The longest-running gaming convention in the world, which brings in $50 million annually to Indiana is threatening to move in response to an anti-gay bill awaiting the Governor's signature.
Since 1968, Gen Con has been bringing gaming lovers together. The convention, now worth an estimated $50 million in revenue, boasts attracting over 56,000 attendees last year to its current home in Indianapolis, Indiana, where it has resided since 2003. But CEO and owner Adrian Swartout is willing to move Gen Con if Indiana Republican Governor Mike Pence signs SB 101, a controversial anti-gay "religious freedom" bill that is sitting on his desk.
"Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds," Swartout wrote in a letter to the Governor. "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," she warned.
SB 101 could allow anyone, including businesses, to discriminate against LGBT people, merely by claiming their deeply hed religious beliefs would be compromised if they did not.
Governor Pence has said he is "looking forward" to signing the bill, despite even admitting it is unnecessary.
SB 101 is abt respecting/reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact & I look fwd to signing it: http://t.co/gBY86B083L— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) March 23, 2015
But Gen Con is not the only big name opposed to the pro-discrimination legislation.
"In recent days, several personalities, including Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee, first openly gay pro athlete Jason Collins and "Star Trek" actor George Takei, have spoken out against the bill," the Huffington Post reports.
Visit Indy, Indianapolis' tourism bureau, also has voiced opposition, even before the bill was passed.
"Our concern is that there could be a misperception with this bill that doesn't paint a picture of being a warm, welcoming, hospitable place," Chris Gahl, VP of marketing and communication for Visit Indy said. "It doesn't align with the brand that is Indianapolis, and for that matter, Indiana. Because it could impact our ability to win convention business down the road — and keep convention business — we raised our hand and said we do have a concern."
The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), also based in Indianapolis, said it is "examining the details of this bill," and added "the NCAA national office is committed to an inclusive environment."
Also on the list criticizing the legislation are Salesforce.com, Fortune 500 member Cummins, Eskenazi Health, and Eli Lilly and Co.