Proposed Pennsylvania Bill Would Tax Mature Video Games

A recent bill submitted to the legislature by Christopher B. Quinn of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is requesting a 10% tax on mature rated video games.

The text of House Bill 2705 states that:

“A tax is imposed on each separate sale at retail of video games which have an adults only rating or mature rating according to the rating system established by the [ESRB]..The additional rate of tax shall be in addition to any applicable State and local sales taxes.”

The text of the bill also blames video games for the violence that takes place in schools, stating that:

“The secretary of the department shall deposit the money remitted under this subsection into the General Fund. Section 2203. Digital Protection for School Safety Account.” The aforementioned account is used for “the purpose of enhancing school safety measures implemented by school districts as provided by the laws of this Commonwealth…Over the past few years, acts of violence in schools seem to be occurring more frequently and with more intensity. From Colorado to Connecticut to most recently in Parkland, Florida, students have experienced unthinkable actions by peers in a place that should promote learning and enrichment, safety and protection.”

Quinn goes on to cite a cherry-picked study from The National Center for Health Research, which lists violent video games as a contributing factor in school shootings. Quinn’s selective reporting of the science ignores numerous studies showing that there is no link between video games and real-world violence.

The bill was recognized and opposed by free speech advocacy groups, including The Media Coalition, a group that focuses specifically on free speech rights for content creators. In a statement about the bill, The Media Coalition said: “We believe that the proposed legislation to impose a 10 percent sales tax on video games with violent content is clearly an unconstitutional content-based punishment on speech. […]

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that video games are fully protected by the First Amendment. In Brown v. Entertainment Merch. Ass’n and Entertainment Software Ass’n, the Court struck down a California law that banned minors from buying or renting video games with certain violent imagery. 564 U.S. 786 (2011). The Court held that video games are entitled to full constitutional protection the same as books, newspapers, movies or music.”

Even if there was some connection to violent video games and violence, taxing them would not solve anything. Unfortunately, taxes and laws are the only types of solutions that are proposed to serious problems in society, and these measures rarely do anything to help and are often counter-productive.

Laws to tax video games have been passed in other jurisdictions in recent years. Just this year, the city of Chicago implemented an entertainment tax on video games.

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