'McMillion$' Is Killing My '90s Child Hopes And Dreams

by Caila Smith
Monopoly Ticket McDonald's

There’s just something about the McDonald’s big yellow arches which makes the fast food chain a staple of childhood in America. It’s a quick and easy meal for kids and affordable for parent. Not to mention, Happy Meals are a great source of bribery to get our little ones to behave while running errands, am I right?

For me, McDonald’s meals were a part of growing up on those busy nights when cooking and cleanup were just too much. I mean, did you even have a ’90s childhood if you didn’t order more than you could eat just for that added chance to win “big” in the McDonald’s Monopoly’s game and get a beanie baby in the process? I think not.

Even if you weren’t a winner, you were still getting the goodness of the bubbly Coke. The stickers found on McDonalds’ soft drinks, french fries, sandwiches, breakfast items, and even inside of select magazines made for a fun, interactive, and what appeared to be a legal “lottery” for people of all ages while giving us more burgers for our buck.

But what would you say if I told you this game you played was rigged, and aside for being the proud owner of a “Free Large Fry” sticker, you never even had a chance to win “big” anyhow? If you’re anything like me, prepare to say RIP to your inner-child’s hopes and dreams, because HBO has a new series showcasing this scandal, and let’s just say, it’s super-sized.

In the six-part documentary series, McMillion$ dives deep into the 12-year McDonald’s Monopoly scam that reaped $24 million in cash and prizes throughout the ’90s. Without giving away any spoilers, the show closely follows a group of FBI agents in Jacksonville, FL, as well as some McDonalds headquarters representatives, nervous Monopoly winners, and the twisted involvement of mobsters in connection with Al Capone, drug rings, strip clubs, and more.

Throughout this spiderweb of a case that just keeps spinning, the enthusiastic and “think-outside-the-box” FBI agent, Doug Matthews–who originally pursued the case with his partner Rick Dent–goes undercover to get an inside look on the scheme.

While doing so, it would seem that the dots kept connecting. Because as it turns out, every single Monopoly winner to receive a largely-valued instant prize was actually related in one form or another.

The culprit? Uncle Jerry. Or, should I say, the two Jerry’s.

As my husband and I watched the few episodes, and listened to a few of the Monopoly winners recalling how they found their winning game piece, we both hollered to the screen, “You’re a liar!”

You could just tell. In their mannerisms, the way they overcompensated their details through story-telling, and the smug little look you wanted to slap right off their faces. At the same time, McMillion$ viewers quickly learn that some of these winners were actually victims to a much larger fraudulent involvement as well.

You might remember the series of arrests made in the McDonalds Monopoly scheme in 2001, but if you’re like the rest of us, it’s likely you never knew the con men who were involved until an article was published with The Daily Beast in 2018 which recaps the series of events that unfolded in the operation FBI refers to as “Final Answer.”

As a child, my mom and I would sit in the McDonald’s drive-through while dreaming up what we would buy if we stumbled upon that golden $1,000,000 instant prize piece. For me, it was as many ponies as a million dollars could buy. For my mom, it was something more realistic like paying off bills and owning a brand new house. Either way, the possibilities seemed endless, and it was fun to think about.

Turns out, we might as well have been throwing our coins into an empty wishing well. Because this McDonald’s Monopoly game was a McScandal.