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Conventioneers' Economic Impact Could Shrink If RFRA Passes

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As the Religious Freedom Restoration Act awaits the Governor’s signature, convention holders say passage of the act could cost the state many millions of dollars.

On Tuesday, the CEO of gaming and fantasy convention GenCon said the potential discrimination he sees in the bill will make the convention’s attendees feel unwelcome in Indiana.

Shawn Smith works for a similar convention, Indy PopCon, which he says generates a few million dollars in economic impact each year. He says his organization shares GenCon’s concerns.

“We completely stand behind our sister convention’s statements and we echo them. We do believe that this bill is ultimately bad for business. We think it’s going to be bad for tourism in the city and it’s just a bad bill overall,” Smith says.

Smith says PopCon may have to move away from its home city if the bill scares attendees away.

Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl says his office has told GenCon it will remain a hospitable city, even if the bill is signed into law.

“It was with two weeks of research and due diligence we decided that we wanted to oppose this, predominantly because there could be a misperception that the bill creates that we’re not a welcoming, hospitable destination or state,” Gahl says.

Gahl says it’s still too early to tell how big the economic impact of the bill might be on the state’s convention business. The ten most-attended conventions in Indianapolis generate almost 10-percent of the capital city’s total yearly tourism revenue, however. 

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