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Gen Con threatens the governor it will leave the state over Indiana's controversial SB 101

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Gen Con LLC, the parent company the Gen Con hobby games convention, has issued a formal letter to Republican Governor Mike Pence in light of the passage of State Bill 101. The controversial "religious freedom" bill, as the Indianapolis Star refers to it, would offer legal protection under which Indiana business owners could refuse service to same-sex couples.

Gen Con LLC's CEO and owner, Adrian Swartout, said in a letter made public today that passage of the bill "will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years."

Gen Con is currently Indianapolis Convention Center's largest annual convention, bringing the city tens of millions of dollars in revenue. It was originally held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in the late 1960s and organized by none other than Gary Gygax, the father of modern role-playing games. Since then the event has morphed into a four-day event combining tabletop miniatures, board games, video games and live-action role-playing games. It regularly creates in excess of $50 million in revenue for the city of Indianapolis.

"Last year, Gen Con hosted more than 56,000 attendees from more than 40 different countries and all 50 states," Swartout wrote to the governor. "Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. We are happy to provide an environment that welcomes all, and the wide-ranging diversity of our attendees has become a key element to the success and growth of our convention.

"Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state's economy."


Based in Seattle, Washington, Gen Con LLC signed a long term agreement with Visit Indy to host the Gen Con event at the Indianapolis Convention Center through the year 2020. The passage of SB 101 seems to run the risk of putting that relationship in jeopardy.

In 2011 the Convention Center increased capacity to more than half a million square feet of floor space, adding on roughly 200,0000 square feet of floor space at a cost of over $275 million, the Indianapolis Star reports. That addition was intended to serve Gen Con and its annual legions of attendees, but also to court the return of the annual NRA convention, which will visit the city in 2019 and 2023.

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