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Poker.com: What Happened to the Most Expensive Domain Ever?

Poker.Com is one of the most desirable and valuable domain names in the world, but what does the future hold for it? Currently, Poker.Com (who describe themselves as ‘The Home of Poker’) can best be described as an online poker portal. The majority of revenue appears to be derived from affiliate deals and users can also enjoy several tutorials.

The site does not enjoy a particularly high amount of traffic and definitely is not as lucrative as it deserves to be.

In 1999 Poker.com Inc. obtained the worldwide rights to the domain poker.com for 99 years through a brokered deal with UniNet Technology Inc. who obtained the rights from AlaCorp Inc. An $100,000 arrangement fee and a subsequent 4% share of continuing profits was to be paid to UniNet. After 3 years Poker.Com inc released a statement claiming the domain’s traffic was being hijacked and a lengthy custody battle over the eponymous domain name followed. The honourable Mr. Justice Preston concluded that the contract had been breached and UniNet Inc. were ordered to return the domain (presumably along with all rights) to Poker.Com Inc.

The Kahnawake gaming commission’s list of permit holders reveals CarbonPoker is owned by Poker.Com

Four years later the Poker.com domain began to direct its traffic to a new venture, and became the first online poker room on what would soon be known as the “Merge” network. However, by 2007 the world’s most searched domain was under the hammer at a Moniker.com silent auction. Bidding opening offers of $22,000,000 and $28,000,000 were made, which could have made it the world’s most expensive domain name ever, had the sale taken place.

No buyer or price was reported and the sale was never confirmed.  A possible indicator of a change in ownership came months later when the site began displaying Full Tilt banners as opposed to CarbonPoker.

Today the site advertises a total of 14 poker rooms and 4 of these drive traffic to the MergeGaming network. A large Carbon Poker banner is hosted at the right hand side of the homepage and a few other clues are left for observant users. OnlineGambling.Com is formatted identically to Poker.Com and also appears to have a strong allegiance with Merge.

CabonPoker is one of the Merge network’s flagship licenses and is rumoured to contribute almost 1/4 of the network’s traffic. Carbon joined the newly created Merge network in 2007. It appears the online poker room formerly hosted at poker.com rebranded itself to Carbon Poker during this time. Indeed, as shown on the Kahnawake gaming commission website, Carbon Poker’s gambling permit is held by the company Poker.com N.V.

Sources indicate that  the group who owns Poker.com may have a controlling interest in the Merge network. However, if so, why aren’t they making full use of such a strong domain? The most likely explanation is that they are holding the domain until the US market opens. Will it be used to start a new poker room, boost Merge or simply sold to the highest bidder? Although proposed regulation might make it difficult for operators who previously operated in the USA post-UIGEA to enter the market legitimately it’s hard to imagine experienced operators not being tempted to run with such a powerful domain when the time is right.

Note: Jamie Nevin contributed to this article.

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Craig Fulton

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