Ohio’s Lorain County Loses Domain Name to Indonesian Online Poker Site

Officials in Lorain County, Ohio, are suffering exasperation and embarrassment after discovering that the county’s tourism website’s domain was allowed to lapse, with the name and domain being quickly picked up by an Indonesian online poker site. The county’s tourism site, visitloraincounty.com, was acquired by Indonesia’s Poker678 and currently serves as a mirror of Poker678’s own online content.

VisitLorainCounty

Lorain County (OH) accidentally lets its visitloraincounty.com domain lapse after failing to pay a $17.99 renewal. (Image: visitloraincounty.com)

Lorain County’s board of commissioners examined the situation during a Wednesday meeting after learning of the domain’s takeover from constituents. County Commissioner Matt Lundy told Lorain’s The Morning Journal that he had received a renewal notice in February about the domain’s looming expiration. Lundy stated that he referred the issue to the county’s administrator, Tom Williams, but the matter was never addressed.

Williams, in speaking to The Chronicle, said that there were extenuating circumstances involved, such as the county’s plans to move all of its online sites to “.gov” domains. The visitloraincounty.com website had not been updated in several years, though as recently as 2019, the site recorded about 60,000 visits in a calendar year. Lorain County sits on the shore of Lake Erie, just west of Cleveland, and it includes some of Cleveland’s suburbs.

Asia-facing site now hosted in China

Online records show that the domain lapsed on February 7, 2021 and was acquired almost immediately by IDNPoker, a Philippines-based gambling company that’s part of the Asia-facing IDNPlay brand family. The Indonesian-language Poker678 is one of numerous skins of the IDNPoker network, which operates its poker platform throughout the Asia Pacific Rim under the “agent” or “club” model first popularized in that region.

The visitloraincounty.com domain was sold via GoDaddy, and within 48 hours, control of the domain was transferred to a hosting service in China. Exactly when the original Lorain County tourism content was replaced with the Poker678 content is less clear. The current site still contains the Lorain County metadata, however, suggesting its purchase might always have been part of a cybersquatting-for-resale plan.

Of interest, though, is that IDNPoker bills itself as “the largest poker network exclusively for Asian players.” The network claims that in association with its “partners”, it has over 600,000 monthly active players and more than 100 million users of its entire online gambling network. However, the Lorain County site could not be described as Asia-facing, so cybersquatting or a Google-related SEO or keyword ploy using the site is a likelier possibility.

Cybersquatting on lapsed domains a common practice

Cybersquatting, the practice of acquiring a domain for purposes other than promotion and use related to domain’s name, can take several forms. Increasingly, however, squatters target lapsed domains for sites that had generated significant traffic before lapsing, as Lorain County’s officials inferred. The cybersquatter’s profit comes from selling the lapsed domain back to the original owners, but at a highly inflated price.

Lorain County Commissioner Dave Moore claimed to the Chronicle that the county had indeed received such an offer from the domain’s new owners. “I understand Matt’s concerns, but stopping it would have cost $1,100. It wasn’t a push-off, there were discussions and some panicking going on at the last minute.”

Still, without a replacement domain in place, the county officials were left red-faced. “I feel like we’re left with a black eye,” said Lundy. “It’s kind of embarrassing.”

Written by
Haley Hintze
Contributing writer Haley Hintze is a 20-year veteran of the poker world, a Women in Poker Hall of Fame finalist, and two-time Global Poker Awards finalist.

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