Las Vegas Sun

December 21, 2014

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VEGAS.com gets county’s support in obtaining .vegas Web suffix

Company in competition with relative unknown backed by city of Las Vegas

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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 competition is on for control of the .vegas Internet domain, after Clark County commissioners voted Tuesday to write a letter of support for VEGAS.com’s bid to control the proposed Web suffix.

The Las Vegas City Council this month rejected VEGAS.com’s overtures, opting instead to support a relatively unknown company, Dot Vegas Inc.

A letter of support from a “relevant” government body is required when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decides who owns the right to new top-level domains such as .vegas — Web-address suffixes to be used in addition to the familiar .com, .gov and .org.

Two companies have competing letters of governmental support in their bids for .vegas — with potentially millions of dollars at stake for the companies and governments that support those bids, assuming .vegas becomes a top-level domain like .com.

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

Who will win approval from ICANN — the California-based nonprofit group that coordinates the use of Internet addresses worldwide — could be determined by which governmental body is considered more relevant to the Vegas name.

To make their case that Clark County is more relevant — as home to the Strip, UNLV and McCarran International Airport — VEGAS.com executives brought before the commission Michael Palage, an Internet governance expert who was also co-chairman of a high-security working group of ICANN.

ICANN’s guidebook states that if two governments claim to be more relevant to a domain name, “there will be a standoff until it is resolved,” Palage said.

But Palage said ICANN is concerned with the “security, stability and trust” of the Internet. Las Vegas’ deal with Dot Vegas appears to offer few safeguards against the use of .vegas by suspect Web sites, he said. On the other hand, he said, VEGAS.com has guaranteed safeguards to prevent “unsavory” parties from using the .vegas suffix.

Howard Lefkowitz, president and CEO of VEGAS.com., said the company would protect the domain name from abuse, including from offshore businesses that would try to lay claim to brand-name .vegas addresses.

“With the branding that this town has spent several lifetimes building, I believe the City Council, without the due diligence necessary, gave away the brand that is Vegas for a bag of magic beans,” Lefkowitz said. “It’s like giving someone you don’t know the keys to your house with children in it.”

Also tilting in Clark County’s favor, Palage said, is that a Commerce Department representative sits on the ICANN advisory committee and would understand the role of Clark County in its oversight of the Strip, which powers the state’s economic engine.

By unanimous vote, commissioners instructed County Manager Virginia Valentine to write a letter of support for VEGAS.com’s proposal.

That proposal, which will be reviewed by the county’s legal staff, says the county will be paid $1.50 every time a .vegas domain name is registered for use, or 10 percent of gross receipts, whichever is greater.

The Las Vegas City Council’s letter of support for Dot Vegas guaranteed that the city receive 75 cents for each registration. Before the council’s vote, VEGAS.com representatives offered the city $1 per registration, but the offer was rejected.

In response to questions from the Sun, a city spokesman said “there was more than two hours of discussion on this item at the (City Council’s Feb. 3) meeting, and at this point the city has no further comment beyond that discussion.”

Dot Vegas representatives could not be reached for comment.