FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to a gaming machine promotional system. More particularly, a match play promotional system is implemented via a network joining multiple gaming machines, via individual gaming machines or manually. The premise of the promotion is that a gaming establishment match a player's initial gaming machine investment when, and if, the player loses the initial investment. Thereafter, should the player lose the casino's matching funds, the player is not required to reimburse the casino. However, should the player accumulate winnings above the casino's matching funds, the player retains the winnings and is required to reimburse at least the casino's matching funds.
The popularity of legalized gambling has become so prolific that nearly every state has some form of state sponsored gambling. A large majority of the legalized gambling is in the form of electronically implemented gaming machines, such as slot machines, video poker machines, keno machines, bingo machines, etc. In fact, gaming machines now generate more casino revenue than the traditional table games of blackjack, roulette and craps.
The popularity of electronically implemented gaming machines is clearly evident in the state of Nevada and, more specifically, the city of Las Vegas. Other than casinos, nearly every tavern, gas station, grocery store and convenience store located in Las Vegas offers patrons the opportunity to play gaming machines. Therefore, casinos and non-casino operators are ever mindful of the continued need to attract players to play its games. The newest methodology for attracting players is the use of player tracking systems implemented to track every wager a player makes. Based on the wagers made, players are offered certain complementaries (“comps”) based on, among other criteria, the time of play, actual loss, theoretical loss or theoretical win. Comps include free meals, free rooms and small cash rebates.
Although player tracking has become very popular and even facilitates an implementation of one embodiment of the present invention, it suffers obvious drawbacks for many players. First, a player who plays infrequently will not benefit from such a system. Second, players may not receive adequate comps to justify the gambling losses they have realized. Third, each independently owned casino property requires its own player tracking card to participate in its player tracking benefit program. Moreover, participation in player tracking programs invariably subjects players to a barrage of mailed promotional materials.
Promotionally based concepts have also been devised to attract players. U.S. Pat. No. 5,766,075 (“the '075 patent”) assigned to Harrah's Operating Company describes and claims a system whereby a player is reimbursed for limited losses (e.g. up to $100.00) during gaming machine play for a predetermined amount of time (e.g. 30 minutes). For example, if a player loses $95.00 over a 30 minute period, a voucher for $95.00 is printed and mailed to the player. The voucher is redeemable only at the casino issuing the same. The anticipation is that the player will return to redeem the voucher at which time the player will re-invest the voucher redemption and additional funds in a gambling session. Unfortunately, many players are unable or unmotivated to return to the casino to redeem the voucher. For example, a vacationer is unlikely to return to a particular casino destination for a nominal voucher amount. Ironically, participating casinos usually prohibit local players from participating in the promotion described under the '075 patent.
The present invention overcomes the shortcomings of previous systems and promotions by providing a simple, yet extremely effective, promotional program for increasing every players' willingness to risk their money in an establishment implementing said promotional system. While various embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein, the underlying premise behind the system is that of matching a player's initial gaming investment when, and if, the player loses said investment. For example, should a player initially invest $500.00 in a gaming machine and lose the entirety of the investment, the gaming establishment provides the player with a second matching $500.00 to continue play. Thereafter, should the player lose the entire matching $500.00, he walks away realizing a $500.00 loss even though he played a total of $1000.00. Should the player accumulate winnings above the matching $500.00, the player reimburses the establishment the $500.00 while retaining any winnings. Implementing the system can be done via a gaming machine network, via individual gaming machines or manually.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
While such a promotion, on its face, may appear to be based on poor business acumen, the odds continue to favor the house. Like any business model, a substantial increase in the volume (i.e. number of players) will offset any decrease in the price (i.e house's edge) and ultimately increase the establishment's all important bottom line.
A principal object of the present invention is to provide a simple system for attracting, and increasing the number of, gaming machine players to a casino or other gaming machine establishments.
Another object of the present invention is to increase a participating casino's handle thereby increasing the casino's profit.
Another object of the present invention is to provide gaming machine players with a second opportunity, on the house's money, to recoup any realized losses.
Another object of the present invention is to provide means for implementing a money matching promotion via a networked gaming system, via a gaming machine and manually.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide gaming machine players with a method of determining their level of participation in the promotion of the present invention.
Other objects will become evident as the present invention is described in detail below. Accordingly, the present invention comprises matching a player's initial gaming machine investment and loss. In a preferred embodiment, a network of gaming machines facilitates the matching promotion of the present invention. On such a networked system, a player inserts a player tracking card into a card input means incorporated on said gaming machine. If the player is eligible for the match play promotion, a central computer of the network records the player's initial investment. Should the player then lose the entire initial investment, the central computer transmits credits, in an amount equal to the initial investment, to the player's machine. Should the player then lose the matching credits, the player simply walks away suffering an actual loss equal to his or her initial investment. Should the player accumulate winnings above the matching funds, the player is permitted to cash out for the amount of the winnings while leaving the house with the matching funds.
In a second alternative embodiment, a gaming machine is equipped to maintain the promotion at a local level. In other words, all promotion facets described with respect to the preferred network embodiment are carried out by individual gaming machines.
In a third embodiment, a manual method provides smaller establishments with a means for facilitating the promotion of the present invention. The method comprises means for a player to notify the establishment that said player desires to participate in the money matching promotion. Thereafter, personnel of the establishment record the player's participation and the amount of the initial investment. If the player loses the initial investment, personnel of the establishment provide the player with credits matching the initial investment. In most instances, said matching credits will be provided by personnel inputting a credit card, debit card or cash into the machine. Should the player accumulate winnings above the matching funds, the player returns all matching funds and retains the winnings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In each of the embodiments, the matching funds can also be provided immediately upon a player inserting an initial investment into a gaming machine. In other words, it is not mandatory that the player first lose his or her entire initial investment. For example, a player initially investing $500.00 may immediately be credited a matching $500.00 for a total of $1000.00 to play. Assuming the player stops playing at $1750.00, the matching funds of $500.00 are retained by the house such that the player walks away with $1250.00 of which $750.00 (i.e. $1250.00 minus initial investment of $500.00) is profit. On the other hand, assuming the player walks away with nothing, the player's realized loss is $500.00 (e.g. the initial investment). However, the matching credits are only available for play, not retention.
FIG. 1 shows a conventional gaming machine (video poker machine) that can be used to implement the present invention;
FIG. 2 shows a block diagram of a conventional network of gaming machines;
FIG. 3 shows a flow chart depicting the present invention implemented by means of a network of linked games;
FIG. 4 shows a flow chart depicting an alternative embodiment of the present invention implemented by means of a network of linked games;
FIG. 5 shows a modified flow chart incorporating a system for limiting the number of matching sessions per predetermined time interval;
FIG. 6 shows a flow chart depicting an alternative embodiment of the present invention implemented individually on a single gaming machine;
FIG. 7 shows a flow chart depicting a manually implemented embodiment of the present invention; and
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION
FIG. 8 shows a flow chart depicting an alternative manually implemented embodiment of the present invention.
Reference is now made to the figures wherein like parts are referred to by like numerals throughout. FIG. 1 illustrates the front of a traditional video poker machine, including a screen display 1, draw/deal button 2, hold/discard buttons 3, card reader 4, coin slot 5, bet maximum coins button 6 and bet one coin button 7. While a video poker machine is depicted, it should be obvious that any gaming machine (e.g. slot machine, keno machine, etc.) can be used to implement the present invention.
FIG. 2 shows a block diagram, generally designated by reference numeral 10, illustrating a conventional gaming machine network. A central computer 15 bi-directionally communicates with a plurality of gaming machines 20-1, 20-2 through 20 n. Each gaming machine 20-1 through 20-n includes a means for identifying a player.
Preferably the means comprises a card insert module 25-1, 25-2 through 25-n for receipt of a player tracking card. The player tracking card includes a magnetic stripe that stores player information. Upon insertion, the card insert module 25-1, 25-2 through 25-n reads the magnetic stripe and communicates said information to the central computer 15 which accesses a player account and updates the account based on the specific session of play. The player accounts allow casinos to reward players and/or target advertisements to players based on a particular player's play. Gaming machine networks and player tracking systems are commonplace and known to those skilled in the art thereby eliminating the need to fully describe the intimate details of the same herein. For reference, U.S. Pat. No. 6,183,362 and its predecessors assigned to Harrah's Operating Company disclose one example of single and multi-property player tracking systems that may be used to implement the present invention.
FIG. 3 illustrates a flow chart 30 detailing the steps of the preferred embodiment of the present invention. A player is first identified at step “ID PLAYER” 35 preferably via the card insert modules 25-1 through 25-n adapted for receipt of a player tracking card. Once the player is identified, the central computer 15 causes a selected gaming machine to “DISPLAY AN INVITATION” 40 notifying the player of the promotion and requesting the player's participation in the match play promotion of the present invention. The invitation may be depicted on the gaming machine display 1, a separate display or any available means incorporated into the gaming machine. For example, networked machines typically incorporate a small display adjacent the card reader 4 for supplying players with player tracking information (e.g. points earned, promotions, etc.). Means for accepting the invitation include, pressing a gaming machine button or sequence of buttons, a predetermined time limit for inserting cash, tokens or a debit/credit card, or any available method of notifying the central computer 15 that the player desires to participate in the match play promotion. If the invitation of step 40 is accepted at step “ACCEPT?” 45, the central computer waits for a player to place an initial investment. If the invitation is declined at step 45, the gaming machine operates in its traditional fashion (e.g. non-matching).
If the invitation is accepted, the central computer 15 records the player's initial investment at step “RECORD/STORE INITIAL INVESTMENT” 50. The initial investment may be in the form of inserted cash, tokens or a debit/credit card into the selected gaming machine's wager acceptance means. The initial investment forms the basis for the match play promotion such that the central computer 15 now causes the selected gaming machine to, in a first embodiment, immediately “MATCH THE INITIAL INVESTMENT” at step 55. For example, should a player initially invest $500.00, the central computer 15 transmits a matching $500.00 in credits to the selected gaming machine. In an alternative embodiment discussed below, the matching credits are only transmitted after the player losses the initial investment. It is noted that the matching credits are only awarded when a player loses the initial investment by playing (e.g. gambling) the initial investment. In other words, the player is only permitted to play the matching credits-not retain for redemption.
The player now plays the selected machine as desired. Once the player decides to stop playing the selected machine by electing to cash out at step “PLAYER ATTEMPTS CASH OUT” 60 by pressing a cash out button of the selected gaming machine. In response to the player's choice to cash out at step 60, the central computer 15 retrieves the number of credits available at step “RETRIEVE NUMBER OF CREDITS AVAILABLE” 65. At step “ARE TOTAL CREDITS (TC) IN EXCESS OF THE RECORDED INITIAL INVESTMENT (II)” 70 the central computer 15 compares the number of total credits available with the initial investment and responds in one of two ways.
First, if the player has accumulated winnings in excess of the player's initial recorded investment, the central computer 15 causes the initial investment (e.g. $500.00) to be subtracted from the total credits available at step “CALCULATE PAYABLE CREDITS” 75. Thereafter, the player is paid the remaining credits at step “PAY REMAINING CREDITS” 80 via cash, or more likely, via a printed cash ticket reimbursable at a casino cash window. Since the matching money is only available for play and only after the player's initial investment is depleted, should the player attempt to cash out an amount less than the recorded initial investment, the central computer 15 causes the gaming machine to display a warning at step “DISPLAY WARNING” 85. The warning is that the total credits available are house credits and are available for play only—not cash out. Thereafter, the central computer 15 waits for the player to either continue play or forfeit the credits. At step “IS PLAY CONTINUED” 90 the central computer 15 makes one of two choices. If the player resumes play, the central computer 15 then loops back to the position prior to step “PLAYER ATTEMPTS TO CASH OUT” 60 where the central computer 15 once again waits for the player to cash out. Otherwise, the player may elect to forfeit credits by pressing the cash out button a second time. Other means for forfeiting the credits are obviously available. In response to the second pressing of the cash out button, the game ends at step “MATCH PLAY OVER” 95 and loops back to the beginning of the flow chart until a new session of match play is initiated.
As suggested previously, the matching credits may also be made available only after the player has lost the entire initial investment. In such an implementation as shown in FIG. 4, the central computer 15 is required to monitor the player's credit level so that once the level reaches zero, the matching credits are made available to the player. Therefore, subsequent to step “RECORD/STORE INITIAL INVESTMENT” 50 the central computer 15 monitors the number of credits at step “CREDITS=0” 105 and if no, the central computer 15 checks whether the player attempts to cash out at step “CASH OUT?” 110. If no cash out has been attempted at step 110, the system loops back to step 105. If the credits reach zero, the player's initial investment is matched at step “MATCH THE INITIAL INVESTMENT” 55. Thereafter, the system follows the steps (i.e. 60 through 95) set forth in chart of FIG. 3. If the player attempts to cash out at step “CASH OUT?” 110 prior to utilizing the matching credits, the central computer 15 causes at step “DISPLAY REMINDER” 115 a reminder to be displayed. The reminder alerts the player that he or she has potential matching credits available and they will be forfeited should the player cash out. Such a reminder is particularly important in a situation where, for example, the player has initially invested $500.00 and now has $75.00 in credits available when attempting to cash out. In effect, the player may wish to continue play knowing that if the remaining $75.00 is lost, the player will be given matching credits of $500.00. The player is then able to potentially re-coup the loss of the initial $500.00 investment. Otherwise, the player forfeits the matching credits and walks away losing $425.00. At step “IS PLAY CONTINUED” 120 the central computer 15 makes one of two choices. If the player resumes play, the central computer 15 then loops back to the position prior to step 105 and continues checking the number of credits. If the player elects to cash out the central computer 15 causes the gaming machine to pay the player at step “PAY PLAYER” 125.
Depending on the gaming establishment, players may be limited to one or more matching play sessions per a predetermined time interval. For example, a player may be permitted to make one initial investment, subject to matching, every 24 hour period. Under such circumstances as shown in FIG. 5, the central computer 15 compares the time since the last matching session to a predetermined time interval (e.g. 24 hours). At step “DOES ELAPSED TIME (ET) SINCE LAST MATCHING PLAY SESSION EXCEED TIME INTERVAL (TI)” 135. If yes, the central computer 15 causes an invitation to be displayed at step “DISPLAY INVITATION” 40. Thereafter, the system proceeds through it remaining steps analogous to those set forth in FIGS. 3 and 4. If the player has participated within the predetermined time interval, the central computer 15 causes the gaming machine to display a rejection of participation at step “DISPLAY INELIGIBLE FOR PARTICIPATION” 145 and further calculate and cause to be displayed the time until the player is next eligible to participate at step “CALCULATE AND DISPLAY TIME UNTIL NEXT ELIGIBLE PARTICIPATION” 155. Any conceivable time interval may be used by a participating gaming establishment. The less frequently the promotion is offered, the more likely a player is wiling to make a large initial investment thereby potentially maximizing gaming establishment revenue under the system.
If participation is denied, the gaming machine may be played in the traditional fashion until the player becomes eligible for participating play. Once the player becomes eligible for participation, the central computer 15 may automatically check to determine whether the player is playing a networked match play gaming machine in the traditional fashion and, if so, alert the player that he or she is now eligible for match play. Alternatively, the central computer 15 may automatically initiate match play when the player becomes eligible.
Now referring to FIG. 6, a gaming machine 20-2 includes a processing unit 90, preferably a microprocessor, that controls the operation of the promotion of the present invention implemented into single gaming machines. In essence, the processing unit 90 takes place of the central computer 15 depicted in FIG. 3. In this alternative embodiment, the gaming machine includes a card reader 4, in communication with said processing unit 90 for receiving a player tracking card or preprogrammed promotion card (discussed below). In an aggressive embodiment, the processing unit 90 will automatically double each players' inputted wager. Therefore, players of gaming machine 20-2 are continually participating in match play. Alternatively, as discussed above, players may be limited to one or more match play sessions per a predetermined time interval. If so, the processing unit 90 also conducts steps analogous to those shown in FIG. 5. If participation is denied, the gaming machine may be played in the traditional fashion until the player becomes eligible for participating play. Once the player becomes eligible for participation, the gaming machine may automatically check to determine whether the player is playing the specific machine in the traditional fashion and alert the player that he or she is now eligible for match play. Alternatively, the gaming machine may automatically initiate match play when the player is eligible.
The promotion of the present invention may also be conducted in a manual fashion following the steps shown in FIG. 7. A manually conducted promotional system is well-suited for smaller gaming establishments having only a limited number of gaming machines. For instance, taverns, convenience stores and gas stations typically operate 5-15 non-networked machines per location. In such instances, it is not economically feasible to implement a central computer or purchase new gaming machines incorporating the promotional system. Therefore, a manually conducted promotional system is ideal.
In a smaller gaming establishment, players are provided with means for informing the establishment's personnel that they (the player) desire to participate in the match play promotion at step “PERSONNEL INFORMED OF DESIRE TO PARTICIPATE” 205. Thereafter, the player informs personnel of their desired initial investment at step “ESTABLISHMENT PERSONNEL INFORMED OF INITIAL INVESTMENT” 215. The personnel now use some type of indicia to record the fact that the player is participating in the match play promotion at step “RECORD PLAYER PARTICIPATION (PP) AND INITIAL INVESTMENT (II)” 225. The indicia can take any form including a specially printed business card reflecting that the player is participating in the matching play promotion. In a first method, at step “INSERT INITIAL INVESTMENT AND MATCHING INVESTMENT” 235 a player inserts their initial investment into the gaming machine followed by personnel immediately inserting a matching investment into the machine. Any alternative means for causing the machine to properly credit the player may be used. Once the player cashes out at step “CASH OUT” 240, he informs personnel who, at step “DETERMINE WINNINGS AND PAY PLAYER” 245, determine the amount owed to the player. Personnel look to either the credit counter on the gaming machine or a printed cash ticket from the gaming machine to determine the amount owed. Once personnel knows the number of total credits, it is simply a matter of subtracting the amount of the matching investment and paying the balance to the player. If the resultant number of credits is less than the initial investment, personnel may advise the player that the credits are only good for play, not retention. Thereafter, the player may be given the opportunity to resume playing the credits or forfeit them for good.
Now referring to FIG. 8, in an alternative embodiment steps 205, 215 and 225 are followed, but now at alternative step “INSERT INITIAL INVESTMENT” 255 the player inserts his investment only. Thereafter, should the player lose the entire initial investment, the establishment's personnel inserts a matching investment at step “INSERT MATCHING INVESTMENT IF INITIAL INVESTMENT LOST” 265. Once the player cashes out at step “CASH OUT” 270, he informs personnel who, at step “DETERMINE WINNINGS AND PAY PLAYER” 275, determine the amount owed to the player. It is again a matter of subtracting the matched investment from the total number of credits. As described above, should the resultant number of credits be less than the initial investment, personnel may advise the player that the credits are only good for play, not retention. Thereafter, the player may be given the opportunity to resume playing the credits. Otherwise, the remaining portion of the matching investment is forfeited.
In another embodiment of the present invention, players receive matching points, based on their initial investment. Under current player tracking systems, players receive points related to play. The points may be a direct reflection of a player's time of play, amount of play, actual loss, theoretical loss, theoretical win, etc. As described above, once a player tracking card is inserted into an adapted gaming machine, a player's play is monitored. Based on the play points are accumulated and are typically redeemable for “comps.” For example, points may be redeemed for a room, movie or dinner at the gaming establishment. Points have not been traditionally redeemable for cash.
However, points can be substituted for cash in one or more of the embodiments of the present invention. More particularly, FIGS. 3, 4 and 5 depict various embodiments of the present invention in relation to networked gaming machines. Rather than matching a player's initial investment, the present invention may be utilized to match a player's earned point total. As with the cash embodiments, the central computer 15 controls the system. In a preferred embodiment related to points, a player inserts an initial investment (e.g. $500.00) and begins to play the gaming machine. Should the player lose the entire initial investment, the player's points earned during the session are matched (i.e. doubled). As with the cash systems, participation in match play may be limited to specific time intervals.
Although the invention has been described in detail with reference to a preferred embodiment, additional variations and modifications exist within the scope and spirit of the invention as described and defined in the following claims. For example, rather than a player tracking card, a player may purchase a specific promotion player card. The promotion card is then programmed to store a cash value equivalent to the player's desired initial investment. Upon insertion of the promotion player card into the card reader 4, the central computer 15 immediately recognizes that the player is participating in the promotion and credits the player an amount equivalent to double the card value. Alternatively, the central computer 15 does not match the initial investment until the player has lost the entire initial investment. In addition, rather than providing matching in the promotion and credits the player an amount equivalent to double the card value. Alternatively, the central computer 15 does not match the initial investment until the player has lost the entire initial investment. In addition, rather than providing matching credits, the system may be implemented to provide a number of credits proportional to a player's initial investment. For example, upon losing an initial investment, a player may receive credits equivalent to 80% of the player's initial investment. On the other hand, as discussed above, the player may be provided with 80% of the initial investment immediately upon placing the initial investment.