When a gTLD opens to the public (if this is contained in its original objectives, not all gTLDs are planned to be opened to the public), it typically goes into the following phases, in sequence, as decided by registry:
- A registry reserves some domain names for its own use and marketing of the TLD. ICANN contracts allow up to 100 domains in that category
- A registry has an "Ambassador" program: it (typically) gives some domains to some high profiles candidates whose sole existence will bring awareness on the new TLD
- A "Sunrise" phase, precisely described in ICANN regulations, that let any domain be registered, as long as you have a trademark registered in some jurisdiction (and before some cut date before the TLD is opened). There is a complicated setup with 3 actors: the registry, the registrar and the TMCH a trademark central clearinghouse run by IBM where trademark owners register their domain name (for a fee, and through agents or directly), after which they can get an "SMD file", which is some content that the prospective owner will need to give the registrar to get the domain name; there are two kind of sunrise periods: one where the domain is registered immediately (if it matches the SMD content and other rules) and another where all domain names are queued until the phase finishes and then the registry decides which applicant gets the domain name (because multiple trademark owners can have a right on the same domain name); the phase itself can be split, like first few days/weeks for international trademarks, then another time slice for national trademarks, then more local ones, etc.
- The sunrise can be completed by some "Qualified Launch Program" (QLP), a phase where the registry wants to give some priorities to people being registered in some way, without having a formal mark as expected by TMCH rules
- An "Early Access Program" where the TLD is basically open to everyone without priorities, but prices are higher in the first few days, in an attempt from the registry to thwart speculators and make sure the domains get registered by the "right" applicant (this is at least the official line of registries, but people can also interpret things differently; of course defining who is an applicant and who is a speculator is not trivial).
In all the above, registrars do not have specific and preferred access and on top of that their contract with ICANN mandates them to register domain names only on behalf of their clients, not for their own needs in a way to resell them later or something like that (of course they can register domains for their own company/services like any other company).
So in your specific case I do not have data about the post but I would think the most probably cause is that BlueHost registered its domain during the sunrise period.
ICANN rules mandate in summary only two things:
- a sunrise phase is mandatory, the registry just has to decide its duration (with some specific minimum duration based on the type of sunrise phase), the rules and prices
- if any other phase exists, the registry has to publish in advance its calendar of phases. This can be seen at https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/sunrise-claims-periods
The "claims" phase is starting right after sunrise and spans both EAP and public access, it lasts at least 60 days but can also be in place indefinitely. It is a kind of pending phase to the sunrise to let anyone register any domain name but warn the potential trademark owners for names being registered that are identical or similar to their trademark.