What will new gTLDs mean for e-gaming?
In the world of e-commerce a company’ brand and its domain name can be some of the most important intellectual property it possesses. Within e-gaming the importance of the domain name is perhaps heightened even further because many operators offer essentially the same service, running the same gaming software. A main differentiator is their brand and domain name. For this reason, therefore, it is vital that e-gaming operators understand the implications of the new Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) which will become available in 2012.
There are currently 22 gTLDs in use. They include the likes of .COM, .NET. ORG. To date, .COM has dominated gTLDs and this is reflected in the e-gaming sector too – Bet365.com, Betfair.com, PokerStars.com etc. (although, following the seizure of .COM poker domains by the US Department of Justice in April 2011, some firms have looked into .EU registration). .COM’ dominance could be coming to an end if the new expansion of gTLDs is successful.
From January 2012 the application process will open for a new class of gTLDs. This new class of gTLDs is being labelled as “.BRAND”. Successful applicants will able to run domains that are linked to their brand, if they so wish.
For example, it will be possible to have a .WILLIAMHILL domain, or .PADDYPOWER or the more generic .POKER, .CASINO etc.
But these new domains are not available to everyone, nor do they come cheaply.
There is a deposit of US$ 5,000 for the application and the application fee costs a further US$ 180,000. More information about the applications process can be found on the ICANN website here.
The potential opportunities and threats posed by the new domains are not certain. The new domains could be an excellent opportunity to “take control” of their brand on the web. Being the registrar of the .BINGO gTLD, for example, could be a good marketing move for a firm like Gala Bingo. The owner of a new gTLD can use or sell all the sub domains of that gTLD e.g. Jackpot. Bingo, Free.Bingo, Live.Bingo.
The intellectual property of domain names do have a value, as shown by the amounts paid for domain names such as toys.com, slots.com, and sex.com. So there is also an element of brand protection in applying for these new GTLDs.
But it is not at all certain how Internet users and consumers will react to the new .BRANDS. With the current trend for shortened links on social networking sites, how much value is there really to be had in owning a .BRAND?
There is also likely to be a period of confusion from some users as to the new .BRAND format.
The application for new gTLDs runs for 90 days from 12 January to 12 April 2011. It is certainly something that the marketing departments in gambling firms should be aware of to assess whether it does present any risks to their branding and marketing strategy. But it seems unlikely that many gambling firms will choose to apply to own a new gTLD and take on all the administration entailed in becoming a domain registrar.