Mars Pressured into Withdrawing M&M’s ‘Child’ Slot Machine

Mars Pressured into Withdrawing M&M’s ‘Child’ Slot Machine

Confectionery giants Mars have withdrawn a line of M&M’s dispensing machines after complaints they may ‘normalise’ betting for children by being too familiar to adult ‘one-arm-bandits’.

The confectionary company had initially ‘shrugged off’ the complaints before then pulling the product.

The toys – styled like casino slot machines – were on sale in the M&M’s shop in London’s Leicester Square.

Children can pull the arm and three M&M’s figures spin on a front display, before the chocolates are dispensed.

They were priced at £33 (€38) a unit and were advertised with the slogan: ‘Hit the jackpot! With our new dispenser’.

A youth gambling expert, Dr Samantha Thomas, from Deakin University, Australia spotted the machines.

‘Bright Lights and Positive Sounds’

“While these products seem like innocent toys, they have the potential to normalise gambling as a fun activity for children,” she told the Guardian.

“Our research shows that children often are unable to understand the risks associated with slot machines. They remember the bright lights and positive sounds associated with the machines, and think they are a fun way to make money.

“Combining the winning features of a slot machine with such a well-recognised candy brand and cartoon characters certainly may give children the perception that these are machines that are about wins rather than losses.

“Given the concern about the normalisation of gambling for children, I would think that M&M’s would have exercised better judgment about the suitability of this product for children.”

Mars were sent a letter on Thursday by a cross-party parliamentary group.

It read: “We have heard countless harrowing stories of how gambling addictions have ruined lives and brought misery to the families and communities affected by this addiction.

“Therefore, we were shocked when it was brought to our attention that M&M were selling a slot machine-style game, marketed at children, in their store in Leicester Square. The normalisation of gambling for children can have dangerous effects later on in life and we would like you to reconsider having such an item in your store.”

Mars Resisted Early Pressure

Yet Mars, who own the M&M’s brand, initially dismissed the concerns of MPs.

The company, whose annual sales in 2018 surpassed $35bn, eventually confirmed they were withdrawing the product but only after asking journalist Rob Davies to hold his story on the initial complaint.

“Whilst this product was neither designed to normalise gambling nor to appeal to children, we have listened to the concerns raised and have decided to remove it from our store,” a spokesperson said.

Children being normalised by gambling has become a major concern in recent years, with UK figures showing that the number of problem gamblers aged between 11 and 16 was now at 55,000.

In Ireland, gambling laws are only now getting a ‘revamp’ to overhaul the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956.

The new Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 will standardise the minimum gambling age in Ireland at 18 and create a ‘Social Fund’ through a levy on gambling companies to aim at those suffering with addiction.