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Pennsylvania might slap a 10% tax on violent video games, but the industry says the proposed law is fundamentally flawed

Business Insider | Feb 12, 2019, 12.18AM IST

Sub Zero Mortal Kombat 11

"Mortal Kombat 11"/NetherRealm Studios

Games like "Mortal Kombat" have long sparked debates about the social impact of violent video games.

  • The Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering a bill that would place a 10% tax on video games with a Mature or Adults Only rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
  • Rep. Christopher Quinn first proposed the bill in October 2018, and it has been re-introduced for the 2019 legislative session with bi-partisan support.
  • Revenue generated by the tax would be used to fund school safety measures.
  • The Entertainment Software Association, which is responsible for the ESRB ratings, claims that the bill violates the first amendment by targeting video games based on their content.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a bill that would slap a 10% tax on video games that are rated Mature or Adults Only by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Rep. Christopher Quinn submitted House Bill 109 to the state's General Assembly on January 28th with bi-partisan support from Rep. Ed Neilson and and Rep. Carol Hill-Evans.

Revenue generated from the video game tax would be used to fund new safety measures in Pennsylvania's public schools. Speaking to NBC10 in Philadelphia, Quinn said violent video games are a factor in real world violence, and the video game tax would help counteract their impact on society.

"This bill does not prohibit violent video games, instead it simply provides a revenue stream - it tries to recoup some of the societal costs - to help make our schools safer by taxing an industry that has been shown to lead to violence," Quinn said.

As you might expect, the $43 billion video game industry has a different perspective on the bill's premise that video games lead to real world violence. And the game industry's main lobbying group is also arguing that video games are a form of protected speech under the US Constitution.

Here are the key issues that could determine whether Pennsylvania becomes the first state in the nation to tax violent video games:

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