Monaco, on the French Riviera, is one of the favorite hangouts of the rich and famous. Power people congregate there to enjoy themselves around others who are, well, rich, famous, and powerful, too. The center of social life in Monaco has always been the Monte Carlo Casino, where every James Bond wannabe sets up shop at the tables to try their luck in the lap of luxury.
As a result of pressure from the Monaco authorities, a casino called “Monte Carlo” located in Montana has changed its name after suffering through three years of legal negotiations. Cori LaFever, the owner of the newly re-named casino, took over from her father, Neal LaFever, who died on February 22, 2015, a few months before the official name change last week. Neal was responsible for the final deal with the representatives from Monaco. Rather than face losing in court, the Montanans’ avoided possible financial drain by choosing to revise their name. Hence, the birth of “The Monte Bar & Casino” of Billings, Montana.
The battle between the Principality of Monaco and Montana business owners represents the changing nature of the online gaming industry. Big money since legal gambling has become more widespread is leading to disputes over brands. Undoubtedly, the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco remains one of the world’s most well-known places to gamble. That it would engage in a campaign against a smaller casino in Montana may at first seem odd, yet protecting a brand name is more important than not when the stakes are so high.
Cori LaFever provides an idea of why all of this might have taken place. According to her, the Monaco Casino probably came to know about her father’s place through a simple online search. Most likely, she believes, they used Google Earth or Maps to locate them (posted above). Seeing the street view with the prominent sign right there it is easy to identify that both names are the same.
For around 60 years, the Billings casino posed no threat to the mighty French Riviera respite. Things have certainly changed with the internet. When potential clients search for “Monte Carlo Casino,” they receive hits for more than just the one in Monaco. So, in effect, the Billings location may have received free advertising on the back of the more prominent business. Moreover, as Cori LaFever admits, her father’s casino did once have a seedy reputation. Again, ever careful of their brand name the authorities in Monaco pounced.
Not every gambling operation that carries the name “Monte Carlo” has had to change it. The Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, on the Las Vegas strip, retains the name. There seems to be no problem with them doing so. Some say the Las Vegas business has a deal with Monaco that allows them to keep the name alive. Meanwhile, Cori LaFever continues to try to make her Billings enterprise work the best she can. She plans to renovate the interior of the casino in the very near future.
The Monte Bar & Casino also wants to permanently improve its public image. Though the younger generation may have no qualms about gambling here, older Montanans may feel a bit of unease with the bars rough image. As Cori admits, “the spot had a bad reputation for years, along with many downtown Billings leisure sites.” She ensures that the staff now checks identification of clients purchasing bottles of liquor. Moreover, any resident or visitor with a known reputation for drinking in public gets turned away, no questions asked.