Gaming convention threatens to abandon Indiana if anti-gay bill passes

UPDATE: Bill signed into law. Gen Con begins discussion on possible move.

UPDATE 27/03/2015: Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" bill has been signed into law.

Yesterday evening, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 101, which prohibits state or local governments from substantially burdening a person's ability to exercise their religion - unless the government can show it has a compelling interest and that the action is the least-restrictive means of achieving it.

Some fear the bill could allow business owners to deny services to gays and lesbians for religious reasons. It takes effect 1st July.

What does this mean for Gen Con? In an open letter to the Gen Con community, the event's owner, Adrian Swartout, said the news was "disappointing", but not "unexpected".

Swartout expects Gen Con 2015 attendees to receive "the same great service and hospitality" as before, and said the event will be "inclusive and fun", despite the bill. But, she added, she would support anyone who decided not to attend as a matter of principle.

Gen Con's contract with the city of Indianapolis expires in 2020. Swartout confirmed discussions on whether to remain in Indy or move elsewhere had begun.

In a news conference reported on by Indy Star, Governor Pence said he planned to speak with event organisers in a bid to reassure them about the impact of the bill.

"I'll call them. I'll talk to them," he said. "This is not about legalising discrimination."

ORIGINAL STORY 26/03/2015: Gaming convention Gen Con, a public expo that brought in 56,000 attendees last year, is threatening to leave its usual locale of Indiana if a discriminatory bill passes that allows business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples based on religious grounds.

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Gen Con brings some fun folks to Indiana. But its future in the state is in jeopardy.

State Bill 101, dubbed the "religious freedom" bill, is worryingly close to becoming a law in Indiana and it could very well cause Gen Con to search for a new home. "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," said Gen Con CEO Adrian Swartout in an open letter to Republican Governor Mike Pence (via Twitter).

"Last year, Gen Con hosted more than 56,000 attendees from more than 40 different countries and all 50 states," Swartout explained. "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."

She noted that the convention brought in roughly $50m to the city when one considers all the hotels, food and goods consumed by its attendees.

The questions is: will this be enough to influence the governor?

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Jeffrey Matulef

Jeffrey Matulef

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Jeffrey Matulef is the best-dressed man in 1984.

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