The promotion has used other names, such as Monopoly Best Chance Game (2003–2005), Monopoly: Pick Your Prize! (2001), Monopoly/Millionaire Game, Prize Vault in the United Kingdom (2013-), and a version based on the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire television show.
The promotion has been offered in the United States, Canada, Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and United Kingdom since 1987. Argentina and Brazil were included in 2013. Since 2003, Best Buy has been involved in the U.S. version, and later in the Canadian version.
Like many merchants, McDonald's offered sweepstakes to draw customers into its restaurants. Laws generally forbid a company from administering its own contests, in order to prevent fraud and to ensure that all prizes are given away. McDonald's had a relationship with Simon Worldwide Inc., which was responsible for the distribution of the contest pieces and the awarding of major prizes.
In 2000, the US promotion was halted after fraud was uncovered. A subcontracting company called Simon Marketing (a then-subsidiary of Cyrk), which had been hired by McDonald's to organize and promote the game, failed to recognize a flaw in its procedures. Chief of security Jerome P. Jacobson was able to remove the most expensive game pieces, which he then passed to associates who would redeem them and share the proceeds. The associates won almost all of the top prizes between 1995 and 2000, including McDonald's giveaways that did not have the Monopoly theme. The associates netted over $24 million. While the fraud appeared to have been perpetrated by only one key employee of the promotion company, and not by the company's management, eight people were originally arrested, leading to a total of 21 indicted individuals. The relationship between McDonald's and Simon Marketing broke down in a pair of lawsuits over breach of contract, eventually settled out of court, with McDonald's' claim being thrown out and Simon receiving $16.6 million. Due to a constitutional violation, four of those convicted of the fraud were later released as they were not initially charged with the offense.
In 1995, St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee received an anonymous letter postmarked Dallas, Texas, containing a $1 million winning game piece. Although game rules prohibited the transfer of prizes, McDonald's waived the rule and is making the $50,000 annual payments. Investigations later indicated that Jacobson had admitted to sending the winning piece to the hospital.
The promotion mimics the game Monopoly. Originally, customers received a set of two tokens with every purchase, but now tokens come only with certain menu items. Tokens correspond to a property space on the Monopoly board (with the exception of the Golden Avenue/Arches Avenue "properties", which were added in the 2008 edition). When combined into color-matched properties, the tokens may be redeemed for money. Historically, the grand prize ($1 million; annuity-only)[Note 1] has been the combination of the two most costly properties, Park Place and Boardwalk, but in a 2006 game the top prize ($5 million, with the traditional $1 million prize for Boardwalk/Park Place) was awarded for collecting the four railroads. There are also "instant win" tokens the recipient can redeem for McDonald's food (typically small menu items, such as a free small McFlurry or medium fries) but never for any food item that has game pieces, money, or other prizes. The 2001 edition was titled "Pick Your Prize!", in which winners could choose which of three ways they wanted their prize awarded to them (i.e. they could choose if they wanted their $1 million in cash, gold, or diamonds; etc.).
Additionally, in the 2005 edition, certain foods always came with one coupon which could be used at either Best Buy, Toys R Us, or Foot Locker (including online stores). The value of each coupon was random, with Toys R Us coupons ranging from $1 to $5; up to $5 in coupons could be used in a single transaction. In 2008, these coupons were redeemed for up to 25% off any Foot Locker item(s). Since 2009, the promotion has not featured any coupons.
Products with game pieces
In 2013, the following products featured game tokens:
|Big Mac||Big Mac|
|Chicken McNuggets (10 pc.)||Chicken McNuggets (10 pc. or 20 pc.)|
|Large French Fries||Large French Fries|
|Medium & Large Hot McCafe Beverages||Medium & Large McCafe Beverages (Iced or Blended)|
|Medium & Large Soft Drink Cups||Medium Soft Drink Cups|
|Coffee (Medium/Large)||Minute Maid Premium Orange Juice (Medium/Large/Extra Large)|
|Milkshakes (Medium/Large sizes)|
|McMuffin Sandwiches||McMuffin Sandwiches (Egg/Egg White Delight/Sausage with Egg)|
|Angus Third Pounder||Oatmeal|
|Single/Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Sandwiches||Premium McWrap|
Law requires that game pieces be available upon request without any purchase necessary, and can be requested by the mailing of a handwritten, self-addressed stamped envelope.
Rare pieces in US/Canada
Mediterranean Avenue (#431, 461)
Vermont Avenue (#434, 464)
Virginia Avenue (#438, 468)
Tennessee Avenue (#440, 470)
Kentucky Avenue (#442, 472)
Ventnor Avenue (#446, 476)
Pennsylvania Avenue (#450, 480)
Short Line (#456, 486)
The rare collectible pieces that dictate the odds of winning are as follows:
|Property||2013 code||2013 prize||2012 code||2012 prize||2011 code||2011 prize||2010 code||2010 prize||2009 code||2009 prize||2008 code||2008 prize||2007 code||2007 prize||2006 code||2006 prize||2005 code||2005 prize||2004 code||2004 prize|
|Mediterranean Avenue||431/461||$1,000 ($25 McDonald's Gift Card in Canada)||925||$50 (Paid in McDonald's Gift Cards in Canada)||321||$50 (Paid in McDonald's Gift Cards in Canada)||750||$50 (Paid in McDonald's Gift Cards in Canada)||101||$50 (Paid in McDonald's Gift Cards in Canada)||251||$100||801||$50||3601||$50||5001||iPod plus 1000 iTunes downloads||4001||Delphi Roady2 XM Satellite Radio|
|Vermont Avenue||434/464||$5,000 ($50 McDonald's Gift Card in Canada)||928||$5,000||324||753||104||254||804||3604||5004||4004|
|Virginia Avenue||438/468||$10,000 ($20,000 in Canada)||932||Beaches Resorts Vacation||328||757||108||258||808||3608||5008||4008|
|Tennessee Avenue||440/470||EA Sports Super Bowl XLVIII trip for 2 ($5,000 Wal-Mart Gift Card in Canada)||934||$10,000||330||Beaches Resorts Vacation||759||$1,000||110||$5,000||260||$5,000||810||$5,000||3610||$1,500||5010||JVC electronics package||4010||Cingular Wireless Service/Sony Ericsson Phone|
|Kentucky Avenue||442/472||Any Delta Airlines Destination for 2||936||Any Delta Airlines Destination for 2||332||$50,000||761||Beaches Resorts Vacation||112||$10,000||262||$10,000||812||$10,000||3612||$5,000||5012||100 million Best Buy Reward Zone points||4012||Gary Fischer Performance Bike & Garmin GPS System|
|Ventnor Avenue||446/476||$20,000 ($10,000 in Canada)||940||$20,000||336||$100,000||765||$25,000||116||$25,000||266||$25,000||816||$25,000||3616||$10,000||5016||Trip to the Glory Road movie premiere||4016||Canon Elura 70 Camcorder & Compact Photo Printer|
|Pennsylvania Avenue||450/480||2014 Fiat 500L (2013 Fiat POP in Canada)||944||2013 Fiat 500 Sport Hatchback||340||2012 Nissan Leaf or 2012 Nissan 370z||769||$50,000||120||$50,000||270||$50,000||820||$50,000||3620||$50,000||5020||JVC and LG "electronic makeover"||4020||Toshiba HD LCD TV & Home Theater System|
|Boardwalk||452/482||$1,000,000 (annuity, $100,000 for Canada)||946||$1,000,000 (annuity)||342||$1,000,000 (annuity)||771||$1,000,000 (annuity)||122||$1,000,000 (annuity)||274||$1,000,000 (annuity)||822||$1,000,000 (annuity)||3622||$1,000,000 (annuity)||5022||$1,000,000 (annuity)||4022||$1,000,000 (annuity)|
|Short Line||456/486||Shell Fuel for 1 Year ($5,000 in Canada)||950||EA SPORTS Fan Trip Championship Get-A-Way||346||EA SPORTS Trip||775||EA SPORTS Trip||126||$500||278||$500||826||$5,000,000 (annuity)||3626||5026||Dodge Viper||4026||OARS Whitewater Adventure Trip|
Note that the rare piece is alphabetically the last property in each group, except for Boardwalk. In 2013, McDonald's allowed two Boardwalk pieces to be produced, normally there has been one.
[*] Until 2007, Mediterranean and Baltic avenues were dark purple properties on the traditional Monopoly board; the color changed to brown in 2008.
[**] McDonald's added Golden Avenue and Arches Avenue for 2008 only; the prize for obtaining both was $100,000.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (April 2012)|
The German version of the rare piece list is as follows:
|Property||2009 code||2009 prize||2009 number awarded|
|Jackpot||???||1 each of the below + 1 each of the instant win prizes.||1x||0 property||1 instant|
|Turmstraße||902||Monopoly Game set.||1000x||340 property||660 instant|
|Elisenstraße & Poststraße||904 & 905||€1,000 Prepaid Visa Card||1000x||950 property||50 instant|
|Hafenstraße||907||LG Netbook||500x||170 property||330 instant|
|Wiener Straße & Berliner Straße||910 & 911||Audi A3 Cabriolet||100x||90 property||10 instant|
|Museumstraße||913||Nintendo Wii with Avatar the game||777x||259 property||518 instant|
|Schillerstraße||916||MSC cruise for two||5x||2 property||3 instant|
|Hauptstraße||919||ETI dream vacation to Egypt||100x||34 property||66 instant|
|Parkstraße||921||Hercules Mountain Bike||100x||34 property||66 instant|
|Südbahnhof & Westbahnhof||932 & 924||€100,000 from Visa||10x||10 property||0 instant|
In addition to the property pieces, there are also Instant Win pieces for a Samsung MP3 player, a LG Touchscreen cellphone, €150 gift certificates to S.Oliver, a JBL iPod dock, a Funai Flatscreen television, Nikon digital camera, Noxon internet radio, and SnowTrex one-week ski vacation for two.
In 2005, McDonald's introduced an online counterpart to its traditional game. In addition to the traditional "sticker" game, participants can play online. Each game piece lists a code which can be entered online, to a maximum of 10 entries per 24 hours. Each code entered grants the user one roll on a virtual Monopoly game board, identical to the board game's board. Rolling "doubles" (two dice sharing the same number), as with the real board game, allows the user to move again.
Landing on Electric Company, Income Tax, Jail/Just Visiting, Go to Jail, Water Works, or Luxury Tax does not count towards any prize. If a player lands on an unowned property (not landed upon by the player in a previous turn), the user will "collect" that property. When all properties of a colored set are collected, the user wins a prize, with prize values similar to those of the sticker game. In addition to collecting property sets, users can also win by landing on certain "instant win" spaces, including Go, Chance, Community Chest, and Free Parking. Landing on Go (but not simply passing it) gives the player a code worth one free hour of WiFi access at participating McDonald's restaurants. Landing on Chance is worth money to spend at Foot Locker. Landing on Community Chest allows the user to be given a code worth 25 My Coke Rewards points. Landing on Free Parking is a prize of a $50 refillable gas card from Shell, or alternatively 25 complimentary apple pies.
In 2007, landing on Community Chest won game downloads.
In 2009, the prizes became two hours of WiFi and a $25 Arch Card for landing on Go, an entry into an online roll for $1,000,000 (annuity) for landing on Chance, 25 My Coke Rewards points for landing on Community Chest, and a $50 refillable Shell gift card for landing on Free Parking.
The values of the dice are not random. As stated in the contest rules, one property in each set is "rare," similar to the sticker game. These rare properties are landed on only when the game server "seeds" a winning roll. Winning rolls are seeded at specific times on specific dates, and the first user to roll the dice once a win has been seeded will land on a winning piece. This allows McDonald's to declare the odds of winning certain prizes, a legal requirement for contests in most jurisdictions.
In 2010, the online game was changed, removing the dice and the game board, presenting only 3 Chance cards from which to pick. One has a prize, starting at 30 My Coke Rewards points, but may be (non-randomly) seeded with a higher-valued prize. Player chooses one card, is asked if that is the choice the player wants to make, and the card is flipped. If it is the pre-selected winning card, player wins the pre-selected prize. Odds of winning: Based on time you enter code not the card you choose.
In 2011, the game was changed again – the mascot, Rich Uncle Pennybags (aka "Mr. Monopoly"), is shown attempting to throw a Chance card into a top hat. If the card lands in the hat, the player can claim a prize. Players must choose a "throwing style", which only changes the animations used – it does nothing to affect one's odds of winning.
In 2012, the game was changed once more. Players must click on "Spin" first, and if it landed on "GO!", the player wins the online prize shown. Similarly as of 2013 players must click on "Play", and if it results in a win, the online prize is shown onscreen; regardless of the outcome, the participant receives an entry to win a 2013 Fiat 500 Cabrio.
For all versions of the online game, players are restricted to a set number of online entries per day. In the UK, this is restricted to 24 entries. In the US, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Saipan, it is limited to 10.
Note that the official rules state: "The purchase, sale, trading, or barter of Game Pieces, Game Stamps, FREE Codes or Game Codes via Online or live auctions, or any other methods, does not constitute Legitimate Channels and is expressly prohibited." This includes eBay as it is a violation of their lottery policy.
- The prize is only payable in $50,000 per year installments. The total value of the prize is not because each successive installment is further diminished by the factor of annual inflation. The actual prize is hundreds of thousands of dollars less. The value of the nth installment is: . Thus, the total value of the prize discounted by a 2% inflation rate (I=0.02) is the geometric sum: Such would be the present value of the annuity-due. Alternately, if McDonalds were to withhold the beginning of payments for a year, the annuity-immediate is $817,571.67.
- FBI arrests 8 in fraud scheme targeting McDonald's game, CNN, 21 August 2001.
- Associated Press. Twenty-one indicted in McDonald's scam, St. Petersburg Times, 11 September 2001.
- "McDonald's to Pay Simon $16.6 Million Settlement". New York Times. 2003-08-20. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "USA Today". USA Today. 2004-07-20. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- Donor Turns Fast Food Into Big Bucks For Hospital, The New York Times.
- St. Judes' Mystery Million Came From Embezzler, CNN transcript, 11 September 2001.
- "Official Rules". McDonald's Monopoly Sweepstakes. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
- "2012 MONOPOLY Game at McDonald's | Online Game". Playatmcd.com. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
- "Rare McDonald's Monopoly Game Pieces for 2013". Contests.about.com. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "Monopoly at McDonalds". Bizzia.com. 9 October 2007. Retrieved 2012-09-26.
- "Official Rules". McDonald's Monopoly. Retrieved 17 January 2013.