• NCPG Letter to McDonald’s Regarding Happy Meal Campaign Featuring Nintendo’s Super Mario Figurine with a Toy Slot Machine

    08.16.18Cait Huble

    August 16, 2018


    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 9:00 am ET, August 21):

    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

    North Carolina 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

    Problem Gambling Network of Ohio

    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