Pennsylvania Considers Sin Tax on Some Video Games

Published June 1, 2009

Pennsylvania lawmakers are pondering whether to add violent video games to the list of products subject to state “sin taxes.”

The great majority of states place surtaxes on alcohol and cigarettes, purportedly to discourage drinking and smoking. The Children and Youth Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives discussed imposing such a tax on video games during a March 6 hearing in Philadelphia.

The proposal involves a 5 percent tax on the sales of violent games, with revenues going to a program teaching parents about voluntary video game ratings.

Not Harmful: Task Force
A task force appointed by the legislature surprised some lawmakers by concluding violent games may not be as harmful as some social scientists and activists have claimed.

Villanova University psychology professor Patrick Markey testified positive effects of violent video games include helping shy children interact with their peers and improving motor skills and logical reasoning.

The task force also found “violent media” products are unlikely to affect “normal children,” and researchers have come to no consensus on the topic.

Efforts to tax video games in New Mexico, Texas, and Wisconsin have failed in recent years.

Ben Boychuk ([email protected]) writes from Rialto, California.