Slot to win
Mars, the chocolate conglomerate, has come under fire from youth gambling campaigners, resulting in an M&M product being removed from its flagship Leicester Square store in London.
According to Dr. Samantha Thomas, an associate professor at Deakin University, Australia, the £33 ($43) slot-machine style game threatened to normalize gambling to children.
The product in question was made to release a “win” of M&Ms if all three reels matched after a spin via a lever. After clocking the product, Dr. Thomas, a youth gambling expert, wrote on Twitter: “With all the discussion in the UK about gambling harm and the normalization of gambling for kids, very surprised to see M&M selling this product in its Leicester Square store.”
After the Guardian contacted her, she quoted her research that showed how children are unable to understand the risks associated with slot machines. She said, “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-recognized candy brand and cartoon characters certainly may give children the perception that these are machines that are about wins rather than losses.”
Removal from all stores
Following some robust consumer feedback on social media, Mars initially shrugged off concerns but when MP’s got involved they soon changed their tune. Members of Parliament from a cross-party group on problem gambling sent a letter that said, in part: “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 normalization of gambling for children can have dangerous effects later in life and we would like you to reconsider having such an item in your store.”
Since then, Mars has pulled the machines from all stores and a spokesperson for the Giant confectionery company released a statement saying: “Whilst this product was neither designed to normalize gambling nor to appeal to children, we have listened to the concerns raised and have decided to remove it from our store.”
Protection of children
In recent months, there have been plenty of new initiatives aimed at keeping young gamblers at bay. This is largely because recent figures suggest that an attraction between youngsters and gambling is still rising, especially between the ages of 11 and 16.
There have been concerns over loot boxes in online games, and certain self-exclusion provisions now require gambling companies to make stringent checks when it comes to verifying age and identity.
Much has been said about the impact of gambling adverts on social media and sporting events that the regulator is knowingly cracking down on.
The fact that MPs can make a giant as big as Mars bow to pressure over a children’s toy shows that there is a very bright spotlight on gambling.