Pennsylvania Legislators Ponder Violent Game Tax

On Friday, GamePolitics covered a committee hearing of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The topic was violent video games and you can see our full report here.

In the video clip at left, a pair State Reps question employees of the Pennsylvania Joint State Commission as to possible alternatives by which violent video games might be targeted.

One suggests that a 5% tax be levied on sales of violent games with proceeds used to fund a parental education program. A second ponders whether state tax incentives could be withheld from companies which create violent games.

The witnesses, however, who participated on a statewide task force which studied violent games, indicate that those ideas might be problematic from a legal sense.

Interestingly, the reps are concerned about a line in the Task Force’s report which says that violent games may have some positive effects. They’d really like to see that line removed. This theme, brought up by Rep. Steve Samuelson (D), will be repeated twice more during the two-hour hearing by other members of the committee.

Overall, the meeting was largely exploratory and action on either the 5% tax idea or the restriction on financial incentives seems unlikely. It is, however, a fascinating glimpse into how state legislative bodies struggle with the violent video game issue.

GP: Sorry for the shaky-cam video. I was shooting from a handheld digital camera.

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  1. Hypernetic says:

    Oh no, you are not alone.  I was extremely bothered by that.  As a tax paying citizen of the State of Pennsylvania I feel compelled to contact my representatives about this. 

    It is disgusting and is exactly why people don’t trust politicians or the government. 

  2. Hypernetic says:

    PSA ads ARE a method of education.  PSA ads cost money, when the governement spends money there is only one place it ultimately comes from; the tax payers.

    So I appreciate your idea but it’s really no different from what they are suggesting. 

  3. Hypernetic says:

    As a resident of Pennsylvania, I humbly appologize.  I live in Philadelphia but many parts of our state are backwards and old fashioned to be polite. 

    For an example of how PA laws can be stupid, in the city of Philadelphia one can walk into a gun store, purchase a pistol with an instant background check and walk out of the store with it.  However possesion of a stun gun, of any kind, is outright illegal.  So it’s ok to purchase a lethal, concealable weapon for self defense, but a non lethal alternative will land you in jail for owning, purchasing, or carrying. 

    Anyway, I seriously doubt anything will come of this.  If it does, I am wonering what some of the repercussions would be.  Would it affect my gaming in any way?  Would game companies and/or retailers shy away from selling certain games due to these increased taxes?   How or could subscription based online games be affected?

    Also, how would the state conduct such a policy?  Would all M rated games be subject to the tax?  Or would it only be applied to excessively violent games?  How would they differentiate such games without forming some kind of comittee or agency?  Would this fall to the taxpayers to pay for?  I for one would not be pleased.  

  4. Stealthguy says:

    I think it’d be better if we were given a chance to dunk all the politicions involved in trying to pass blantantly unconstitution gaming laws. Of course there’d be a one dollar admission charge.

  5. Truec says:

    You want them to dump video games into New Jersey, the people of which would then dump them into the ocean?  How would this help?

  6. LegendaryGamer00 says:

    Let’s play a little game shall we? Say what comes to mind when you hear what comes out of the gray haired mans mouth:


    "There are so many video game options out there, video games that encourage exploration."

    I’m thinking Grand Theft Auto IV.

    "Video games that might be a racecar(WTF?)"

    I’m still thinking GTA IV.

    "Video Games that might involve history or problem solving or networking with other children"

    As weird as it may sound, I’m still thinking GTA IV, so what is this guy’s problem?

    Wondering how all of those bring up GTA IV? Let’s see…

    GTA’s Open world enviorment(Spelled it wrong, I know) = Exploration

    GTA’s racing challenges and online racing modes = "Games that might be a racecar"(WTF?).

    GTA’s storyline, minigames and online play = History, Problem Solving And Networking With Other Children(There are WAY too many 5 year olds playing GTA IV on LIVE).



    Feel free to add your own opinion.

  7. MartyB says:

     I was about to say that too, the one thing that gets to me in this, is that line.

    I didn’t see the video because i’mat work, but really, they want to remove a line from a study? can that be done?!  i’ve heard of manipulating results by corrupting the study, but just plain out remove part of it sounds rather dangerous road to go on.

  8. HelpHelpImBeingRepressed says:

    "Interestingly, the reps are concerned about a line in the Task Force’s report which says that violent games may have some positive effects. They’d really like to see that line removed."

    I can’t be the only one bothered by this.  What’s the point of creating a task force if you’re going to manipulate the findings to fit your own beliefs?  Absurdity at its worst.

  9. zippy says:

    I have a better idea. How about a 5% tax on parents who don’t bother to check the ESRB rating before just giving 5 year old johnny a copy of GTA 4? That’s a grand idea IMO.

    All jokes aside though, there really is no need to make a program for education. What the gov’t should do is maybe have a PSA ad showing websites and other places to find info on games before buying them…we see all these ad council tv spots about not doing drugs, so why can’t there be one showing parents the ESRB site, so they can’t use BS excuses about not knowing what is in the games.

  10. Michael Chandra says:

    Imagine what would happen if they were having another hearing like this, and someone would comment "Oh, this one game company that earns us a total of 10 million in taxes each years and only has a 12% violent game ratio in their products, has declared they’re leaving for another state, due to uncertainties about inequal treatment which they don’t face in other states. They’ve also declared they will no longer ship any of their games to this state, because of said uncertainties."

    Ah… I can dream, can’t I?

    But yeah, they want to take away any potential tax benefits just because a company happens to have A violent game in their products? (Hell, what defines violent? Pretty sure they crashed on that before.) Do they just WANT every local game company to skip bail and jump to states that are friendly?

  11. Overcast says:

    What we really need is a ‘stupidity in politics’ tax. I mean if anything has some really serious potential at bringing in cash – that would.

  12. sqlrob says:

    That’s got a chance, it’s content agnostic.

    This isn’t constitutional in the slightest, can’t tax based on content.


  13. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Tax all media call it a information tax see how far that gets….. stupid politcaions and monoric revenue grabs….


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  14. MKV62591 says:

    1) There is already a tax on products at sale. It is called sales tax. Video games are taxed by that.

    2) Define "violent".

    3) Ratings are giving out by a private organization, not the government. The MPAA and music labels have ensured that it stays that way.

    Coming from PA, these politicians are idiots.

  15. hellfire7885 says:

    I would propose that the industry cease shipping to a state that has this sort of thing pending, give them a taste of what may happen.

  16. E. Zachary Knight says:

    You know, this is the first time I have ever considered any US territories and the laws in place there. Sorry to ignore you.

    But I agree, it would be nice to seethe ESA and the ECA focus a little more effort in the US territories, but I don’t know the regulations on doing so.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  17. Adrian Lopez says:

    Here in Puerto Rico (which, as a US territory, is bound by US federal law and the US constitution), violent arcade games have to pay a higher annual tax than ordinary arcade games, and they may not be located less than a certain distance from schools or places of worship.

    It seems to me that such a law is blatantly unconstitutional, but nobody in the industry seems to care. Perhaps they should care at least a little, since any precedent set in our federal circuit would also affect Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

    It would be interesting to see this thing pass, but only so it can ultimately be overturned as unconstitutional.

  18. NovaBlack says:

    ”One suggests that a 5% tax be levied on sales of violent games with proceeds used to fund a parental education program”

    why… the information is ALREADY available. one google search for ‘video game awareness’ and the FIRST site on the list links you to lots of info including the ratings system.

    Its nothing to do wiht parents not being educated. Its about parents not WANTING or CARING about being educated.

  19. Geoff says:

    Both are idiotic ideas.

    The tax increase on "violent" games would run into so many legal hurdles it would only serve to cost Penn. taxpayers money as lawsuit after lawsuit is levied against the state.

    And holding off the tax incentive for companies that make violent games does nothing except chase away many companies that would create most of the triple-A titles, companies that tend to higher much more staff due to the work-load necessary to make them.

    So either one fails.


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  20. Zerodash says:

    I would gleefully watch a politician drown.  For reals.  Because of laws & taxes like this.

    This "tax" is just like those "fat taxes" that some people once tried to push where fast foods & candy would get a hefty tax on it.  Is this really where this piece-of-crap country is headed?  Perhaps Demolition Man is less a work of fiction than previously thought.

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