Las Vegas Sun

October 24, 2014

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Vegas not alone in wanting in on .vegas

Potential revenue stream is at stake as top-level Web domain name has city, county arguing

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VEGAS.com says it was planning to offer the city more revenue for the use of its name in Internet addresses than a competitor will.

The Las Vegas City Council will debate today whether to strike a deal with an Internet entrepreneur who seeks to use the Internet suffix .vegas — over the objections of Clark County officials and one local company who say the city is jumping the gun and in the process likely shortchanging Las Vegas and county taxpayers.

The council will consider endorsing a proposal by Dot Vegas Inc., to create the top-level Internet domain “.vegas” — a new suffix that could be used in addition to the familiar .com, .net, .gov or .org suffixes that end most Web addresses.

The city’s interest is its bottom line: Every time someone registered a .vegas Web site name, they would pay a fee to the domain owner, who, in turn, would pay the city a portion of that fee.

Dot Vegas is offering the city 75 cents per registration, or 10 percent of the gross revenues from future registrations.

The company did not return a call to the Sun for comment; the company’s attorney, Jay Brown, would not comment.

Some Clark County officials question the city’s right to exclusively benefit from a .vegas domain. Because city limits end at Sahara Avenue and don’t include the Strip — the landmark commercial district that most people recognize as “Las Vegas” — some county officials say their government should share in any profits from the name.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak sent a letter to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman on Jan. 28 asking the city to postpone any action to allow talks between the city and county on “partnering.”

“The Strip is in the county, not Las Vegas,” he said. “We need more time to think this out, work together.”

Sisolak said he wrote Goodman out of concern that the county isn’t part of the discussion, but also because the city excluded offers from other potential partners.

“I would like to see everybody have the opportunity to participate,” Sisolak said.

The City Council postponed a vote Jan. 20. Since then, a local company, VEGAS.com, has offered to significantly increase the amount of money the city could get for use of its name.

VEGAS.com is owned by The Greenspun Corporation, which also owns the Las Vegas Sun.

Howard Lefkowitz, VEGAS.com president and CEO, said the company spent the past year evaluating launching a .vegas domain once it became clear the nonprofit agency that oversees Internet domains on behalf of the federal government, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, would make new names available.

Currently, only 21 top-level domain names are allowed — including .com, .org and .edu.

Since Dot Vegas approached the city about using the Vegas name, the city has denied possible suitors an opportunity to offer better deals or better opportunities to market a .vegas domain, Lefkowitz said.

“There have been a lot of these top-level domain names issued over time and very, very few of them have ever been successful,” Lefkowitz said. “To make this successful, one has to have the marketing skills.”

Where Dot Vegas’ offer is 75 cents per registration, VEGAS.com was prepared to offer $1, Lefkowitz said. “Without a doubt, on every level we could offer the city more.”

Sisolak said Goodman, who could not be reached for comment, told him that he was “uncommitted” on the matter.

Councilman Gary Reese, the mayor pro tem, said he’s heard “rumors” some council members have made up their minds to approve the deal with Dot Vegas today. But he said he wants to hear what both sides have to say during the meeting.

“I’ve been looking forward to it,” he said. “That’s the way government should work. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

Councilman Steve Ross said he would not comment until he heard presentations.

Other council members could not be reached.

Elisa Cooper, director of product marketing for MarkMonitor.com, the domain registrar for various large companies, including VEGAS.com, Google.com, eBay.com and Yahoo.com, said any deal between a municipality and an Internet company is “premature.” ICANN hasn’t issued a final draft of rules regarding applications for new top-level domains, she said.

Cooper said one requirement will be for the “relevant” government authority to voice support or nonobjection to using the name as a top-level domain.

“This whole process hasn’t even started yet,” Cooper said. “Right now, it doesn’t even look like communities or other organizations will be able to submit applications until late this year or early next year.”

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