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September 21, 2014

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Who gets .vegas name unclear despite city’s vote

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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.

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Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

The Las Vegas City Council endorsed Wednesday an Internet entrepreneur’s plan to create a .vegas Internet domain over the objections of Clark County officials and a local company. But it doesn’t appear the decision by a divided council will resolve who get the rights to the Vegas name.

The council voted 4-3 to endorse a deal with Dot Vegas Inc. to create a top-level Internet domain, .vegas, a new suffix like the familiar .com, .net and .gov that end most Web addresses. Under the deal, for each .vegas Web address, the company will pay Las Vegas the higher amount of either 75 cents per registration or 10 percent of gross revenue.

Representatives of the locally based VEGAS.com — who said their offer of $1 per registration was rebuffed — are offering a more lucrative deal to Clark County if it endorses a plan to create a .vegas domain.

After the City Council’s vote, VEGAS.com told Commissioner Steve Sisolak the company would pay $1.50 per domain registration. Sisolak said he plans to have the commission discuss the proposal at its Feb. 16 meeting.

“That’s potentially a lot of new money for the county, and I don’t want to miss out on it,” Sisolak said.

In January, Sisolak sent a letter to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman asking the city to work with the county on the issue. Sisolak sees the two governments as partners in endorsing a .vegas company because while the city has the Las Vegas name, the world knows the Strip, which is in the county, as “Las Vegas.”

Dot Vegas said it has been working since summer to win the city’s endorsement to aid its application with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a California-based nonprofit group that oversees the Internet.

If .vegas takes off and becomes a household top-level domain like .com, it could mean millions in new revenue for the city and many millions more for Dot Vegas.

Howard Lefkowitz, president and CEO of VEGAS.com, said his company has been working on a .vegas plan for three years. VEGAS.com is owned by The Greenspun Corporation, which owns the Las Vegas Sun.

VEGAS.com didn’t approach the city until it learned the city was entertaining the offer from Dot Vegas because it did not want to come to the city with a “half-baked” proposal, Lefkowitz said. The company knew it would be at least another year before ICANN finalized the application process for city domains, he said.

Bill Arent, the city’s business development director, told the City Council he did not consider the VEGAS.com proposal because the city was already working with Dot Vegas.

That prompted Councilman Steve Wolfson to wonder aloud how Arent could consider one company over another when the City Council hadn’t even voted on the matter. Wolfson questioned the city’s willingness to leave “money on the table,” a reference to VEGAS.com’s higher offer.

Councilmen Gary Reese and Steve Ross both argued against voting when they didn’t have a clear understanding of what the deal would mean for the city or whether the city could seek more lucrative deals.

Bart Mackay, one of two Dot Vegas officials at the meeting, implored the city to move quickly, saying that in a week, ICANN was going to require “expressions of interest” in potential top-level domains.

But Elisa Cooper, director of product marketing for MarkMonitor.com, the domain registrar for large Internet companies including VEGAS.com and Google.com, disputed that. She said it would be several months, maybe as long as a year, before interested companies would need to submit anything regarding new top-level domains.

Other discrepancies arose during the meeting. Dot Vegas produced a letter from Rossi Ralenkotter that it claimed was an endorsement from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Goodman read from the letter and proclaimed it a clear endorsement.

But the letter did not endorse the company for anything, said Ralenkotter, the authority’s president and CEO.

“It was basically a letter to commend the concept that this top-level domain had the ability to expand Las Vegas’ presence,” Ralenkotter said.

Councilman Ricki Barlow asked for the vote to support Dot Vegas, getting support from Goodman, Lois Tarkanian and Stavros Anthony. Reese, Wolfson and Ross voted against the resolution.

Tarkanian said she thought both companies would do a good job and she was torn over her vote.

“I can’t say if I’m right or not on my vote,” Tarkanian said afterward. “It’s one of those where right after you think, ‘I should have voted the other way.’ But it’s what is foremost in your mind at the time.”

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