Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced legislation that would impose an additional tax on mature-rated video games sold in the state.
The bill targets titles rated "M" and "AO," imposing a 10-percent tax, in addition to any state or local sales tax. The extra revenue would be earmarked to fund safety measures in Pennsylvania school districts.
This is the second go-around for the proposed legislation. The bill's author, Republican Rep. Christopher B. Quinn, previously introduced the bill in October 2018, but it languished in committee. Quinn rationalized the bill under the mistaken belief that such mature games spur real-world violence.
Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Texas A&M University, studied the effects of video game violence for much of his career. Shortly after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the industry came under scrutiny again, which led Ferguson to write, “As a video game violence researcher and someone who has done scholarship on mass homicides, let me state very emphatically: There is no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth."
Games with a rating of "M," like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed, tend to be among the bestsellers. "AO" is for for "Adults Only," which make up only a small fraction of the market. All told, the industry earns more than $43 billion in annual sales, with much of that from "M"-rated games. Titles with that rating are only authorized for sale to those 17 years of age or older.
A 10 percent tax on games regularly costing $59.99 in the United States would increase the average price (with local sales tax included) to anywhere between $70 and $72 in Pennsylvania.
The proposal, called House Bill No. 109, has been referred to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Finance Committee, and could be brought to a vote sometime this year.