodex. It’s the difference between real history and a cartoon. Dalitz was a complex man whose legacy is an integral part of Las Vegas. It was his generation that gave the city much of its character. And, even though he did run the Desert Inn from about 1950 to 1967, that doesn’t qualify him as a “mob boss,” which to me is more indicative of Don Corleone or his less genteel real-life counterparts.

It’s a minor point, maybe, but if we’re not going to be honest with ourselves about something as simple as whether Dalitz did, in fact, command an underworld criminal horde during his Las Vegas years, it’s not likely that, as a city, we’re going to have a very accurate perception of where we’ve been—or where we’re going.