Despite a decade-long string of legal victories against video game legislation, the game industry appears headed for a fierce political battle in Utah.
As GamePolitics reported earlier this week, State Rep. Mike Morley (R) will soon introduce a new bill written by longtime game biz nemesis Jack Thompson. Having apparently abandoned past efforts to have violent games declared harmful to minors (an approach that he swore was constitutional), Thompson’s new legislative angle would put retailers at risk of false advertising charges if they sell mature-themed games or films to minors.
While there is a tendency in the game community to automatically dismiss any legal theory proposed by the permanently disbarred Thompson, the reality is that Utah could prove to be a battleground state for the video game industry. A lobbyist who is familiar with media content issues explained to GP that Utah’s ultra-conservative political landscape offers Thompson a window of opportunity:
This year the industry may face a tougher fight in Utah even with Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s help. The reason is that the conservative wing of the [Utah] Republican Party deposed the moderate Republican Senate President, John Valentine, and replaced him with the conservative Senate President Michael Waddoups.
[For example,] one of Waddoups most recent victories was defeating the Governor’s effort to modernize Utah’s antiquated liquor laws. Waddoups defeated the bill because he opposed "kids being able to see adults pour drinks." Well, if he thinks seeing a drink poured in a restaurant is going to corrupt a kid, what will he think about your average video game?
Moreover, [Jack Thompson’s] new approach targeting false advertising could encourage and energize legislators to try yet again to pass a law that would survive judicial review.
In reality, [Thompson’s proposal] is unlikely to withstand judicial review, as it would chill protected speech. However, legislators may be willing to roll the dice one more time. It is not their money.