Gen Con LLC Unhappy with Indiana Legislative Bill, Threaten Move

By Polar_Bear
In Events
Mar 24th, 2015

Gen Con has sent a letter to the governor of Indiana about Indiana Legislative Bill SB 101, which would allow Indiana businesses to refuse service to customers based on one’s sexual orientation. Gen Con is promoting inclusion of all peoples, and has asked the governor to not support the bill. Gen Con hosted more than 56k attendees last year, bringing over an estimated $50 million to the city. But such legislation is causing them to reconsider holding the convention in Indianapolis.
This year’s show is currently unaffected, but future shows could be impacted by the legislative decision, and the decision of Gen Con LLC.

From the Polygon report:


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.


About "" Has 26290 Posts

I was born at a very young age. I plan on living forever. So far, so good.
  • Elusive71

    F’n A! Right on my brother and sister nerds and everyone in between.

    • Atvar

      I beg to differ: The Indiana resolution is not in any way urging Gen-con or any other merchant to change its practices or in any way to abandon its treasured diversity. It simply allows any business person to opt out of contracts which they find to be morally objectionable without fear of legal harassment.
      The cases which provoked this legislation were anti-discrimination lawsuits brought against a Christian baker who politely refused to provide a wedding cake with two groomsmen to a gay client. Why is this not ethically permissible? Would you require an African-American baker to contract to provide a “Happy Birthday Grand Wizard” cake to the local chapter of the KKK, or a Jewish artist to paint a mural glorifying the Holocaust?
      People of alternate lifestyles and their allies have fought hard for the freedom to simply be themselves without fear of persecution. Good for them! Can they not now also respect the freedom of those of more traditional beliefs, also honestly held, who simply wish to not participate in the glorification of such choices? Isn’t that what “tolerance” is all about?

      • mathieu

        Right, because the KKK and the Holocaust (or generally murdering people “just because”) are exactly along the same line as loving whoever you want to.

        • Sisyphus

          Happy Apartheid Remembered Day…

          I do think there are times when people are required to do things they don’t want to do. One side says “force them” and the other says “don’t force them, it’s their civil rights”.

          It’s a hard call. I’m a southerner and Jim Crow laws were about the worst slap in the face to African-Americans (and others).

          Personally I’d like market forces determine things… and I do speak from experience in my color and ethnicity has caused me to be denied apartments and some jobs. Just the reality. It’s awful… but no law is gonna change someone’s mind so I’d prefer they wear their bigotry on their sleeves so I could see and it take myself and money elsewhere.

      • Wrap it up in protestations of ‘politeness’ and ‘honesty’ all you want, it’s not religious freedom, it’s state-sanctioned bigotry. It’s like calling creationism ‘intelligent design’ and pretending it’s something different. Seriously, can you not imagine the repercussions of enshrining, in law, the abilty to disregard descrimination laws on the basis of what anyone chooses to call their religious belief?

        It always astounds me when bigots protest that people aren’t tolerant of their bigotry. People different from you aren’t ‘glorifying’ their choices, and there’s no alternate lifestyle conspiracy. All any reasonable person wants is to live their life without discrimination. And if religions actually practiced what they say they fundamentally preach, it would lead the vanguard on ensuring those rights.

        Can I suggest you actually get to know someone from one of those alternate lifestyles – you may find it educational and refreshing.

        My only consolation in the face of intolerance is that, inevitably, it will one day be consigned to the dustbin of history.

        Oh, and good on you GenCon.

        • Atvar

          A very prejudiced response, Universal Head. I’m neither a bigot nor a homophobe, nor would I do business with people who discriminated on those grounds. I’m writing from a libertarian perspective: Businesses should have the freedom to refuse service to anyone; customers should have the right to take their business elsewhere and even to organize boycotts against businesses acting unjustly. GenCon certainly has the right to manage their business any way they see fit. What disturbs me about this, though, is that by pressuring the legislature, they are seeking to deny that same right to other businesses (hypothetically – their letter mentions no actual patterns or even instances of past or pending discrimination by any Indianapolis businesses). Liberty means putting up with views we find to be stupid or offensive. The alternative, though, is authoritarianism, which seems to be much worse to endure and much harder to eradicate. One can walk away from bigoted merchants, but one cannot so easily escape the Thought Police of political correctness once they become established.

          • Well, that’s definitely widening the scope of the discussion now into far more complex areas than can be discussed here. Your original post and its poorly chosen metaphors simply made you sound very prejudiced. By the same logic, a man should be allowed to refuse service to a woman if the former’s religion told him women are inferior.

            A political discussion on the various flavours of libertarianism is not something I have the time or inclination to get into. However I do know one thing, and that is allowing religious exceptions to common law is not a good idea.

            In any case, as you say, GenCon is making their opinion known as they see fit, and I agree with their stance.

          • Sid Singh

            So, in the libertarian world view, how are you supposed to make your values known? How do you work toward social change (if that is what you want) without pressuring legislatures and governments?

            Violent protest? Uprising?

        • Lexthilian

          I do know someone who has an “alternative” lifestyle, I work with him. For the most part, he is nice, does his job and is generally fun to talk to….. BUT, he constantly shoves his lifestyle in everyone’s face along with his ‘friends’. Even though I and others have told him we do not want to hear about any of it, nor his bashing of our beliefs, he continues. He also thinks that he has two cards up his sleeve if he never gets his way anywhere, One the race card, (he’s mexican) and two the Homosexual card. These are his words, not mine.

          If I had a business and people came in doing the same, and I asked them to leave, they then could sue me for so called “discrimination” or “bigotry”. And yes, this is exactly what they do. Where are my rights?

          This whole myth that they are nice, wonderful people who just want to love who they want is B.S. Their sexuality always comes first. Just look at the bashing that Chik-fi-la got from the gay community because the owner had a view that was different from their’s. Where was the tolerance there, and in the end Chik-fi-la’s business flourished.

          The bottom line is, if people don’t like it they can take their business elsewhere.

          • This is what it’s all about isn’t it? Taking millions of individual people with one common attribute that is different from you – whether sexuality, colour or culture – and defining them all with one prejudicial opinion formed from incredibly limited experience.

          • Sisyphus

            Universal Head… I think the problem is approach. I’ve experienced prejudice before. Were my civil liberties infringed?… yeah maybe.

            But making social progress via making things illegal isn’t the way. It doesn’t change a person’s mind and may just aggravate it. And changing peoples’ minds is the true target. Letting open-mindedness come naturally is best.

            I think GenCon’s best move is as they did already. Indiana has the right to pass laws to reinforce people’s right to shoot themselves in the foot. Yea, even the close-minded ones. But Gencon moving will put a black eye to Indiana and telling them why will let the open-minded business owners call out those who are ruining it for all.

            I think it best if Indiana passed a law that the state wouldn’t do business with businesses that discriminate in any form.

            Better the carrot than the stick.

          • Look, I agree with you in part, but we’re off topic. We’re talking about religious people getting a free pass to exercise descrimination against people. From what I’ve researched, even some churches are against it, recognising that it is veiled bigotry.

            Personally, I find it easy to put myself in the shoes of someone who walks into a shop and is refused service because the person behind the counter doesn’t like my lifestyle. Doesn’t that idea bother you? ‘Cause it kind of reminds me of pre-60s America.

            Discrimination laws aren’t there to take away God-given freedoms or whatever, they’re there to protect the rights of those whose rights need protecting because of society’s prejudices, against either age, disability, race, sex or sexual orientation. And before anyone says it, that’s not a fast track to frickin’ communism! 🙂

            I weighed into this discussion – and I shouldn’t, because internet discussions are almost always a waste of time – because I couldn’t bear to read about intolerance of other lifestyles here. Let’s pull it back from ‘my rights to refuse other people their rights’ and get it back to where it belongs – learning to be tolerant of other people’s life choices, whether they fit with your religion or not.

            Anyway, back to tabletop games, the arena in which I prefer to keep conflicts. And I can’t stand the way this comments systm keeps flipping me up to the top of the page when I try to edit what I’ve written!

          • Sisyphus

            Hahahah… yeah… I know what you mean about weighing in on these internet discussions.

            I agree with your opinions but I’ve become so anti-legislation on any topic. Not libertarian but more like disenchanted with the volume of laws.

            In my viewpoint locally, I think slowly there is a shift people’s feelings… slowly more people are opening their minds but also I can say those few “hardliners” seem to be hardening even more.

            Anyways…here’s my chance to say thanks for all those Gaming Aids I’ve used all the years.

          • Cheers.

          • mathieu

            “But making social progress via making things illegal isn’t the way. It doesn’t change a person’s mind and may just aggravate it. And changing peoples’ minds is the true target.”

            It works slowly, but it does work. It might very well aggravate the person who refused service to a homosexual/black/woman, but their kids will grow up with the idea that you can’t do that; their grandkids look back and wonder how people could be such bigots back then…

          • Lexthilian

            “Incredibly limited experience”? I gave only one example due to text space. I could give every personal example I have encountered including the actions of the gay man who is running the school district that I work for, (not the same person) but I limited it to just one example. I also believe this has nothing to do with race, culture or color as you are turning this into. The so called “prejudicial opinion” you think I have is unwarranted. I continue to talk to this person on a cordial basis, I help him etc. despite his continued flagrant flaunting and bashing of our views. I think you only hear what you want to hear.

            This is primarily about Gen Con using the clout of the convention goers to push their own personal ideology as if everyone who attends will have the same view as them. These are games, or at least that’s what they used to be about.

          • Sid Singh

            Isn’t that exactly what GenCon is doing? Taking their business elsewhere.

      • Dude

        Would you refuse to serve black people then? or if I am an atheist should I refuse to serve Christians? This is exactly what you are are preaching. So if you do one, in this case discriminating against gay, then you should allow the other. You are not talking about extremes here, like the example you gave, but of people who loved each other. Where is really the problem, are they trying to discriminate/kill against other people (KKK) or are they glorifying a truly awful event? No, they haven’t done anything wrong other than loving each other.
        A few hundred years ago the church big wits met and decided that black people had no soul and were not human… This is among the same lines, although turn in a more sensible way because it’s 2015.

  • Dude

    Amazing to think that they have to do this in 2015… Right move in any case by GenCon.

  • elril

    Hhhmn, political posturing can be expensive. Never underestimate the power of collective nerd rage.

  • mathieu

    The best gaming-related news I’ve read in ages.

  • jeff fearnow

    Kudos to GenCon et al.

    All we should ever want to do is get along.

  • Charles Hammett

    You should check out Baltimore, We welcome everyone and have a great convention center. If you do that I could put up a booth 🙂

  • Jonathan Boothby

    I remember when gaming conventions were in no way involved in politics.

    • Lexthilian

      Agreed, and I also remember when games didn’t either. Anyone could play them, and anyone did. But now some game companies, (Wizards of the Coast) have given their rubber stamp of approval saying it’s now ok for someone to play a transgender Half-orc, or lesbian elf. Thank you WOTC and others for clearing that up for us.