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

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.

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