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Indianapolis • Indiana may have lost as much as $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenue and other economic benefits when a dozen groups decided against hosting conventions in Indianapolis last year due in part to the controversy surrounding the state's religious objections law.
A document prepared by the tourism group Visit Indy shows that the 12 out-of-state groups surveyed all said that the state's controversial law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere. The document was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its formal release Thursday.
The Republican-backed law garnered quick and largely negative national backlash after it was signed by Gov. Mike Pence in March. Critics said it sanctioned discrimination against gay people on religious grounds. Lawmakers hastily made changes days later, after the NCAA, the gamer convention GenCon and other business interests raised the possibility of moving events, but critics said the law still doesn't go far enough to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.
The findings by Visit Indy are among the first to quantify the law's financial effect, an impact that social conservatives have skeptically downplayed. Visit Indy also is among several prominent Indiana business voices advocating for statewide protections for anyone fired from a job, denied service or evicted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the group's surveys, Indianapolis tourism officials asked the conventions why they chose to locate in other states, without specifically mentioning the controversial law. All 12 cited the law and the backlash it provoked as one reason for choosing another city, said Chris Gahl, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Indy.
"We'd say, 'Why didn't you select Indy?' and they proactively cited [the law as a reason they did not select Indianapolis," Gahl said. "That is not news you want to hear when you are in the business of marketing a city."
In an emailed statement Monday, Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said Indiana was a "welcoming" state with a strong economy. She noted multiple organizations that have expanded their role or recommitted to hosting conventions and events in the state, including the NFL scouting combine and the Future Farmers of America.
Gahl declined to name the 12 conventions.
Visit Indy estimates the actual amount of money lost could be greater than $60 million because fewer convention prospects are now in the pipeline when compared with years past.