City OKs .vegas domain deal despite Greenspun opposition

The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday endorsed a local company’s push for a .vegas Internet domain suffix despite protestations from the Greenspun Corp., which has been preparing a similar application.

On a 4-3 vote after a hearing that took several hours, council members approved a letter supporting Dot Vegas Inc.’s application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees top-level domains such as .com and .org.

One Clark County commissioner, meanwhile, has asked for the topic to be put on an upcoming commission agenda. A Greenspun official suggested it would pay more than Dot Vegas is offering the city, and the company’s attorney said legal action hasn’t been ruled out.

ICANN is studying whether to add city domain extensions to the choices people have when registering a Web site.

It’s an “active marketing opportunity” for the city and the region, said Bill Arent, who heads Las Vegas’ office of business development.

The city also reached a revenue-sharing agreement with Dot Vegas Inc. Should the company’s application succeed, the city would get 75 cents per every .vegas address registered, or 10 percent of gross annual revenues. The company also agreed to place any new jobs created within the city limits.

City Council members Steve Ross, Steve Wolfson and Gary Reese voted against the endorsement. Mayor Oscar Goodman and council members Ricki Barlow, Lois Tarkanian and Stavros Anthony voted for it.

James Trevino, president and CEO of Dot Vegas Inc., said the goal is to have 300,000 to 500,000 registrations within the first five years, which could translate into $225,000 to $375,000 for the city annually.

The city could do better than that at $1 per registrant, said Greenspun Chairman and CEO Brian Greenspun.

Among Greenspun’s holdings is Vegas.com, a travel Web site that has 30 million visitors a year, said Howard Lefkowitz, the site’s president and CEO. That represents marketing power for a .vegas domain, and the council should allow them time to make a counteroffer, he said

Goodman said it would be unfair to Dot Vegas Inc., which approached the city in June and entered into good-faith negotiations, to change the rules “at the 11th hour.”

He also objected to the idea that the city’s support could be auctioned.

“I’m selling my vote,” Goodman barked sarcastically at one point. “Send me a secret letter. Tell me how much money you’re going to give us.”

John Moran Jr., an attorney representing Vegas.com, said it hasn’t yet been determined whether his client will sue over the decision.

“I’m just baffled by this thing. I don’t know how they can turn away money,” he said. “I don’t like to decide things in court, but this one was so outrageous. There’s no explanation why this thing had to be fast-tracked.”

Greenspun representatives said they’ve been working on the idea for a couple of years but didn’t circulate it among local governments for support because ICANN hasn’t issued final rules for applying.

Elisa Cooper, a consultant who works for Greenspun and who also serves on ICANN working groups, said it was premature to be supporting one company’s effort at this point.

Some council members also said the endorsement was moving too fast. Negotiations between the company and city staff have been ongoing, but council members were briefed on it last week, said Ross.

“I’m not so sure I want to swallow this today,” Ross said. “What’s the rush?”

ICANN has been considering adding domain name extensions for years, and the process under way is likely to continue for some time. Dot Vegas Inc. doesn’t expect to start registering Web addresses until three years from now.

Dot Vegas Inc. also has secured letters of support from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority, the Nevada Development Authority and the city of North Las Vegas.

Clark County should also get a revenue sharing agreement out of this, said County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

He sent a letter to Goodman on Jan. 28 asking for the city to coordinate with the county on any agreement.

“They went ahead and pursued it on their own, which I have total respect for. Now we want to do the same thing,” Sisolak said, saying that unfortunately could lead to two different applications being supported by various government entities.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

 

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