Pennsylvania Lawmakers Debate Video Game ‘Sin Tax’ in a newly proposed bill

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Once again, lawmakers are looking for a way to tax violent games and are looking to do so with a ‘sin tax’ in Pennsylvania after the bill was first introduced in October of 2018 but died due to the committee, however, there’s a new House Bill that aims to do the same.

It seems where ever you turn, someone, somewhere has a bright idea on how to bring more money into their state. In many ways, it always comes out to be a tax on violent or adult-rated games. Now, the latest bill comes from Pennsylvania, which aims to add a 10% tax on adult and mature-rated games sold in retail as well as digital storefronts.

The proposed bill, House Bill No. 109, aims to add a 10% increase on those games, putting it into a newly created Digital Protection for School Safety Account and will be used to enhance safety measures across school districts in Pennsylvania. The bill was first introduced by Republican Rep. Christopher B. Quinn in 2018 but was shot down by the committee.

In a September memo to his colleagues, Quinn told his committee that “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. One factor that may be contributing to the rise in, and intensity of, school violence is the material kids see, and act out, in video games.

To help power his statement, Quinn even pointed to a recent National Center for Health Research piece that stated “studies have shown that playing violent video games can increase aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in both the short-term and long-term. Violent video games can also desensitize people to seeing aggressive behavior and decrease prosocial behaviors such as helping another person and feeling empathy (the ability to understand others). The longer that individuals are exposed to violent video games, the more likely they are to have aggressive behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

However, much like any lawmaker that proposes such bills or makes a statement such as this, he failed to mention a section in the piece that also stated that there’d been distinct evident to support the assumption that aggression caused by violence in video games will cause violence or criminal behavior for those exposed to aggression and violence in video games themselves.


(R) Rep. Christopher Quinn, Pennsylvania | Credits: State of Pennsylvania

Of course, Quinn’s memo conveniently leaves out another section of the same article that makes a distinction between aggression and violence and notes that there’s no clear evidence to support the assumption that increased aggression results in more acts of lethal violence or criminal behavior.

In a statement to Variety, the Entertainment Software Association, who represents a number of video game publishers, stated that House Bill No. 109, is a direct “violation of the United States Constitution” in their statement to the news publishing site. You can read the full response from the ESA to Variety down below.

“The U.S. Supreme Court made clear in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association & Entertainment Software Association that video games are entitled to the full protection of the Constitution, and that efforts, like Pennsylvania’s, to single out video games based on their content will be struck down.

Numerous authorities — including scientists, medical professionals, government agencies, and the US Supreme Court — found that video games do not cause violence. We encourage Pennsylvania legislators to work with us to raise awareness about parental controls and the ESRB video game rating system, which are effective tools to ensure parents maintain control over the video games played in their home.”

While it seems like the bill will surely be squashed due to constitutional protections, it isn’t the first time this has happened as Oklahoma lawmakers had recently made a push themselves to tax violent games with an “Anti-Bullying” tax back in 2012 in a report from Kotaku.

About the Writer(s):


Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Lawmakers Debate Video Game ‘Sin Tax’ in a newly proposed bill

  1. I agree that this probably won’t see anything more then just a debate, but this ignorance continues to seed doubt in the public’s minds when it comes to video games. It seems like it never matters how many studies are done, people will just do whatever it takes to hold onto their biases.

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