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Rhode Island Legislator Proposes A Tax On Video Games Based On Existing Entirely Voluntary Ratings System

from the e-for-everything dept

Violent video games may not cause violent people, despite what some people think, but we can certainly point out that they make a certain class of people very, very stupid. That class is the political class. Every time some violent happening occurs in America, the reaction by grandstanding politicians with no imagination is to lash out at video games for causing all the world’s violence, to propose such games be banned entirely, or to propose a tax on them. On the question of taxing or banning these games, these politicians fortunately run face-first into the First Amendment and the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision that video games are art, they are speech, and the government can’t infringe upon that speech.

Sadly, it doesn’t keep some from trying. In the wake of the tragedy in Florida, one Rhode Island state representative announced new proposed legislation that would tax games with an “M” rating or higher.

Representative Robert Nardolillo III (R-Dist. 28, Coventry) will introduce legislation to increase mental health and counseling resources in schools by implementing a tax on video games rated “M” or higher.

“There is evidence that children exposed to violent video games at a young age tend to act more aggressively than those who are not,” stated Rep. Nardolillo. “This bill would give schools the additional resources needed to help students deal with that aggression in a positive way.”

Because states cannot ban the sale of certain video games to minors, Rep. Nardolillo’s proposal would instead allocate money to counteract the aggression they may cause. The legislation would levy an additional 10% tax to video games sold in Rhode Island with a rating of “M” or higher. Revenue generated by this tax would then be placed in a special account for school districts to use to fund counseling, mental health programs, and other conflict resolution activities.

Except he cannot tax these games for the very same reason. Taxing speech is a thing we don’t do and is flatly prohibited by the First Amendment. So, to be clear, this legislation likely won’t pass and, if it did, it would be quickly overturned by the court system.

Which isn’t the only reason why the proposed legislation is stupid. The idea of taxing video games based on ESRB ratings should immediately strike everyone as inherently problematic. The Entertainment Software Rating Board is a non-profit group set up by the video game industry. Submissions for a rating are entirely voluntary. If this bill were to pass and be allowed to exist, the ESRB could simply refuse to rate games “M” or above. Or, game publishers could simply stop submitting for a rating. The ESRB ratings are the creation of the gaming industry. Trying to weaponize the industry against itself for the purpose of collecting tax revenue over dubious reasoning is a hilariously bad plan.

Again, that’s almost certainly besides the point, as taxes on video games like this are almost certainly unconstitutional. Still, it’s worth pointing out just how little our legislators seem to understand the industries and art over which they attempt to loom.

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Comments on “Rhode Island Legislator Proposes A Tax On Video Games Based On Existing Entirely Voluntary Ratings System”

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David says:

Not you too!

Violent video games may not cause violent people, despite what some people think, but we can certainly point out that they make a certain class of people very, very stupid. That class is the political class.

Can we please stop blaming video games for preexisting conditions? Pretty please?

Thank you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not you too!

I’m sorry, you’re request is denied as it does not fit into the Old White Guy (who probably doesn’t play these games) point of view. I imagine they spout things like:

“If you play violent games then by default you must be a violent person. Therefore we must protect you from yourself of being violent by denying you something that causes you to be violent. Thus in the end, by saying we shouldn’t ban these games you must be violent and need protection. I’ve proven my point.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Punitive Tax

Rep. Nardolillo is actually proposing a “Punitive Tax” on some video games to reduce their availability/purchases in the market.

You get less of anything you tax. A tax raises the sale price.

Use of government tax-authority to “punish” people is fundamentally unjust and unconstitutional. Politicians are effectively imposing punitive fines on behavior they don’t like… without the slightest hint of judicial Due Process or conviction of any crime.

Of course, punitive taxes exist throughout the American tax codes — a symbol of fundamental political corruption.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They can get the money from any other arbitrary source. Why should there be a 10% tax on games for mental health resources?

In politics, mental health is bullshit anyway. This is one of the first things that gets shitcanned by anyone "looking to save money". The tax itself would probably be diverted immediately anyway. And none of them care one whit about mental health until they try to blame that for shootings or whatever else. Various mass or spree killings might have a mental health component, but only in the loose sense. They actually invoke Teh Crazy as a scapegoat. Most people with clinically diagnosable issues are nonviolent and never get the help they need.

If this is a mental health issue, our entire culture needs enforced counseling.

Anonymous Coward says:

Gamers are...

…okay, not this time. Representative Robert Nardolillo III is not only stupid but apparently does not have the grasp of the Constitution that one would expect of a college freshman. How does someone this appallingly incompetent manage to feed himself without perforating his forehead with the fork?

Perhaps he could be featured in a video game release as a bumbling character who wanders around proposing insanely inappropriate “solutions” to the wrong problems. (He IS a public figure and thus more than fair game for parody and satire.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Gamers are...

“Representative Robert Nardolillo III is not only stupid but apparently does not have the grasp of the Constitution that one would expect of a college freshman.”

Most people have no grasp of the Constitution. It is written in plain English but people refuse to understand it in plain English. They first tell everyone they must follow the letter of the law in court trial, and then turn around and tell everyone else that the Constitution is a living document to be reinterpreted all manor of ways.

It like telling the court, no, I did not drop the bowling ball onto their head, I merely stop holding it up because I was getting tired.

The fuzzy logic is intentional because “dogma”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Freedom tax

Now this is something I can get behind. Let’s outsource the judgment call on this to first-year law students. If they can read the text of a bill and flag it instantly, then the legislator should be fined and the proceeds should go into a fund for legal representation of indigent dependents.

Anonymous Hero says:

Alternative to 'M' Rating

A quick search on thesaurus.com for “Mature” gives a nice list of alternatives to the ‘M’ rating. I’ve removed all synonyms that start with the letter ‘M’:

sophisticated, grown, prime, complete, fit, developed, ripe, cultured, prepared, cultivated, ready, seasoned, settled, perfected, full-blown, full-fledged, full-grown, ripened, fully grown, in full bloom, of age, in one’s prime

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’ve been playing violent video games since I was about five. In middle and high school, I acted a lot less aggressively than the guys who spent time playing football instead of playing video games. Let’s look at sports where people are trained and encouraged in aggressive behavior if we’re looking for a source of aggression in children. Oh wait, voters love sports. Yeah, let’s vilify the video games instead.

dolz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think you misunderstood what I was saying. Folks without any evidence and who pull facts out of their ass frequently use “they say” or “evidence suggest” without ever providing their sources. Basically I was calling the writer out on their BS.

The research doesn’t show a correlation between video game violence and real life violence.


I’m sorry that I wasn’t clear on my position.

Anonymous Coward says:

On the question of taxing or banning these games, these politicians fortunately run face-first into the First Amendment and the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision that video games are art, they are speech, and the government can’t infringe upon that speech.

Grosjean v. American Press Co. would be the relevent link for the "speech taxation" part of that statement. "The decision held that states could charge customary taxes on media but higher taxes ran afoul of the First Amendment."

SteveMB (profile) says:

This is the sort of thing that calls for a system where judicial review distinguishes between two levels of “unconstitutional”:
1. The garden-variety “eh, it was a judgment call anybody could legitimately get wrong”, with the same effect as the current system (the law is struck down with no other effects).
2. The guy/gal who drafted this law, who was obviously staring at a classmate’s boobs/abs during Civics 101 class, needs to have a point put on his politican license, with some threshold (three strikes and your’re out?) for permanent ineligibility for political office.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not just a money-grab, it’s also a cheap and transparent PR stunt.

"I want to look like I’m doing something without having to do any actual work… I know, I’ll propose a bill! Sure it’ll get curbstomped in court, assuming it goes through at all, but I’ll have my soundbites about how much I ‘care about the issue’ by then so who cares?"

John85851 (profile) says:

Two thoughts:

1) Why do so many politicians seem to do their job for short-term benefits? I’m sure the guy knows the law he’s proposing will be shot down in court… but in the mean time, he can grandstand about how he “did something”.
AND he can make sure waste tax-payers’ dollars for this law to go up the court system and be struck down.

2) Here’s a nifty way to keep adult games of out kids’ hands: parents should look at the rating and not buy these games for their kids.
But you say this is too simplistic of a solution? It seems to me that this is a better solution than saying “video games cause violence so let’s ban them all”.

Anonymous Coward says:

yeah, stupid is as stupid does...

wonder how they plan to tax online purchases? what about the apple app store? what about steam? what about google app store? what about walking to the next state and getting one with just sales tax?

all that said, good lucky with your stupid idea. if your peoples support it, they in turn are stupid. so says me.

Renee watson (profile) says:

Free speech

I get that Video game want to have it both ways know , They are protected under the free speech laws . But they Bann all form of free speech on there chat forums , and people who speck there minds get banned for saying what on there minds –

If these game places want free speech ok … But they must allow it on there forums too , if not these video game place are hypocrites , and must allow it let people govern them selves .

People free speech on video games are being banned , This is bad when they can go around and bully us tried to beat us into submission it seems . Im not saying all of millenails are bad but the majority of them are * i think milly rocks * But they can say what ever they want on these chats and then play the victim grr There lots of different age groups in these games too . i could go in to detail about what happened to me on a game but it getting so bad .. Common people can not even have a relaxing time on line any more . i wish i know a place where free speech and video game was a thing , this stuff is going way to far

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