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

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

August 17, 2018
CONTACT: Keith Whyte
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(202) 547-9204

Robert Gibbs, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Communications Officer,

McDonald’sRobert 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. Sincerely, Keith S. WhyteExecutive Director, National Council on Problem Gambling 

Supporting organizations (as of 9:30 am ET, August 17):American Gaming Association

Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling

Association of Problem Gambling Service Administrators

California Council on Problem Gambling

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling

Choices Treatment Center

Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado

Delaware 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

Nebraska Council on Compulsive Gambling

Nevada Council on Problem Gambling

Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey

New Mexico Council on Problem Gambling

Ohio Office of Problem Gambling Services

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 GamblingThe Way Back Inn Treatment Center

Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling

About National Council on Problem Gambling
NCPG is the national advocate for problem gamblers and their families. NCPG is neutral on legalized gambling and works with all stakeholders to promote responsible gaming. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 or visit for confidential help.
To schedule an interview with Keith Whyte, please contact (202) 547-9204 orThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..