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Abortion debate has Gen Con organizers considering a move away from Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Could Gen Con be leaving Indianapolis?

Organizers of the consumer and trade experience dedicated to gaming culture and community say they are getting pressure from participants and advertisers to possibly look elsewhere because of actions taken by the Indiana General Assembly regarding Senate Bill 1 Special Session, the abortion bill.

“Despite our enthusiasm from this year, I want to note we are deeply troubled by the action currently underway in the Indiana general assembly,” wrote David Hoppe, president of Gen Con.

His comment came after a tweet was sent out Wednesday morning by Gen Con that was a shot across the bow of the boat Indiana Republicans are paddling.  

“Passage of SB 1 will have an impact on our stakeholders and attendees and will make it more difficult for us to remain committed to Indiana as our long-term annual home,” Hoppe wrote.

Gen Con has an agreement to host the event in Indianapolis until 2026. This year’s event will begin Thursday and continue through Sunday.

The Gen Con president has a large economic hammer to swing in the debate. In 2019, 70,000 people over four days packed into the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis for a weekend of role playing and gaming. The crowd dropped an estimated $70 million into the Indianapolis economy.

In 2020, the convention was canceled due to COVID-19, which prompted Hoppe to essentially pen a love letter to the city.

“Frankly, we love it here. Each year, we are greeted by the great food, the hotels who accommodate our special needs, the vibrant downtown, and the warm hospitality of Hoosiers,” Hoppe wrote.

However, on Wednesday morning, Hoppe didn’t share the same enthusiasm for the city or the state, and was short on details of what a move away from Indianapolis would look like. “Unfortunately, I can’t provide a lot of details on that. This is relatively new for us and quite complicated,” Hoppe wrote.  

In the days since Indiana lawmakers started the abortion bill debate, the eyes of the state and nation have been focused on the Statehouse in Indianapolis. Gen Con is not the only convention or group with concerns with how abortion debate is going.

Chris Gahl is senior vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Indy, the tourism marketing arm for the city of Indianapolis. He says his phone has been ringing. 

“They have asked for clarification on what is happening with the bill and how it is moving. We have been very transparent with groups like Gen Con; we were anticipating their statement today,” Gahl said.

Gahl said other cities and towns are keeping an eye on the abortion debate in Indiana and in other states. He says abortion is a polarizing issue and expects his phone to continue to ring as the debate lasts. So far, Gen Con is the only group that has publicly made any statements about the politics of abortion debate.  

The Visit Indy leader said, “We have been working closely with Gen Con to keep them updated. At this point, we feel we have done everything to inform them and also make sure their voices are heard over at the Statehouse.”

I-Team 8 asked Mayor Joe Hogsett about his thoughts. A spokesperson sent a statement.

“For nearly 20 years, Gen Con has called Indianapolis home. We will uphold our agreement on hosting future Gen Con events, and will work closely with organizers to ensure they know Indianapolis’s commitment to being a welcoming place for all of their attendees.”