clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Gen Con discussing whether to remain in Indiana after controversial law passes

New, 41 comments

Earlier this week, the parent company for the Gen Con hobby game convention threatened to leave the state if Indiana's controversial religious freedom bill became law.

While protecting religious freedom, the law would also offer legal protection under which Indiana business owners could refuse service to same-sex couples.

Yesterday the bill became law, and in a new letter from Gen Con LLC's CEO and owner Adrian Swartout, it appears the convention, which has a contract to stay in Indianapolis through 2020, is putting off carrying out those threats, at least any time soon.

"What does the future hold for Gen Con in 2021 and beyond," she wrote. "Planning and bidding for our convention is a long-term process that begins five years prior to contract -term commencement. Discussions, whether to remain in Indy or move elsewhere, have begun."

In the first formal letter sent to Republican Governor Mike Pence, prior to the law's passage, Swartout wrote:

"Last year, Gen Con hosted more than 56,000 attendees from more than 40 different countries and all 50 states. 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, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.

"We ask that you please reconsider your support of SB 101."

Gen Con is currently the Indianapolis Convention Center's largest annual convention. 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.

Yesterday afternoon, Swartout wrote a second letter (which you can read in full here ), this time addressed to the Gen Con community. In it she reminds the community of the many years of successful partnerships with the local business community that they convention has enjoyed. She also points out that numerous businesses and the mayor of Indianapolis have all spoken out against the bill.

Finally, she promises that conventions held through 2020 will not be contentious or problematic for convention goers.

"I hope that you'll join us at Gen Con, which will be inclusive and fun," she writes. "Prospective attendees, if you don't feel comfortable attending, based upon your principals, we invite you to make the decision that feels right for you, your business, or group. We support your decision, regardless of the outcome."

Among the other companies that promised to reevaluate their business in Indiana, Salesforce had the biggest reaction. The company's CEO said he has canceled all of his company's events in the state and promised a"slow rolling of economic sanctions" if the law is not tossed out. The New York Times reports that the NCAA is also examining how the law might impact future events in the state.