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"Religious Freedom" Bill Fallout: "National Pokémon Championship" Leaves Indiana

Written by GHERU on Thursday, January 28 2016 and posted in News with Benefits

Although not stated out right, the prevailing theory is that the event left Indiana due to the controversial “Religious Freedom Bill.”


For the first time in seven years, the US National Pokémon Championships will not be held in Indianapolis, Indiana. The event, which brought in over 2,400 attendees in 2014, has moved back to its original home of Columbus, Ohio. The National Pokémon Championships left Columbus in 2008 "following a ticketing snafu that involved the Origins Game Fair."

As Luke Farr put it in an article for Ace of Geeks in March 2015:

"What?" You might be saying to yourself, "Does anyone even still play the Pokémon Trading Card Game?" The 2014 US National Championships actually boasted the highest attendance ever at 2,166. And the Worlds Tournament boasted an even higher attendance rate of 3,000 (though only 155 attendees were actual players, it is difficult to qualify to compete at the Worlds Tournament. The tournament still draws huge fan numbers much like a sporting event). Pokémon remains a hugely popular franchise with it's Trading Card Game, as well as the Video Games, Television Show, and Movies.

2016 could be an even bigger year for Pokémon as it marks the 20th anniversary of the property's first Game Boy release in Japan (Pokémon was not released in the United States until 1998.)

Writer's Note: If the above stat made you feel old, you are not alone.

Although not outright stated anywhere (yet) there is speculation, primarily based on the previously cited article by Luke Farr for Ace of Geeks that the reason for the move to Columbus had more to do with leaving Indiana than to "coming home" to Columbus. From

"This is super speculative, but I've heard that everyone wanted to get out last year after the passing of the new laws," said Columbus-based Pokémon tournament competitor Nathan Burkhart. "There have been some players upset about the move, but everything has been kind of superficial. The general consensus has been positive."

A post published by [Luke Farr] at on March 31, 2015 confirmed the cause for concern. [Farr] explained that the new state law could cause problems for event attendees who may be refused hotel accommodations, restaurant service and travel accommodations based upon the ability to legally discriminate against others in Indiana.

"The idea of the Pokémon National Championships may seem like a silly thing to be worried about to non-Pokémon fans — however it is just one of many events held in Indiana that will be affected by Senate Bill 101," stated [Farr]. "Even people that do not live in Indiana will be affected by the law whenever they travel to or through Indiana for events, conventions, tournaments, and vacations. The Pokémon franchise is one facet of nerd and geek culture, and our history is a tumultuous one full of people who are disenfranchised and discriminated against at every turn. It is because of this that we must always take a stand against discrimination, and we must always show our stance strongly in the face of adversity."

The Outhousers also (jokingly) covered possible ramifications of Indiana's Religious Freedom Bill in March of 2015 after GenCOn posted an open letter that stated the passage of the bill would "factor into their decision-making on hosting the convention in Indiana." Our article went on to speculate that conventions would begin a list of "recommended" hotels and restaurants who have publicly stated that they would not use this bill as a chance to discriminate against GenCon attendees, which is exactly what the National Pokémon Championship felt complied to do for their guests in 2015, their final year in Indiana:

If you are heading to Indianapolis this year for the US Pokemon National Championships, there is a list of businesses that have joined Open For Service, a campaign to celebrate businesses that oppose discrimination of any type. According to their website, Open For Service is a "non-partisan, nonjudgmental group looking to provide a grassroots network for people to support businesses that open their doors for everyone-Black, White, Gay, Straight, Christian, Atheist, Disabled . . . well, you get our drift." Whether you are queer or an ally, or simply a person who takes a stand against discrimination of any kind, it's important to show businesses that if they discriminate, they will lose their business. Reference the list of businesses on Open For Service and try to only bring your business to them during your stay in Indianapolis. A business that discriminates against anyone for any reason is a business that does not deserve your money.

According to, the championship "is expected to draw approximately 1,000 competitors to Columbus" and that's not accounting for the fans who travel to these competitions.  After the event in Columbus, players "who qualify... will move on to the World Championships that take place in August in San Francisco."

Again, the only known fact (at the moment) is that the National Pokémon Championship has left Indianapolis, Indiana for Columbus, Ohio. Any and all speculations as to the reasons for this move are just that, speculations backed up with some evidence. If, at any point in time, the National Pokémon Championship releases a statement regarding this issue AND we remember we covered it, we will let you know.


Writer's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the Ace of Geeks article to Mike Fatum.  Mr. Fatum was kind enough to contact us to make sure the correct writer, Luke Farr.  We have adjusted our text and outside quotes to reflect this.

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