World’s Largest Gaming Convention to Indiana Gov: Sign Anti-LGBT Legislation, Lose Our Business UPDATED

Gen Con takes a stand against proposed Indiana legislation many fear could be used to descriminate against same-sex couples

image via (cc) flickr user zoologist

After Indiana lawmakers approved legislation that critics say can be used to by business owners to discriminate against LGBT customers, one of that state’s largest moneymaking events is threatening to relocate should the governor sign the bill into law.

Gen Con bills itself as “the original, longest-running, best-attended, gaming convention in the world.” During last year’s four-day convention, Gen Con played host to more than 50,000 attendees, who came the world over in order to experience panels, test playables, and hobnob with gaming professionals. Organizers estimate the convention’s presence brought in around $50 million worth of economic activity to its host city of Indianapolis.

Gen Con is, to put it mildly, a pretty big deal.

In a letter submitted March 23 to Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Gen Con owner and CEO Adrian Swartout writes:

"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.

The letter goes on to cite more than a decade’s worth of warm hospitality shown to Gen Con by the city of Indianapolis; Hospitality repaid, in part, by the economic boon created by the conference’s presence.

But, Swartout warns:

"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"

The IndyStar points out that Gen Con is contracted to remain in Indianapolis through 2020, and doesn’t plan at this time to break that contract. However, should Governor Pence sign into law SB 101–which allows business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples based on “religious freedoms”– it would “factor into future decisions” Gen Con spokesperson Stacia Kirby told the news site. Pence is expected to approve the legislation.

Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy, Indianapolis’s official tourism organization, told the local Fox news affiliate that while Gen Con is the first large-scale group to voice displeasure about the proposed law, other events’ organizers have begun coming forward with similar concerns. Cloud computing giant Salesforce has also expressed concerns over SB 101, with founder and CEO Mark Benioff tweeting:

image via

The absence of Gen Con, however, would be accutely felt. As Gahl told Fox 59: "Certainty losing Gen Con is not something we want. It would be a huge loss."

When it comes to fighting against legalized descrimination, Gen Con is a gaming conference that isn’t playing around.

UPDATE 3.26.15, 10:50 AM EST

The IndyStar reports that Gov. Mike Pence signed SB 101 into law, during a private ceremony this morning.

via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

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