Federal/ State





Status/Legal Challenges

Federal Legislation

H.R. 231

Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA)

Would require certain warning labels to be placed on video games that are given certain ratings due to violent content.

Games rated Teen (T / 13+) or higher would be affected.

The label reads: “Warning: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior.”

- January 2009 – Introduced in the House and referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Dead bill.


 “Ultra violent Video Games”  - Assembly Bills 1792 & 1793

Rep. Leland Yee (D)

Bill 1792 banned the sales of such video games while Bill 1793 required signs explaining the regulations on said games to be placed where such were sold

- Both Bills were passed and signed by Governor Swarzenegger into law in October of 2005.

- December 2005 - Northern District of California Judge Ronald Whyte issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect.

- August 2007 – Judge Whyte entered final judgment ruling the law unconstitutional.

- The decision was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

- February 2009 – The Ninth Circuit unanimously upheld the lower court decision that the law’s labeling requirements are too restrictive and violate free speech.

- May 2009 – Gov. Schwarzenegger asked that the Supreme Court review the case.

- April 2010 – The Supreme Court agreed to hear this case.

* The Bill’s author, Rep. Yee, wishes to see the case appealed to the Supreme Court.   

Ruled unconstitutional by the Northern District of California.

On appeal the Ninth Circuit affirmed, finding the law unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case. 


SB 106

Sens. Doug Stoner, William Hamrick, Curt Thompson, Chip Rogers

Requires anyone who sells or rents video games to display a sign explaining the ESRB rating system.

May 2005: This Bill was passed and signed into law.



HB 2513

Rep. Robert W. Pritchard

Provides that the exhibition to or depiction to a minor of harmful materials as a Class A misdemeanor and a Class 4 felony for a second offense.

February 2009 – Introduced and referred to Judiciary II – Criminal Law Committee.

May 2009 – Passed both houses.

Passed and signed into law by the Governor in August 2009.


HB 4023 – Safe Games Illinois Act

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D)

Anyone who sells, rents, or permits to be sold or rented, any violent or sexually explicit video game to any minor, commits a Class A misdemeanor for which a fine of $5,000 may be imposed.

Passed the Illinois Legislature in July 2005.

- December 2005 - U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly issued injunction against measure, as it is protected under First Amendment.

- Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered an appeal on portions of the law dealing with sexually explicit material (Illinois Sexually Explicit Video Game Law – SEVGL).

- November 2006 - The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld lower court decision that the law is unconstitutional and too broad.

Ruled unconstitutional by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal.


HB 1381

Rep. Roy Burrell (D)

Allows a judge to rule on whether or not a video game meets established criteria for being inappropriate for minors and be subsequently pulled from store shelves.

- June 2006 - Signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Blanco to take effect immediately.

- August 2006 - ESA & EMA announced decision to file suit.

- August 2006 - Judge James Brady issued a temporary injunction.

- November 2006 - Judge James Brady officially ruled law unconstitutional.

Ruled unconstitutional by the Middle District of Louisiana. 


SB 340

Sen. James David Cain (R)

Similar to Maryland’s law, this Bill makes it unlawful to distribute sexually-explicit video games to minors.

- August 2006  - Signed by Gov. Blanco to take effect immediately.

Note: Also like the Maryland law, the ESA supports this measure.



HB 707

Reps. Wade Kach (R) & Justin Ross (D)

Bans games containing sexually explicit content to minors (narrowly defines content as that which would be found in pornographic movies or magazines.)

Signed by Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich, and will take effect October 1, 2006.

Note: ESA supports this measure.



Has not been assigned.

Drafted by Attorney Jack Thompson upon request of Boston Mayor, Thomas Menino.  The drafted legislation does not have a sponsor as of yet.

Harmful to minor’s measure, blocks minors purchase of games depicting violence.

Note: This measure has not been introduced as of yet, but is supported by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and other House Representatives.

Has not been introduced.


HB 1423

Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry (D)

“Games as Porn” Bill.  Would seek to restrict minors from purchasing violent video games using the same logic that restricts minors from purchasing sexually explicit materials.  Defines games as harmful to minors. 

The Bill was drafted with the help of Jack Thompson, and uses similar language to the failed Louisiana law.

March 2008 – Introduced and hearing scheduled to consider the Bill.

- Was accompanied by a study, H4614.

Note: This Bill is supported by the Mayor of Boston.



Protect Children from Ultra-Violent and Sexually Explicit Video Games - SB 249 & 416 HB 4702 & 4703

Sen. Hansen Clarke (D)

A person shall not sell or rent a restricted video game (those rated Adult or Mature) to anyone less than 17 years of age.

Signed by Governor Granholm to become Public Act 104 of 2005.

- April 2006 - Federal Judge George Caram Steeh ruled the Act unconstitutional.

Note: An appeal or rewrite of the law is planned in the future. 

Ruled unconstitutional by the Eastern District of Michigan.


SF 0785 and

HF 1298

Rep. Jeff Johnson (R)

Restricts sales or rentals of Mature or Adult Only video games to minors, however, placed onus on the minors, in that minors caught trying to purchase/rent violent games would be fined $25.

- June 2006  - The measure was signed into law.

- July 2006 ­ - Overturned by Judge James Rosenbaum, who ruled the law unconstitutional, citing a lack of evidence showing that video game violence is harmful to children.

- February 2007  - Arguments heard in appeal filed by the State.

March 2008 – Law ruled unconstitutional by 8th Circuit. 

The Eight Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional. 

New York

AO 1474/AO 2288/

S 699 and S 753

Assemblymen Wright and Greene

Prohibits sale to minors of certain rated video games containing a rating that reflects content of various degrees of profanity, racist stereotypes or derogatory language and/or actions toward a specific group of persons.

January 2009 – referred to Consumer Affairs and Protection.

January 2010 – referred to Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee.


New York

A 2837

Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R)

Seeks to block minors from any game that glamorizes the commission of a violent crime, suicide, sodomy, rape, incest, bestiality or sado-masochism; requires warning labels; and requires retailers to keep games either in an area “inaccessible to the general public,” or “in a sealed and locked container.”

Note: A similar bill introduced in 2007 failed to move out of committee.  This bill obviously has constitutional concerns.

January 2009 – Introduced and referred to the committee on Consumer and Public Affairs.

April 2010 – Held for consideration before Committee.


New York

A11717 and S6401-A

Assemblyman Joseph Lento (D) and Sen. Andrew Lanza (R)

Provides that “commonly used” or ESRB ratings must be displayed on the outside of the package; that new consoles sold in NY must have parental controls; and for a study of the relationship between media and youth violence, and the effectiveness of the ESRB rating system.

- Does not apply to games/consoles purchased online.

July 2008 – Passed both the House and the Senate.



SB 644

Sen. Anthony Sykes (R)

Offers a content restricted-based tax break for game developers who produce games rated Teen (T). 

January 2009 – Introduced, although not likely to pass.



HB 3004 – Materials Harmful to Minors

Rep. Fred Morgan (R)

Seeks to limit the sales of violent games to minors; includes violent video games on a list of materials that is considered harmful to minors; requires stores to stock games out of plain sight.

- June 2006  - Signed into law by Gov. Brad Henry (D), to take effect November 1, 2006. 

- September 2006 - ESA filed suit, challenging the law on constitutional grounds.

- October 2006 ­ - Western District Judge Robin Cauthron issued a preliminary injunction to block the law from taking effect.

- September 2007 – Judge Cauthron issues permanent injunction based on the 1st and 14th Amendments.

Ruled unconstitutional by the Western District of Oklahoma


HB 50/HJR 15

Rep. Scott Wyatt (R)

Bill authored by Attorney Jack Thompson, similar to Louisiana law that sought to include “inappropriate violence” with sexual content in a list of materials harmful to minors.  Also draws on Miller test to describe depictions of violence.  Restricts minors’ access to violent video games.

Note: Similar bill (HB 257) died in committee in 2006.

- February 2007 - The bill died in committee due to constitutional concerns.  Sponsor instead compromised with a non-binding resolution, HJR 15, which calls upon AG to monitor other states’ efforts to legislate video games. 

HJR 15 passed the House. 

Both bills were defeated


HB 353

Rep. Mike Morley

Would amend the state’s existing truth in advertising law to encompass video games, or other materials with age-based content.

Note: This bill was authored by the disbarred Jack Thompson.

February 2009 – Third reading, passed committee by a 10-3 vote; moved to calendar to Rules Committee.

April 2009 – This bill passed, but was vetoed by Gov. Huntsman.

* Conversatives have threatened to revisit the issue in 2010.

The law was vetoed by Gov. Huntsman.


HB 1009

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D)

Bans sale of video games to minors that portrays realistic violence towards law enforcement officers.

- The measure passed and was signed into law by the Governor in 2003.

- July 2004  - Judge Robert Lasnik of the Western District of Washington issued an injunction against the law, and later ruled that the law is indeed unconstitutional.

Ruled unconstitutional Western District of Washington.


HB 2178

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D)

Allows a person to maintain an action for personal injury or wrongful death against a manufacturer or retailer of violent video games, if the manufacturer or retailer has distributed violent video games to a minor and the game was a factor in creating conditions that assisted or encouraged the person to cause injury or death to another person.

- February 2005 ­– Introduced and referred to House Juvenile Justice and Family Law Committee.

- Bill died in 2006 Session.



Requiring Video Game Retailers to Inform Consumers About Video Game Rating Systems – HB 1366

Rep. Mary Helen Roberts (D)

Requires video game retailers to post signs regarding ESRB rating system, as well as provide information detailing rating system to consumers upon request.

The Bill was passed and signed into law by Gov. Gregoire in 2005. 



Bill not filed and no co-sponsors at this point.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach

Proposed a 1% sales tax on video games and consoles to fund a juvenile justice program.

January 2008 – State Senator proposes idea.

Proposal denied.



Imposes a 5% sales tax on digital goods.

February 2009 – Bill signed into law.


Indianapolis, Indiana

City Ordinance


City Ordinance restricting minor’s access to violent video arcade games, requires coin-operated games featuring graphic violence or strong sexual content to have warning labels and be kept at least 10 feet from any nonviolent game machines.

7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction against the ordinance

Ruled unconstitutional by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

St. Louis, Missouri

City Ordinance


An Ordinance restricting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, requiring parental consent.

The Ordinance was passed and upheld originally in the District Court, but the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Ordinance unconstitutional.

Ruled unconstitutional by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

© Lawrence G. Walters (2011). All rights reserved.