Utah governor vetoes game bill

Jack Thompson-penned legislation targeted at retailers who sell mature games to minors nixed due to First Amendment concerns.

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After cruising through Utah's legislative branch, a bill that took a new approach to keeping inappropriate games out of children's hands suffered its first setback today when Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. vetoed it. The bill was crafted in part by notorious gaming activist and disbarred attorney Jack Thompson. It seeks to amend Utah's Truth in Advertising Act to punish businesses that sell age-rated media to audiences outside of the recommended age groups, but only if they do so against stated policies.

Fun fact: Gov. Huntsman is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
Fun fact: Gov. Huntsman is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

In a letter to the legislature, the governor explained his objection to the bill, saying that the language used is so broad that it could be struck down for "an unconstitutional violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause and/or the First Amendment." He also indicated that retailers had told him that they would no longer use the ratings system rather than be liable for enforcing it under the law.

Entertainment Software Association president Michael Gallagher hailed the decision in a statement, saying, "This is an absolute win for families. Utah's parents will benefit from Governor Huntsman's leadership and thoughtfulness on this issue. His decisive action helps caregivers and prevents businesses from being opened to unproductive, wasteful civil litigation and needless expense." To date, the ESA has recovered more than $1.5 million in legal fees from states that passed--and fought to keep--antigame laws that were ultimately judged unconstitutional.

Under Utah law, the bill now returns to the legislature, where it will be reconsidered in light of his objections. The state House and Senate can override the veto and force the bill into law if they each vote in favor of the bill with a two-thirds majority. Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill previously, far surpassing the two-thirds threshold.

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