How the “McMillions” Scandal Changed Fast-Food Sweepstakes

Brands are focusing instead on smaller, local promotions

McDonald's Monopoly sign
A sign for the Monopoly game is seen outside a McDonald's restaurant in Niles, Illinois.
Tim Boyle/Getty

McMillions, HBO’s six-part docuseries about the million-dollar scam in which a former cop rigged the McDonald’s Monopoly sweepstakes in the ’90s, premiered last Monday (Feb. 3), and in light of the Mark Wahlberg-produced series airing, Delish has published a new piece about the fallout from the scandal.

The publication points out that after Jerome Jacobsen, the head of security at a third-party marketing firm that printed the winning Monopoly pieces, stole the pieces and gave them to people who would give him a cut of the cash prize, fast-food establishments shifted to more regional, lower-stakes promotions.

“The legacy of the Monopoly scandal is looking at how risk averse these companies have become — no one wants to be embarrassed,” Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams, told Delish.

“It’s inefficient to have a national campaign the way they used to. People aren’t consuming anything like they used to,” he added. Instead, brands are focused on reaching out to customers through social media or offering promotions tied to local sports teams (a free taco every time the home team hits a home run, for example).

To its credit, McDonald’s has made changes to its sweepstakes process as well.

“Following an extensive FBI investigation and prosecution of the individuals responsible for the deception and crimes, McDonald’s took several actions including terminating the third-party vendor connected to the individuals responsible and giving customers the opportunity to win back every dollar that had been stolen through two subsequent giveaway promotions,” the company said in a statement. “We also created an independent promotions task force to develop and implement a new blue ribbon protocol for promotions that is still used today. Since this time, McDonald’s has successfully brought back numerous new promotions offering customers the chance to win millions of dollars in prizes.”

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.