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CT State Representative Proposes 10% Tax On Mature Video Games

from the unconstitutional dept

Silly reactions to violent video games are coming so fast these days it makes one's head spin. Redundant labeling of games, doubling down on unconstitutional laws, and even special 1% taxes for games with a rating of “Teen” and above… It's quite difficult to parse out the well-intentioned silliness from the grandstanding silliness. What's clear, however, is that there are a great many people who don't recognize games as the speech that they are.

One state representative from Connecticut, home of the Sandy Hook tragedy, is now upping the ante on that last idea and proposing a 10% tax on games that are rated “mature”. Here's Rep. Debralee Hovey's idea:

“That the general statutes be amended to establish a sales tax on the sale of video games rated “mature” at a rate of ten per cent on the entire sales price and to require the moneys derived from such sales tax be used by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the purpose of developing informational materials to educate families on the warning signs of video game addiction and antisocial behavior”.

There is more than one problem with this type of legislation, but let's get the most obvious out of the way: it's likely unconstitutional. Courts have held in the past that both limiting violent games, as well as taxing specific types of speech differently than others, fails on constitutional grounds. Hovey's proposal would appear to violate both precedents. But even if that weren't the case, Forbes goes further in explaining how dangerously dumb this is.

This is of course punishing an industry based on conjecture, as no concrete evidence has yet been put forth linking video games and violent actions. The Obama administration’s new gun plans do involve the NHS studying this link, but as nothing is proven (and likely won’t be), video games should not be treated in the same way as a product proven to cause cancer.

I've said this before, but I will say it again: emotion is not a reliable basis for legislature. Ever. Data is what should drive laws and, in this case, the data is at best inconclusive and at worst non-existent. Proposing laws without data to perform the function that is supposed to be performed by parents is the height of a nanny state.

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Comments on “CT State Representative Proposes 10% Tax On Mature Video Games”

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silverscarcat says:


What are those?

I thought the government told us what’s wrong and right.

I mean, you make it sound like there should be someone in charge of kids and teenagers that’s supposed to keep them from seeing and doing things that they aren’t supposed to and help them learn how to deal with things when stuff goes wrong.

But, if that was the case, why would the government need to tell us how to raise kids?

PaulT (profile) says:

I have no problem taxing like this to mitigate the cost of future problems – but only when harm is fully quantified, proven and documented. In principle, this would be fine – but ONLY after it’s proven that mature videogames actually cause problems.

Pushing through a tax just because someone thinks there *might* possibly be a problem is putting the cart before the horse. Not to mention the inevitable unintended consequences (higher prices would increase piracy, making it easier for minors to obtain copies).

“educate families on the warning signs of video game addiction and antisocial behavior”

Plus, this literally makes no sense. You’re going to tax games that should only played by adults and using the money to help families (presumably code for “the children”) that aren’t using them (assuming the parents are doing their job)? Why not also tax the games children are meant to be playing? Mario and Just Dance aren’t scapegoat-y enough?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I have no problem taxing like this to mitigate the cost of future problems”

I actually do. It’s similar to forcing someone to pay for police when they hold a rally for something unpopular. It’s one thing to require a permit to hold a rally in the park, but it’s quite another to require more money based on the CONTENT of the speech.

You should not be held responsible for the reaction of other people to your speech, unless it rises to the level of incitement. And video games are a form of speech.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Which is why I say research has to be done first. If research were to prove that videogames directly caused metal issues in some people in the same way as alcohol or cigarettes cause physical ones, the tax is fine.

Of course, I don’t think that such a link exists, but that would be my bar for any such taxation. Prove it beyond reasonable doubt and the tax is fine, otherwise no go.

Other than that, we agree.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’ll agree that such a link should be demonstrated before we even THINK about passing a law like this, but even if a link is shown, this is still a bad law.

I can already tell you that any such link is going to vary from person to person, is going to vary based on the exact game, and is going to vary based on how long the game is played, and will even vary based on HOW it is played. For example, if a shooting game allows shooting bystanders, some people will do that and some will not. Some people are going to play the game for a half hour at a time and some will play every day for months. And some will buy only violent games and some will intersperse with nonviolent games.

And then you’d have to structure your study to be sure of causation and not just correlation. People with violent tendencies may be drawn to violent games, but that does not mean that the games caused their violent tendencies.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Indeed. I honestly don’t think there is any such damage done by videogames, and where people have such issues, games will be a minor factor overwhelmed by many other factors – family, environment, education, abuse, psychological issues, etc. However, if any direct link were scientifically proven to exist then that might form the basis of such a law. But said link has to be shown first.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re:

I have no problem taxing like this to mitigate the cost of future problems – but only when harm is fully quantified, proven and documented. In principle, this would be fine – but ONLY after it’s proven that mature videogames actually cause problems.

I have to disagree, I have a problem with any ‘special tax’ where there is not a DIRECT cause and effect.

While we are at it let’s put extra taxes on people that buy music or movies. We know some of them will allow that media to be pirated so let’s just fix the problem at the source.

You see the problem is you will always be able to find a correlated cost for anything you do.

Taxing fuel made sense because only those that drove paid the tax. There was a direct causation, cars use fuel and cars cause wear on the roads. With the advent of electric cars many states are looking into a mileage tax to charge you based on miles driven, rather than fuel consumed.

I don’t think you could ever prove causation between video games and violent behavior, in fact I am not sure you could even get to a point where you could prove a correlation.

Sorry those who actually cause the additional costs should pay, it shouldn’t be a general tax.

An example of this might be fire runs. If an alarm system is malfunctioning and causing the fire department to be dispatched without a fire that business should have to pay. (Where I live you get 2 malfunctions a year, then you pay $600 every time the Fire Department is dispatched and there is no fire.)

Your example would add a tax to anyone that installed an alarm system (that does happen in some places). It hardly seems fair, to tax everyone when only a few are adding to the burden of police and fire. Those adding the burden should pay, not all those who MAY add to the burden.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I have to disagree, I have a problem with any ‘special tax’ where there is not a DIRECT cause and effect”

Erm, no you don’t disagree. That’s exactly the point I was making – a direct cause and effect has to be proven, then I’m OK with taxes to mitigate the problems caused. Sorry if that wasn’t clear, but you’re making the same point I was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Even if this were somehow constitutional (and it’s not), you’d STILL be basing this off of ESRB ratings. A private nonprofit created by the video game industry. What’s to stop them from changing their standards so the games of the major players aren’t subject to the tax? What’s to say the ESRB will still exist in the future? What’s to say that video game companies will even continue seek to get a rating from them?

And once again: does Rep. Debralee Hovey not know that this is both unconstitutional and dumb, does she know and not care, or did she not even think things out that far?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: erm...

Smokers already pay higher health insurance premiums, so it must be the free money for the state, er, discouraging use part, which may or may not work, those folks buying out of state won’t bother to tell you, I’m sure.

In PA there still exists an 18% tax on liquor that was based on funds needed to rebuild a town that flooded nearly 100 years ago. I’m sure it goes to other very important things things days, and all those folks buying out of state are just mean-hearted thieving drunks.

Sin taxes only work if the sinners comply.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re: erm...

Yeah, because that is how it works with illegal drugs. You can’t hardly buy pot anymore.

I think they tried that with prohibition too. That didn’t work out so well either.

Seriously, as long as there is a demand excessive costs will just drive the trade underground (more than it already is, and there is already a huge black market for weapons).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 erm...

What are you talking about? How did you get from levy taxes on guns to prohibition and illegal drugs? A tax doesn’t make it illegal?

Have you been following the prices on AR’s and other firearms? The prices skyrocketed, demand goes way up, prices follow and supply tries to catch up. If demand goes down while supply is maxed out, prices will plummet.

If firearms are priced outside the norm with taxes, demand may go down and affect supply so manufactures won’t have to churn out as many and reducing supply of firearms to would be psychopaths to run amok. Now if manufactures produce weapons to sell directly to criminals on the black market I’m sure the prices would be higher than legal weapons to offset the risk of jail time. So there probably won’t be as many manufactures willing to take the chance.

And as a disclaimer I have the ability to produce a few key firearm components and friends have already asked me to make a few for them but I continue to say no because I don’t want to chance a long term relationship with a guy named Bubba.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: erm...

People can manufacture guns themselves easily cheaply, so no criminals won’t be thwarted so easily.

There was an account of a prisoner that was caught with a loaded pistol in his cell. He manufactured all of it within the prison while working in the workshop.

It’s not rocket science, guns are an extremely old technology.

Monkey with Atttitude says:

Re: Re: Re: erm...

Kinda one point you missed with your stupid, some person had the thought to
1) load the gun
2) aim the gun
3) pull the trigger
thus causing your assault on basic logic… Guns / knives/catapults/cars/planes/trains/automobiles are just tools used by people. some are irresposible and use them to bad means, others do not…

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re: erm...

So how exactly is there a direct causal relationship between a gun sale and “cause: bullets fired at people”?

There isn’t. Tens of thousands of guns are purchased that are NEVER even pointed at another human, let alone loaded and fired at someone. It isn’t like the gun, once purchased, will automatically start shooting people. You can’t even say once a person owns a gun they will start “firing at people”.

Using your logic we should add extra taxes to cars too:

Cause: cars driven at people
Effect: people run over by cars.

Oh, wow better add a tax to car buyers, they will run over people. Wait someone other than the buyer may drive the car, better tax people who drive cars. Hold on, if no one rode in cars, there would be no reason to have cars, better tax people who ride in cars.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am not convinced, not at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: erm...

If I could channel the Supreme Court for a moment… if they were to rule on this, they would likely have a paragraph similar to the following:

Even if we were to agree that the statute served a compelling government interest that was enough override the First Amendment concerns, such laws must be precisely tailored to meet those interests. The statute here would be both underinclusive and overinclusive. It is underinclusive in that it only regulates video games, and not other forms of violent media such as R rated movies. It is overinclusive in that it regulates all games with a certain rating, regardless of whether they actually contain violence. The law therefore fails to meet its constitutional requirements, and is invalid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: erm...

No Pamela, a tax on guns is no more productive than a tax on video games.

The government is extremely wasteful with money and it doesn’t matter how, why or from who the money was taken.

Most owners of video games, guns, knives, and more items are law abiding citizens who don’t use their possessions in any manner associated with committing crimes.

Making guns more expensive will take them away from the law abiding, but not from the criminals who would shoot people.

The second amendment has the clearly stated purpose of protecting a balance of power to ensure the citizens are ultimately at the top instead of being repressed by some form of dictatorship as in many other countries. A proposal to unfairly tax guns flies in the face of the purpose of the second amendment.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I started off with the Atari 2600. Some violent games I actually can’t stand playing…I’ve had more fun with Portal, Portal II, the Half-Life series Atari 2600 games, Zelda and Mario than any other game around.

I don’t think we will be playing “Teletubby games” due to legislation…but I also know there is no need to put legislative measures on video games outside of the ratings system already in place.

anonymouse says:

Tax Games?

Why not just give single payer healthcare to all American citizens as it seems to be the American citizens alone that are having a problem with their citizens being overly affected by games and movies and books and cars and guns and the list goes on and on.
Why is it that the rest of the world does not have the massive problems America has, maybe it has something to do with the fact that America has a few other problems, like prisons overflowing with people who have committed minor crimes and then having contact with some of the worst dregs of society they become harder and possibly more violent just so they could survive in prisons, or maybe it is a problem with the fact that Americas prison population is bigger than any other country and the next few high prison populations combined. Or the fact that the healthcare system is a total and utter failure in supporting almost a 1/4 of the population and even those covered are milked dry when they have a problem, damn what healthcare system is going to provide mental care when it is something they can brush of as unprovable remember in America your health is a profitable business. And why try to treat those people when they are probably not working or work in jobs that does not enable them to pay for the best healthcare.
I could go on and on about all the different things that are causing problems for the American citizens, from the above to the clear propagandising of the American population.
Ask any American that has been out of the country for a year or three and has not seen American propaganda news what they think of America and you will see at minimum 90% who would never return to America because of the way they were blinded from the real facts about America by lies when they lived there.

So yes I agree there is a problem but it is going to take more than just accusing games and movies and books. Luckily there is an investigation into the cases of mass murders in America, the problem is what is going to be done when it comes to light that the problem is the failure to look after it’s population and putting profit before the people.Would the government honestly attack its massive profits and the profits of their nearest mega rich friends just to prevent a few attacks and the loss of 100-200 people a year, LOL they will laugh at anyone suggesting that, and look for something else to blame, just so they can look like they are trying to do something about the problem…… like the gaming industry!!!!!!.

Wally (profile) says:

Coming from a background in psychology..Timothy Geiger, the proper term is emotional psychological bias. People were so grief stricken by Sandy Hook that they suddenly want a ban on so called “assault weapons”. It’s sad too that some people are blindly calling for a ban on all guns in the US not realizing the reason my fellow countryman and I have them.

In a much broader term, video games do not cause violence…unless they step into the psychological uncanny valley. Having heard excuse after excuse, maybe some how…video games are to blame because of how people tend to treat each other online or through social media. Some people tend to psychologically associate the voice or text as a machine rather than a human. It makes it much more of a hostile environment. So maybe video games are somewhat to blame…but there is no real correlation study between single player ones vs. online. Most of my video game addict clients were very peaceable and just needed to get out in the real world.

Tragedy and emotional bias must never govern our laws. They should only be a catalyst for awareness of a social issue. I wish people would pick up after Sandy Hook…Chardon, Ohio (I have family there) had their prom the day after their incident. They rallied for support of each other in the tragedy rather than bray on about gun rights and continued their lives knowing full well it was out of anyone’s control to stop the tragedy from happening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Some people tend to psychologically associate the voice or text as a machine rather than a human. It makes it much more of a hostile environment

Interesting theory. However the voices and texts I think you’re talking about here come from the same source as gun violence: humans.

It’s not the games, its the people that play them. Most people are dumb pack animals in social context, and tend to fall in line with the loudest, most visible “leaders” with not much visible use of conscience. It happens on the playgrounds, on Facebook, in online games, in church and on and on…

Many people seem to somehow be taught at a young age to behave like this, giving more weight to pack acceptance than to insight and moral measurment.

We talk about individualism and many shout loudly about it… but its a truly rare sight these days, and almost always we have to look to the one guy being pummelled by the mob to find it.

If we could somehow decriminalize individuality, or difference of any kind, we could begin to address the problem of violence in our society. The real problems begin when an individual has his sense of dignity stripped by the pack.

We have to decriminalize individuality before we can begin to destygmatize mental health issues and encourage people to truly accept and deal with their issues on real terms.

tl;dr. Its not the game, its not the gun, its the humans that use them.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Young age meaning teenagers an children right. Nobody is around to watch them so or say what they do some times. Problem is that this boils down to online bullying and honestly…it’s gotten more and more pervasive over the years. I’m not trying to demonize online games, I’m just pointing out that it can lead to issues when people you don’t know at all are trolling you to no end. Simply put….people need to extend a bit more curtesy while gaming online.

My first online gaming experience was around 2006 or 2007 and it was Half-Life Death-match…through Steam. I met some very nice people who actually were competitive, but also fun to be with. That experience gets ruined some times for first timers…and what’s worse is that those frustrations bilge over into real life.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bible time

Who cares about the content type? It’s far more dangerous to be basing a tax on the content itself. Sort of the difference between taxing newspaper ink and taxing stories about city officials.

I’d be much more OK with a blanket 10% tax on video games than with a tax on mature content. (Not that I’d actually be OK with the 10% tax on video games.)

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