McDonald’s and child gambling

As if eating the food there wasn’t bad enough for kids, the folks at McDonalds are now apparently encouraging kids to gamble online…sort of. From Austrailian

A McDonalds toy giveaway linked to a website that features gambling games has outraged parents, an anti-pokie campaigner and a psychologist.

For decades McDonalds has sold soft drinks, burgers and fries. Now the fast food chain stands accused of adding gambling to its menu.

McDonalds is running a cross-promotion with the makers of Neopets, the latest American soft-toy craze. A free Neopet is offered with every Happy Meal.

But the Neopets website advertised on McDonald’s packaging and website has left parents such as Michelle Stiebel far from happy.

Among the activities the site offers are virtual pokies, roulette games, and card games where one of the cute characters teaches children the rules of poker and blackjack.

As Michelle’s son Harley explains, you need to gamble to raise points to feed your virtual Neopets. He says if you don’t gamble up enough points to feed your pet, it goes to the “orphanage”. Players who don’t win enough points gambling to buy food actually have to send their Neopets to a “virtual soup kitchen”.

“A nine-year old boy doesn’t have the ability to question,” Michelle said. “He doesn’t even know what a virtual soup kitchen is.”

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Greg says this is a sure-fire way to turn our kids into gambling addicts.

He says children just don’t have the critical facilities needed to understand the dangers of adult-style gambling.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is sanitising, normalising and glamourising gambling,” Mr Carr-Gregg said.

No Pokies MP Nick Xenophon says this is yet another example of a junk food giant failing to act in the best interests of children.

Parents not McHappy over pokie toy

Note: “pokies” is Australian slang for video poker. I did a little research and checked out the NeoPets parental consent page. There’s nothing about gambling there, but it looks like the kids will be mercilessly spammed based on their marketing info.

Here are some of the Neopets games and their descriptions. I don’t have the time or inclination to sign up and actually play these but if someone else has done so and wants to contribute a story, contact me. This is some pretty insidious stuff, if you ask me:

Wheel of Knowledge: no description given

Wheel of Monotony: no description, but this might be getting kids used to a lifetime of work.

Brucey B Slots: Join Brucey B and the characters from our Lost Desert plot in this great new 7-line slot machine!

Cheeseroller: Purchase your cheese, and run down a hill as fast as you can with it!

Dice-a-Roo: Its Snakeeyes, Neopets style. Roll the dice, and increase your winnings, but beware, you can lose at any time. Also watch out for random items, and the massive Dicearoo jackpot! Win Neopoints!

Double or Nothing: Its you vs Snargan in a heads you win, tails you lose battle. Big prizes are at stake, good luck!

Fruit Machine: One free spin per day – good luck, there are loads of prizes on offer!!!

Grarrl Keno: The traditional game of Keno is given a prehistoric twist. Choose between 2 and 10 numbers, and bet a certain amount of Neopoints. If your numbers come up you could be rich!!!

Jub Jub Blackjack: Play against the dealer in this one-on-one game of Blackjack. Aim to get your cards close to 21 without going over.

Kiss the Mortog: Choose which Mortog to kiss – if you get it right you win, get it wrong and … BOOM!

Krawps: Its Neopian Craps, set on Krawk Island. Bet on the Anchor, Bilge Line, or get really lucky on the ardways, its up to you!

Neopoker: Draw 5 cards and try and beat the dealer… the better your hand the more Neopoints you win!

Round Table Poker: Its you against 4 opponents in this game where you do not have to count ANY potatoes to win!

Scarab 21: Make columns of 21 using the cards dealt to you to earn prizes!

The Neopian Lottery: Choose 6 numbers every day – if your numbers come up then you win the jackpot!

Wheel of Excitement: Spin spin spin the Wheel of Excitement!!! Do you win Neopoints?!?! Or will you get a nasty surprise, only the wheel knows!

Personally, I have some real problems with introducing children under 12 to games like keno, poker, blackjack, slots, and craps, which Neopets seems to do. How has this flown so far below the radar?

On the other hand, maybe some of these Neopets games will make their way into adult casinos. I for one would love to see high rollers staking it all on Guess the Weight of the Marrow or Tyranu Evavu ( a “prehistoric game of hi-lo”).

This is just more proof that the truth really is stupider than fiction. Most of the usual fads schoolkids follow are pretty pointless, but this seems to cross the line. I just imagine a bunch of fourth-graders who can’t wait until recess to log on and get some action down on bilge dice. How did anyone think this was a good idea?

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