Press & Updates

Statement of The Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health Regarding Toy Slot Machines in Happy Meals

Norwood, MA (August 20, 2018) –

The Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health along with 40 plus other organizations penned a letter to McDonalds and Nintendo on Friday August 17th concerning their offering of a toy slot machine in their happy meals. The letter reads the following:

Robert Gibbs, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Communications Officer, McDonald’s
Robert Matthews, Senior Director of Consumer Marketing, Nintendo Of America Inc

Dear Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Matthews:

We believe the August 2018 McDonald’s Happy Meal campaign featuring Nintendo’s Super Mario figurine with a toy slot machine may be potentially harmful to your target audience of young people. We understand McDonald’s is the largest distributor of toys internationally and that Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers series is considered the most successful gaming franchise of all time with global sales of more than 240 million units. We are therefore concerned that many children will likely be exposed to toy slot machines through this promotion.

Toy slot machines may help to normalize gambling as an activity appropriate for children. There is abundant research identifying the potential harms associated with young people’s early exposure to gambling. There is also empirical data suggesting that gambling-related toys promote positive attitudes toward gambling among children. In the U.S. slot machines are restricted to adults because of concerns about the ability of children to make an informed decision about the health and financial consequences of gambling.
The decision by Nintendo and McDonald’s to distribute a toy slot machine contrasts with previous decisions not to market any alcohol, tobacco or other age-controlled products or facsimiles thereof. We believe toy slot machines should be seen as the equivalent of candy cigarettes. Nintendo has stated that the company does not “incorporate or encourage the use of illegal drugs, smoking materials, and/or alcohol.” In February 2015, McDonald’s announced a five-point “expanded commitment to families” for Happy Meals, including a pledge to market responsibly to children.

Therefore, we call upon McDonald’s and Nintendo to discontinue the Super Mario Slot Machine toy and the Yoshi bingo game and to work with NCPG to develop a clear policy prohibiting gambling in future promotions because gambling-themed toys are not appropriate for children.

Keith S. Whyte
Executive Director, National Council on Problem Gambling

Supporting organizations (as of 5:00 pm ET, August 17):
Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services of Southeast Iowa
American Gaming Association
Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling
Arnie & Sheila Wexler Associates
Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers
Association of Problem Gambling Service Administrators
California Council on Problem Gambling
Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood
CARTER/Problem Gambling Vermont
Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals
Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling
Choices Treatment Center
Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado
Delaware Council on Compulsive Gambling
Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance
Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling
Illinois Council on Problem Gambling
Indiana Council on Problem Gambling
International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High Risk Behaviors
Kansas Coalition on Compulsive Gambling
Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling
Maine Council on Problem Gambling
Maryland Council on Problem Gambling
Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling
Michigan Association on Problem Gambling
Mississippi Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling
Montana Council on Problem Gambling
National Indian Gaming Association
Nebraska Council on Compulsive Gambling
Nevada Council on Problem Gambling
New Hampshire Council on Problem Gambling
Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey
New Mexico Council on Problem Gambling
New York Council on Problem Gambling
Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance
Oklahoma Association on Problem and Compulsive Gambling
Ohio Office of Problem Gambling Services
Ohio Problem Gambling Advisory Board
Oregon Council on Problem Gambling
Oregonians For Gambling Awareness
Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania
Marc Potenza, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Child Study and Neuroscience
Rhode Island Council on Problem Gambling
South Central Kansas Problem Gambling Task Force
UNLV International Gaming Institute
Virginia Council on Problem Gambling
Voices of Problem Gambling Recovery, Inc.
Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling
The Way Back Inn Treatment Center
Problem Gamblers Helpline Network of West Virginia
Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling

If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling, have the conversation about problem gambling and share our confidential, 24-hour helpline 800-426-1234. We understand the problem and we can help.

About Mass. Council on Compulsive Gambling
The Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health offers programs to prevent problem gambling, connect the public with treatment and intervention services and support those in recovery. Among the services it provides is a 24-hour problem gambling support helpline, prevention programs in schools, recovery services, and numerous other programs across the Commonwealth. The Mass. Council does not take a position in favor or against legalized gambling. Call 800-426-1234 with questions or concerns about your gambling.


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