A Sin Tax on Video Games

| Reason.com offers a nationwide roundup on (mostly stillborn) efforts at the state level to levy a sin tax on video games. Some proposals aim to tax only violent games (who knows it if would affect the forthcoming adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, in which sinners are the exclusive targets of horrific violence). Seriously, though, one can see the populist appeal of Louisiana’s “No Child Left Indoors” proposal, which would impose a 1 percent tax on video game equipment and televisions to fund outdoor recreation facilities. [%comments]


Only if we tax bad music. And gossip blogs. And reality television. And anything else deemed harmful to society. Who decides what's harmful? Our objective politicians. There's a clear first-amendment case against this. If politicians can single out what they dislike for extra taxes they can shut production down. Slippery slope from taxing a game to charging a extra few dollars to buy a koran.

Fred T.

Will they tax violent movies as well? How about cartoons featuring the Road Runner obliterating Wile E. Coyote countless times?

One of these days our lawmakers might wake up and realize that the overload of violence is available to our children long before they ever pick up a video game controller.

Violent video games are just the scape goat so they can look like they're doing something about something.


For a sin tax to be justified, there needs to be a clear link between the action and the detrimental effects on society (not just the individual). For smoking these links have already been established. For things like drinking and gambling, I haven't seen the data but I believe it probably exists. But for violent TV and video games? I think not. "Conventional wisdom" is trying to dictate policy here, and it's wrong.


so... are they taxing r-rated movies and explicit music as well?
or just violent video games?

Sally LeRoy

Bleh, video games have positive health effects and should be subsidized. http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/03/action-video-games-improve-eyesight.ars


How about a $1 tax every time somebody asks "Won't somebody think of the children?"


Honestly, while I haven't read the details, the No Child Left Indoors seems like a good idea to me. It's way too easy for kids to spend all their free time in front of a TV, and promoting a more active lifestyle is worth my extra 1%.

For the record, this is coming from a 27 year old complete gamer geek. I've had 12 gaming consoles over the years, played competitively in FPS leagues, built an arcade cabinet, and dabbled in writing my own games (I'm a software engineer by trade).


Doesn't our government have an economy to save? Is trying to regulate a form of entertainment less violent than what any kid can watch on television really a productive use of time?

If they really cared about the issue, instead of just pandering to it because it's the fear-du-jour, we would see an increase in support for organized sports or other outdoor activities.


50 years ago children played outside a lot more, because.... the government taxed them into it and forced them to exercise at school and gave them dinky hand outs at school? No. They played because they wanted to, because it was fun, even though their mother was yelling "don't muddy up your clothes!"

The more the government pushes against video games the more children will resent the government and authority and the more video games will seem like *their* thing and excertise and playing outside as some sort of boring conformist chore.

In moderation video games have a lot of positive affects, and as for the addiction to electronic entertainment we see, I think blaming the video games would be like blaming attractive women for infidelity. Are the video games too fun and too cheap or are the social ties and responcibilities not taken seriously enough?

When I was 11 I spent all day inside playing video games because my single mother didn't have time to take me elsewhere and I was bullied by my peers. Making the video games more expensive and making new shiny government areas for me to be harassed wouldn't have helped.



I have a real problem with an industry being taxed to fund its competition. If the alternative is that valued it should be able to stand on its own or be funded by the people who value it.


The whole concept of sin taxes is moving precariously close to imposing fees targeted to any sort of behaviors that are either popular, and thus prime revenue generators, or that affect a narrow segment of the population, hopefully too small or powerless to object.

If the idea is to influence and change the attitudes and activities of select groups because what they do negatively impacts the common good, why not be more open and transparent about both the problem and the expected solution?

This is more likely a blatant attempt to drum up dollars on the backs of folks of a certain hobby. Anytime the welfare of children are pulled into the discussion, you know proponents are losing the battle and have resorted to playing the "kid" card, because there's no other way for them to convince others that their idea has merit.


A 1% tax pushes the cost of a video game from $59.99 to $60.59. If this were implemented, there's no way that children would even be aware of it. Big box retailers would almost certainly lower the price back to $59.99 and eat the 60 cents themselves.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't care whether this gets passed or not. I'm slightly opposed to it, but there are bigger fish to fry in the universe of taxation.


Completely agree, Alex. A tax on things that politicians arbitrarily see as undesirable is an affront to free speech.



I'll leave it at that.


While I'm all for the idea of getting children to partake in activities that foster better overall education, I'm not sure taxing video games is the key.

First of all, a 1% tax on video games is so small that I doubt it would deter people from purchasing them. Also, my guess is that TV is a bigger hindrance than video games are, and that TV is a substitute for video games. (And, in this sense, it is an even worse substitute - I argue that even non-educational video games generally 'teach' more in terms of strategy and spatial awareness than non-educational television).

That said, if one considers this solely as a means to raise revenue to fund better recreation facilities, then I imagine that might work. But I would expect the greatest part of success in the program to come from the use of the funds, not the application of a tax.

David T

How about a "sin" tax on all political campaign contributions? It could be used to fund a special unit of investigators and attorneys charged to seek out and prosecute ethics violations in Congress?


Why tax only violent games to raise money to encourage outdoor activity. Do not violent games not encourage kids to stay indoors. IFurthermore even if these activites are available, won't it still be up to parents to kick their kids off the console and outside? I love the Idea of a sin tax on political campaign contributions of course thats would require the cow to tax the grass.


Agreed with Alex (#1).


Here in Louisiana, only two parts of the State budget are not constitutionally protected: health and hospitalization, and education. Twenty years ago, our politicians decided that the way to pump up the education dollar was to introduce the lottery and riverboat gambling to the state. We were promised that every dollar of revenue collected from the taxation of gambling in its many forms would go to fund education.

Technically, that promise has been kept. However, for every dollar added to the education fund from gambling taxation, another dollar from previous revenue sources was removed to be spent elsewhere.

Therefore, while gambling did increase tax revenues for the State, the amount of money available for education did not change.

Today, our politicians seek to tax video game and they promise that the tax revenue will be spent on the children. Sure... just like the gambling money.



Video games scare me!
kids spend more time on the internet and sleeping than playing video games. We should tax those first.

If you are fascist that wants to tax things you don't like, why don't you just be honest, and outright ban them? The only thing worse than a fascist is one pretending not to be.

And by the way, surgeons should be playing video games every day.