Decision pits county against city on '.vegas'


By SCOTT WYLAND

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

Clark County commissioners agreed Tuesday to endorse Vegas.com's bid to control the Internet domain suffix ".vegas" that someday could mean millions of dollars in revenue for the county.

Dubbed a new top-level domain, .vegas would be attached to Web addresses the same as well-known suffixes such as .com and .org.

In backing the Greenspun-owned carrier by unanimous vote, commissioners pitted the county against Las Vegas. Two weeks ago, the City Council voted to endorse rival bidder Dot Vegas Inc.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak led the push to support Vegas.com. He argued that the county has a right to profit from the Vegas name because it has the world-famous Strip, where most of the region's gaming revenue is generated.

"I want the county at the table," Sisolak said. "Otherwise, we get nothing."

Vegas.com has offered to pay the county $1.50 for every address registered under .vegas or 10 percent of the yearly gross revenue. The city would get 75 cents per address or 10 percent of yearly proceeds from Dot Vegas.

If .vegas catches on, it could generate millions of dollars in fees for the county, said Jim Gibson, Greenspun vice president.

"It sounds good, and it sounds like it could be profitable to us," Commissioner Susan Brager said in an interview outside the meeting.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers -- ICANN for short -- will decide which company gets the domain. Suffixes that use a geographical name require the area's local government to back the applicant. ICANN must sort out whether the city or the county has the greater claim to the suffix.

Vegas.com will apply for the suffix after ICANN releases its revised rule book for domain names this year, Gibson said, predicting the new domain will be adopted in 2011.

When a few commissioners asked Sisolak why he supported Vegas.com, he quipped that $1.50 is twice as much as 75 cents. Then he added that Vegas.com was the county's only prospect.

Sisolak said the company draws 30 million visitors a year to its Web site and employs more than 400 people locally. If it gets the domain, it would hire dozens, maybe even hundreds, of local workers to handle registrations, he said.

In contrast, Dot Vegas is not yet operating, Sisolak said.

But James Trevino, Dot Vegas' president, said his company is ready to go. He is waiting for ICANN to accept the proposed domain deal with the city.

Trevino disagreed with the argument that the county has a right to the Vegas name. "We believe Las Vegas, the city, is the rightful heir to 'Vegas,'" he said. "If Las Vegas didn't exist, what would the Strip be called?"

Trevino credited Vegas.com with being Web-savvy but said his plan will prove more profitable than his rival's.

Vegas.com executives gave a presentation Tuesday touting their credentials in multimedia and online travel services.

Having an established company at the helm would ensure that the domain is run efficiently and that the addresses aren't dispensed to unsavory businesses, said Vegas.com President Howard Lefkowitz .

He criticized the city for picking a fledgling company and not giving Vegas.com a chance to vie for the endorsement. "It's like giving somebody you don't know the keys to your house with your children inside," Lefkowitz said.

Sisolak said that he talked with Mayor Oscar Goodman about partnering with the county on the domain proposal, but that the mayor rejected the idea.

ICANN could choose a vendor and then tell the county and city to split the registration fees, Sisolak said, calling that an acceptable outcome.

"My deal is strictly jobs and can I get money for Clark County," he said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

 

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