In the business world, many companies will often buy up other website domain names – called URLs, or uniform resource locator – which offers the internet address (or domain name) that people might be interested in. There are those occasions that these companies have let those URLs lapse and eager entrepreneurs or website “speculators” swoop in and pick up the product. That has happened recently in Lorain County in Ohio, who lost their visitor’s website that was grabbed by an Indonesian online poker site.

Website Loss “Leaves Us with a Black Eye”

According to Kelvin Martin of the Lorain Morning Journal, the Lorain County Commissioners met earlier this week, where Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy informed the group of their situation. After receiving several calls from concerned citizens of Lorain County, Lundy says he “became aware” that the website used to inform visitors of activities around the county, Visit Lorain County (the name of the Lorain County Tourism Bureau), was directing users to an unnamed Indonesian online poker site.

After further investigation, Commissioner Lundy discovered that the domain used by the Lorain County government was allowed to expire and that the Indonesian poker site had legally swept in and picked up the domain for their usage. “I kind of feel like it is Marketing 101, or Management 101, that you want to make the smoothest transition possible,” Lundy is quoted by Martin as saying. “It’s a little bit embarrassing because, if you go to visit Lorain County, you’ll now find a poker site in Indonesia.”

If you think it was a money issue, it wasn’t. According to Martin, the organization had a $1.1 million bank account and the renewal for the website domain name was only $18. The county was looking at a total rebuild of their website and seems to have overlooked locking up this one domain. “Now we have a situation where, if people want to come to Lorain County to look for beds…they’ll now be directed to a poker site in Indonesia,” Lundy finished.

What Can You Do?

In these situations, it can be tricky to get the domain name back, but not impossible.

There are cases where companies have seen their domains hijacked by unscrupulous operators. These people usually scoop up unclaimed or dormant domain names with the idea of then selling them to the companies that really need them, usually for several thousand dollars over what they originally paid. But companies can fight back.

If the companies can prove that the hijacker obtained the name in bad faith – usually a purchaser of a domain name must show that there is a logical reason that they want it – then the sale can be reversed, and the company can reclaim the name. There are some cases, however, where such a slip up can be a critical mistake at an inopportune moment.

In the 2020 Presidential elections, one of the campaigns ran under the slogan “Keep America Great” and featured a website with that name. You think you know which one it was? If you said current President Joe Biden’s campaign, you would be correct. The Biden campaign purchased the web domain (and probably a few others that did not come to light) and filled it with a litany of things that the previous administration had failed at (or “broken promises” as the Biden campaign claimed). This was allowed to stand because the Biden campaign had not fraudulently stolen the website and was using it for their purposes.

Whether the Indonesian poker site is going to be kind and let the Lorain County tourism bureau have their name back is not known yet. It is important to Lorain County, however; according to Martin, the website was bringing in between 55,000 and 60,000 a year, important for tourism in Ohio and for Lorain County.

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