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Oklahoma bill proposes extra tax on violent games
Oklahoma bill proposes extra tax on violent games
February 2, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

A new bill proposed in Oklahoma seeks to add an extra 1 percent tax on "all violent games" -- a measure that the Entertainment Software Association has described as "patently unconstitutional."

The bill is the latest in a series of legislation that has targeted the video game industry, such as the 2005 California law that sought to block the sale of violent video games to minors without parent approval, but was struck down and ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Democratic state representative William Fourkiller introduced the bill (HB #2696), and proposes that Oklahoma attach a 1 percent levy -- on top of existing sales taxes -- to games that have been rated Teen, Mature, or Adult Only by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

The bill would also create two new funds: the Childhood Outdoor Education Revolving Fund for promoting outdoor education initiatives; and the Bullying Prevention Revolving Fund for preventing bullying in schools. Money raised from the new tax would be split between the programs.

It's a similar approach to a bill proposed in New Mexico in 2008, HB #583, which sought to apply an extra 1 percent tax to all video games, video game consoles, and televisions, and fund outdoor education programs. That bill failed to clear the state legislature.

"Violent video games contribute to some of our societal problems like obesity and bullying, but because they raise a lot of revenue, they can also provide part of the solution," said Fourkiller (pictured), who is up for reelection in his district this November.

If the bill is passed by the local House of Representatives and Senate, and then signed by Oklahoma's governor, it would take effect on July 1. Fourkiller declared the bill an emergency, calling it "immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety."

"I hold no animosity toward the video game industry," said Fourkiller. "Their products contribute to the diverse 'market of ideas' protected by our First Amendment that helps make America great."

He continued, "However, some of these products contribute to problems that can be mitigated in part by a minimal levy such as the one I propose. The legislation I propose imposes a minimal burden, which could reap benefits many times greater."

The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group for the video game industry that has traditionally fought legislation like HB #2696, commented on the proposed bill and said, "Taxing First Amendment protected material based on its content is misguided."

"We are disappointed that even in the wake of an overwhelming decision in the United States Supreme Court finding proposals such as this to be patently unconstitutional, there are those who still try to attack video games with outdated notions of our industry," said ESA's Dan Hewitt in a statement provided to Gamasutra.

Hewitt added, "Our industry is already working with schools, elected officials and numerous health advocates to highlight the positive health contributions video games are making to lives. As with other forms of entertainment, games should be used in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle and are not a major contributor to obesity."

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Jeremy Reaban
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No disrespect to his heritage, but I love the irony of someone named "Fourkiller" objecting to violent games.

Joseph Caddell
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LMAO I was thinking the same thing.

wes bogdan
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Well the handful of R rated moves get no flack and it seems the game industry is still the whipping boy it was even after we won protection under free it's back to those evil,contemtable m rated games.

The local news is worse than any game so on what grounds is this "sin" tax standing. I know everyone wants more money but really this is simply poor form.

Rasmus Gunnarsson
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Videos are a much bigger cause! Let us pass and you can eat them instead!

Jonathan Murphy
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Do these idiots even bother reading the constitution of the US, or do they read it and say to themselves, "How can I burn down that pesky Bill of Rights?" These people are extortionist, mafia thugs. Scape goat tactics.

Alan Rimkeit
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Oh right, because we all know sin taxes work so well. O.o It just kills the idea of smoking cigarettes for example. Right? What a joke.

"However, some of these products contribute to problems that can be mitigated in part by a minimal levy such as the one I propose. The legislation I propose imposes a minimal burden, which could reap benefits many times greater."

Can we say money grab?

E Zachary Knight
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Well, I sent him an email. I may have to call him next week though to follow up. I really can't support this in any capacity.

Max Schaefer
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All the more reason to simply not get rated by the ESRB.

Jeremiah Cauthorn
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Good luck getting your retail game on store shelves that count without a rating.

Joshua Darlington
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I think it's a complex issue and reductionism may not offer a satisfying model for the relationship between entertainment and behavior. Humans like to simplify problems.

So here's an alternate reductive model for looking at violence in games. Humans are hunters. Offering socially acceptable ways for humans to satisfy their bloodlust can reduce physical bullying.

“on days with a high audience for violent movies, violent crime is lower.”

Joshua Darlington
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"If a few act out" ... I'm not sure the "guns dont kill people, people kill people" arguement resonates with me personally. Pathways of expression are shaped by environment. Reinforcing violent problem solving could potentially contribute to black swan events. etc.

Instead of focusing on the negative, it might be worth looking at the potential industry upside. Parents are hungry for age appropriate content. Parents want healthy kids.

Perhaps The Entertainment Software Association could convince OK to incentivize positive games. For example, they could offer a design contest for new playground games. Parent might enjoy playing with their kids more if they had a fun framework like Playground LARPs and etc.

What are some new ways to mix AR tech into playground games and sports?

Matthew Williams
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Wasn't the ESA a proponent of SOPA? Just weird to hear them claim something is unconstitutional after that

PS - I know they dropped their support after the act was tabled

William Ravaine
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I think we should also apply the following taxes malus/bonus:

- Games featuring carebears: +6%

- Games featuring pirates: -4%

- Games featuring ninjas: -3%

- Games featuring pandas: +3%

- Games featuring lowmakers reading the Constitution and doing their job right: -50%

David Serrano
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I wonder what prompted this? I mean, it's highly unlikely he plays or is exposed to any form of gaming so what got his panties in a bunch? I wouldn't be surprised to learn his bill is the result of a lobbying effort by an industry competing with video games in Oklahoma.

Ian Williams
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What a joke. Yet another attempt to impinge on the right of video games to be a form of constitutional expression. Why can't we tax asshat lawmakers like this one for being stupid?