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Gen Con Extends Their Indianapolis Stay Even After Controversy

Gen ConGen Con has announced that it is extending its partnership with Indianapolis in a deal that will allow the convention to renew its contract annually. The convention will stay in Indy until 2021 in a one year extension. It was unknown what would happen to the “best four days in gaming” after controversy swirled within the state of Indiana in 2015 over legislation signed by then Governor Pence that would discriminate against LGBT individuals.

In 2015 Gen Con threatened to leave Indianapolis due to the passing of legislation SB 101 which discriminated against LGBT individuals in the form of “religious freedom.” The convention took a stand to protect LGBT attendees and fight discrimination against them by local businesses. At that time the convention announced it had a contract to stay in the city until 2020 with bidding as to what would happen after beginning this year or next. It was speculated by some the convention would use the controversy to get a better deal from the city to stay.

This coming year the convention will celebrate its 50th convention. The convention has an estimated $72 million economic impact for the region annually.

In 2016, Gen Con featured a record number of turnstile attendees, 201,852, a 2.5% year-over-year increase. Attendees came to Indianapolis from 64 countries, all 50 states, and each Canadian province. Last year, Gen Con also expanded into Lucas Oil Stadium, and due to increased space, also featured a record number of exhibitors (525).

Gen Con moved its annual convention to Indianapolis in 2003 and last completed an extension agreement in 2011. Since moving to Indianapolis, Gen Con’s attendance has more than doubled, from 23,000 unique attendees to a unique attendance record of more than 61,000.

The convention will return to Indianapolis on August 17-20, 2017, to celebrate the historic Gen Con 50.

Gen Con Releases a New Statement Concerning Indiana’s SB 101

We’ve been covering Gen Con‘s reaction to SB 101, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Gen Con, which threatened to leave the state if passed, has issued a new statement about the legislation being signed into law calling the decision “disappointing,” and “not unexpected.”

The short version, the convention has a contract to stay in Indianapolis until 2020, however bidding on where the convention will head after that begins about 5 years out, so in other words, within the next year.

The convention said in the mean time, they will focus on inclusion and fun. They have also want to hear about any positive or negative experiences with local hospitality during the convention, and will solicit feedback from the community about their experiences.

We stand behind the convention fully, and are proud they have stood up for inclusion and against bigotry.

You can read the full letter below.

GEN_Con_SB_101_Follow_Up

With SB 101 Signed, What Will Gen Con Do? Follow Salesforce?

Gen_Con_LetterOn Tuesday we brought you the news that Gen Con, the four day gaming convention (and one of my favorite conventions of the year) sent a letter to Indiana Governor Mike Pence warning the convention may leave the state if SB 101, the supposed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was singed into law. The convention, as many else also feel, felt the legislation is discriminatory, and would “allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees.”

The Governor is so proud of the bill, he signed it into law in a private ceremony. Indiana becomes the first state this year to enact such legislation out of the dozen or so states in which similar proposals have been introduced.

The fallout from the legislation signing was quick and fierce. Salesforce, on the the top software as a service companies out there, has decided to “dramatically reduce” their investment in Indiana. The CEO of the company Marc Benioff said in a series of Tweets:

gen-con-logoGen Con isn’t the only convention to take place in the state. Awesome Con expanded this year to host a convention in Indianapolis as well. We’ve reached out to both conventions for further comment as to their plans or reactions, but have not heard back as we went to press.

Geek conventions don’t have the best record when it comes to these things. In 2010, Arizona signed into law SB 1070 which some say unfairly targets Latinos, and is a violation of the civil rights of all Arizonans. Boycotts of the state due to the law cost the state over $141 million in 2010. Announced in 2010, but launched in 2011, the Amazing Arizona Comic Con was launched, though calls for boycotts were still in full effect. We questioned the choice of not just the convention, but those attending and supporting it. Companies who “champion” diversity and inclusion, and “pushing comics forward” have had no issues pumping money into the economy of a state which clearly cares little of these things. Though, in fairness, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill similar to the one Gov. Pence just signed into law. So, they just dislike people of darker skin there, but homosexuals are ok.

We’ll keep on this story as Gen Con has promised a follow up letter today. The convention in 2011 committed to stay in Indianapolis until 2020.

Pence released the below statement after signing the pill into law:

Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith.

The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.

One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.

Fortunately, in the 1990s Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—limiting government action that would infringe upon religion to only those that did not substantially burden free exercise of religion absent a compelling state interest and in the least restrictive means.

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States upheld religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that act does not apply to individual states or local government action. At present, nineteen states—including our neighbors in Illinois and Kentucky—have adopted Religious Freedom Restoration statutes. And in eleven additional states, the courts have interpreted their constitutions to provide a heightened standard for reviewing government action.

In order to ensure that religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law, this year our General Assembly joined those 30 states and the federal government to enshrine these principles in Indiana law, and I fully support that action.

This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved. For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.

Indiana is rightly celebrated for the hospitality, generosity, tolerance, and values of our people, and that will never change. Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.

And a Tweet by the Governor:

Gen Con Threatens to Leave Indiana Over SB 101

This afternoon Gen Con, a four-day gaming convention, sent a letter to the Republican Governor of Indiana Mike Pence warning that if SB 101 becomes the law, the convention may leave the state. Gen Con LLC’s CEO and owner, Adrian Swartout, said in the letter (which you can read below) that passage of the bill “will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.” The convention focuses on gaming of all types including board, card, miniature, and role-playing.

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.

Proponents of SB 101 would prevent state and local governments from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion unless the government can prove it has a compelling interest.

Opponents of the legislation says it gives a license for businesses to discriminate, particularly against gays and lesbians.

The legislation is being pushed by social conservatives.

The digest description of the legislation:

Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.

Some have said the legislation is similar to what led the Supreme Court to side with Hobby Lobby concerning contraception. This legislation could be interpreted much further allowing systemic and widespread discrimination by businesses, for example a bakery refusing to serve a gay couple.

The legislation passed the House in a 63-31 vote, and Senate a 40-10 vote.

As of this post, the convention has garnered support and positive feedback from their Facebook community. Some dissented feeling this is “social justice warriors” making their way into gaming.

According to Facebook demographics, 10% of the convention’s “likes” are “interested” in the same-sex.

The convention, which began in 1968 in Lake Geneva by D&D creator Gary Gygax, moved to the city in 2003. It’s the convention center’s largest annual convention, bringing in excess of $50 million in revenue for the city of Indianapolis every year.

Last year’s convention, held August 14-17, saw another year of record attendance numbers and unprecedented growth. That makes it the fourth consecutive year, Gen Con grew by more than 10%. The year saw 14% year-over-year growth with a weekend turnstile attendance of 184,699 and unique attendance of 56,614. 2013’s previous record was 49,530 unique attendees. Since 2009, Gen Con’s annual attendance has more than doubled.

The convention also does good, selecting a charity partner each year to raise money. Last year also saw a record year in donations. The convention raised more than $40,000 for Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana’s BackSacks program, which provides weekend food to children at-risk for hunger. This donation includes a $20,000 check provided by Mayfair Games’ Cones of Dunshire event, a charitable game played Saturday, August 16 on Georgia Street. This year’s partner is the Julian Center.

It is unknown how other conventions in the state have reacted to the legislation, but we have reached out for comments.

Gen Con 2015 returns to Indianapolis July 30 – August 2, 2015! And we’ll be there in full support.

Here is the letter for you to read:

 

Gen_Con_Letter

You’re Not Going to “Red State” Cons Now, But Where Were You When?

2016-11-12_1604A few comic creators are making it known they will not be planning on attending conventions in “red states,” those that voted for Donald Trump in the past election. Humberto Ramos wrote a very impassioned reason why, and George Perez has also indicated he will be doing the same after his 2017 commitments are through.

What I am about to write is not to slam these two creators in particular, but to throw this out there to the comic community as a whole and get everyone to think.

I aks this in all seriousness why now? Why declare this boycott now?

In 2010 Arizona passed SB 1070 which racially profiled individuals in a crack down on “illegal immigrants.” The legislation was racist then and is racist now. And even though the Supreme Court has overturned some of the legislation, some of the worst parts still remain. Where was the protest from the comic community then? Why did so many of you flock to the Amazing Arizona Comic Con which began in 2011 and return for years since? Where was the protests then? Where were people proclaiming they wouldn’t attend?

In 2015 then Indiana Governor, now Vice-President Elect, Mike Pence signed SB 101 the “Religious Freedom Bill” that made national news. It caused an outcry and Gen Con, on the of the largest gaming conventions in the world threatened to leave. They’re contractually there for a few more years. And while it’s not so much a comic convention as it is a game convention, there’s more comic related items there than ever before. The outcry was fierce from the Gen Con community, but again are you, or have you attended other actual comic shows in the state since it was passed?

In March 2016 North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, the bathroom bill that discrimantes against transgender individuals. The NCAA relocated championships over the law. The NBA moved it’s All-Star Game over it. How many of you pledged to not go to the conventions there?

Every day women and people of color who are comic fans, journalists, and your fellow creators are bullied and harassed online. Where are you when that happens? Did you call their concerns over stories or art censorship? Did you knee-jerk defend other creators? Or did you listen to the concerns some had to say?

For the publishers who claim to be “progressive” where are you during all of the above? Going to those conventions? Choosing to pass? Will these “progressive” publishers help their creators who may lose their health insurance when the Affordable Care Act is repealed? Do they offer these creators “fair” deals?

There’s a bit of hypocrisy and contradiction about suddenly not going to “Red State” conventions when you haven’t spoken out about the above. It’s now as if “Trump’s America” affects you and you suddenly give a shit. For many “Trump’s America” has been here for quite some time.

It’s great to suddenly “see the light” and come around but we also need to challenge and question individuals for their past actions or lack of them. Those same individuals need to think about it when they’re challenged too and own up to failures.

Graphic Policy Radio LIVE this Monday!

GP Radio pic MondayIt’s Monday night, and that means a brand new episode of Graphic Policy Radio, the show thay mixes politics and comics. It’s been a bit since we discussed recent releases and general news in the comic industry, so it’s potluck Monday! The show airs LIVE this Monday at 10pm ET.

On this episode:

  1. We talk what we’ve been reading and discuss hot comics and graphic novels you should check out, and what you should skip, and what we’re looking forward to!
  2. Emerald City Comicon was this past weekend with lots of announcements and hints as to what’s coming up. We round up the news and talk about what you need to know.
  3. Geekdom and politics clashed this past week and the largest game convention in North American Gen Con spoke out about Indiana’s SB 101, and threatened to leave the state if passed. We lay it out there as to what you need to know.
  4. The past few weeks also saw controversy. We discuss the recent round of harassment as well as the controversy over DC Comics variant cover to Batgirl #41.

We discuss all of that and more this Monday! We want to hear from you. Call in with your thoughts to (619) 768-2952 or Tweet them to us @graphicpolicy.

Gen Con Sets New Event Registration Record

gen con featuredGen Con has announced that their 2015 Event Registration grew to a new all-time high this year with an opening day increase of more than 24%. Event Registration, which went live Sunday, May 17, saw a record number of attendees purchasing event tickets, corresponding to increasing 2015 badge sales. Gen Con 2015 will take place July 30 – August 2, 2015 at the Indiana Convention Center and throughout numerous participating venues around Indianapolis.

Last year, Gen Con hosted attendees from all 50 states, every Canadian province, and more than 40 countries. The 2014 convention saw a weekend turnstile attendance of 184,699 and a unique attendance of 56,614.

Gen Con 2015 Event Registration opened with more than 12,500 events – 3000 more than the 2014 launch. New events will continue to be added throughout the summer. Gen Con 2015 will also feature a record number of exhibitors, expanding to more than 400 companies.

The attendance and excitement over this year’s convention will be very important for Gen Con. Earlier this year, the convention stepped up during the battle over Indiana’s SB 101, Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The passing of the legislation, and subsequent discussion with Governor Pence concerning it, caused the convention to halt the expansion of the convention into Lucas Oil Stadium, and plans for further expansion into other hotel convention spaces. This threw the future of the convention into the air as far as where it may be hosted in the future. Gen Con’s contract with Indianapolis has the convention there until 2020, however bidding for such contracts usually begin about 5 years out. So, for 2021’s convention, when their contract is up, will begin within a year or so. This year’s stats will be a key metric other states and towns will measure how important it is to bid on Gen Con’s business. So, expect a lot of positive metrics in the next few months and after the convention.

Badges are available with a pre-registration discount until June 14. A 4-Day badge costs $80 (plus tax) until June 14, when the Pre-Registration discount will end. Prospective attendees can purchase badges at gencon.com and on-site in Indianapolis.

Gen Con Works to Protect LGBT Attendees After Discussion with Gov. Pence

For those new to the story, Gen Con, the largest game convention in North America, took a stand against Indiana’s SB 101 which would allow people to use their religion to discriminate against individuals amongst other things. With the legislation passed, the state has come under fire, with corporations freezing investment plans, and others refusing to travel there, along with calls for a boycott.

With millions on the line, and the state made out to look like bigots, Governor Mike Pence is doing what he can to spin the legislation claiming it’s for religious protection. It doesn’t help the Governor was surrounded by bigots when he signed the legislation, nor refused to answer a simple yes or no when it came to a question about LGBT discrimination on This Week.

Gen Con updated its community, saying they spoke with the Governor and disagree with his take on the legislation and situation. They are working with the Mayor of Indianapolis to ensure con-goers are not discriminated against and have a good time.

They are also urging the Governor, and other elected officials, to amend the legislation to make it clear and protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender orientation.

“We believe freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right.”

The biggest news is the convention has halted its “expansion into Lucas Oil Stadium, and plans for further expansion into other hotel convention spaces.

The convention is urging individuals to write elected officials and call the Governor’s office, though his phone has either be disconnected or voice mail filled since this all started.

Gen_Con_Pence_SB_101_3.30.15

Gen Con Comments on Diversity, RFRA, and Inclusion

Gen Con has been vocal about their displeasure with Indiana‘s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, SB 101, and has threatened to leave Indiana once their current contract with Indianapolis is up in 2020. You can read about all of it here, here, and here.

Today, an amendment to the legislation was passed that says it can’t be used to discriminate against individuals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. While some have been happy with the change, others still think it’s not enough.

Gen Con has released another statement through email about the latest legislative change.

If you have watched or read the news over the past week, you have seen nationwide feedback on Indiana’s RFRA legislation. Gen Con’s CEO, Adrian Swartout, released a letter to the Governor of Indiana, preceding the legislation’s signing, as well as two follow-up letters to our community on gencon.com with the intent of sharing our thoughts with the public. Simply put, Gen Con believes that diversity and inclusion are key to the success of our convention as well as to the state of Indiana.

Today, Indiana’s General Assembly overwhelmingly passed an amendment to RFRA, signed by the Governor, that will remove RFRA’s risk of discrimination or refusal of service statewide. The amended law will reflect Indianapolis’ own longstanding human rights ordinance which includes protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With this amendment, no one can refuse you service under RFRA. Period.

We believe this is an important first step, but is just that, a first step.

The conversation on RFRA legislation has created a great dialog in Indiana, across the country, and at Gen Con itself. We know we always can do more to support diversity at our show, and are discussing some exciting new ways to increase our support for all attendees. Given the great response by Visit Indy, the Indy Chamber, Mayor Greg Ballard, and the businesses of Indianapolis, we believe that all attendees will continue to receive the warm response that we have enjoyed for more than a decade. We won’t stop pushing for more diversity and inclusiveness in Indiana, and we will include new concepts and partnerships into our preparations for Gen Con 2015.

Thank you for your feedback during this discussion! Many representatives from Indy also have asked us to express their gratitude to you for your overwhelming outreach and support. Your voice has been heard in Indiana, and Indy is excited to show you its appreciation for your support. We will continue to look for exciting new ways to improve Gen Con and our attendees’ experience.

Does the change to the legislation change your mind at all about attending?