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US20070032295A1 - Cashless reservation system - Google Patents

Cashless reservation system Download PDF

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Publication number
US20070032295A1
US20070032295A1 US11441315 US44131506A US2007032295A1 US 20070032295 A1 US20070032295 A1 US 20070032295A1 US 11441315 US11441315 US 11441315 US 44131506 A US44131506 A US 44131506A US 2007032295 A1 US2007032295 A1 US 2007032295A1
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Prior art keywords
player
gaming
machine
system
credit
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Abandoned
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US11441315
Inventor
Robert Muir
David Curry
Louis Lui
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Muir Robert L
David Curry
Louis Lui
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3225Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users
    • G07F17/3232Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed
    • G07F17/3237Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed about the players, e.g. profiling, responsible gaming, strategy/behavior of players, location of players
    • G07F17/3239Tracking of individual players
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3244Payment aspects of a gaming system, e.g. payment schemes, setting payout ratio, bonus or consolation prizes
    • G07F17/3255Incentive, loyalty and/or promotion schemes, e.g. comps, gaming associated with a purchase, gaming funded by advertisements
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/326Game play aspects of gaming systems
    • G07F17/3262Player actions which determine the course of the game, e.g. selecting a prize to be won, outcome to be achieved, game to be played

Abstract

A gaming system having a server connected to a plurality of gaming consoles for playing a game in which a player wagers credits held in a credit meter. The gaming consoles having a player tracking apparatus to receive an identifier from a current player of the console. The gaming console can be reserved by a player, in which case play of the gaming console is prevented by any player other than a player with the same identifier for a predetermined period time. If the predetermined period of time expires, the credits on the console are automatically recorded by the server and associated with the current player, the credit meter is cleared, and the reserve on the gaming console ceases.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    This application claims the benefit of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/561,486, filed Dec. 16, 2005, entitled “Cashless Reservation System,” and also claims priority to International Application PCT/AU2004/000799 (WO 2004/111954), filed May 25, 2005, both of which are hereby incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates generally to the field of gaming and in particular the invention relates to cashless networked gaming systems.
  • [0003]
    A line-of-sight gaming system operates with cashless transfers between a cashier and gaming machines. A player gives money to a cashier who instructs the system to place credits on the players selected machine. The gaming machine is (or should be) in the cashiers line-of-sight so they can see the machine is not currently being played and that once the player has paid that no one else uses the machine.
  • [0004]
    A disadvantage of these systems is that the number of machines on the gaming floor is limited to those visible to the cashier.
  • [0005]
    Gaming machines may have a reservation button, enabling players to reserve a gaming machine for their use. The player presses the reserve button and the gaming machine enters the reserve mode, and displays a reserve message. When the reserve button is pressed again the machine exits the reserve mode.
  • [0006]
    U.S. Pat. No. 5,429,361 describes a gaming system in which a magnetic card is used as a reservation lock. This patent describes a traditional gaming system using magnetic cards, where the reserve key only works when the player's magnetic card is inserted. If they press reserve, then remove their card the machine cannot be unreserved until the card is reinserted. After a predetermined timeout period the machine will automatically unreserve. This is ideal for players to take short breaks without the possibility of someone else stealing their money.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0007]
    According to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a gaming system comprising a server communicably connected to a plurality of gaming consoles each comprising a display and a user interface in communication with a game controller for providing a game in which a plurality of playing elements are selected and a number of outcomes is defined within said plurality of playing elements, and if a winning combination of playing elements occurs in at least one of said outcomes the game controller causes the award of an award, the player having wagered one or more credits held in a credit meter of the gaming console to play the game, the gaming consoles each further comprising player tracking apparatus operable to receive an identifier from a current player of the console and a network communication interface to enable communication with the server, wherein upon a predetermined action by the current player when the credit meter has credits on it, the gaming console becomes reserved by preventing play of the gaming console by any player other than a player with the same identifier for a predetermined period time, and wherein if the predetermined period of time expires, the credits on the gaming console are automatically recorded by the server and associated with the current player, the credit meter is cleared, and the reserve on the gaming console ceases.
  • [0008]
    According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a gaming system comprising a server communicably connected to a plurality of gaming consoles each comprising a display and a user interface in communication with a game controller for providing a game in which a plurality of playing elements are selected and a number of outcomes is defined within said plurality of playing elements, and if a winning combination of playing elements occurs in at least one of said outcomes the game controller causes the award of an award, the player having wagered one or more credits held in a credit meter of the gaming console to play the game, the gaming consoles each further comprising player tracking apparatus operable to receive an identifier from a current player of the console and a network communication interface to enable communication with the server, wherein upon a predetermined action by the current player when the credit meter has credits on it, the gaming console is reserved by preventing play of the gaming console by any player other than a player with the same identifier for a predetermined period time, the credits on the gaming console are recorded by the server and associated with the current player and the credit meter is cleared, wherein if the predetermined period of time expires the reserve ceases and if a player with the same identifier returns to the gaming console during the predetermined period of time, the gaming console allows play the game.
  • [0009]
    According to a third aspect of the invention, there is provided a gaming console comprising a display and a user interface in communication with a game controller for providing a game in which a plurality of playing elements are selected and a number of outcomes is defined within said plurality of playing elements, and if a winning combination of playing elements occurs in at least one of said outcomes the game controller causes the award of an award, the player having wagered one or more credits held in a credit meter of the gaming console to play the game, the gaming console further comprising player tracking apparatus operable to receive an identifier from a current player of the console and a communication interface to enable transmission and reception of information with a remote communication device, wherein upon a predetermined action by the current player when the credit meter has credits on it, the gaming console becomes reserved by preventing play of the gaming console by any player other than a player with the same identifier for a predetermined period of time, and wherein if the predetermined period of time expires, the gaming console automatically transmits data onto the communication interface that specifies the amount on the credit meter, clears the credit meter and ceases the reserve.
  • [0010]
    According to a fourth aspect of the present invention, there is provided a gaming console comprising a display and a user interface in communication with a game controller for providing a game in which a plurality of playing elements are selected and a number of outcomes is defined within said plurality of playing elements, and if a winning combination of playing elements occurs in at least one of said outcomes the game controller causes the award of an award, the player having wagered one or more credits held in a credit meter of the gaming console to play the game, the gaming console further comprising player tracking apparatus operable to receive an identifier from a current player of the console and a communication interface to enable communication with a remote device, wherein upon a predetermined action by the current player when the credit meter has credits on it, the gaming console is reserved by preventing play of the gaming console by any player other than a player with the same identifier for a predetermined period time, information indicating the credits on the credit meter is sent by the communication interface and the credit meter is cleared, wherein if the predetermined period of time expires the reserve ceases and if a player with the same identifier returns to the gaming console during the predetermined period of time, the gaming console allows play the game.
  • [0011]
    Players may be eligible to reserve only particular gaming console and/or eligible to reserve gaming consoles at particular times and/or for certain durations. The eligibility of players may depend on their status or classification.
  • [0012]
    Games are typically initiated on a gaming machine by the player playing the machine after staking a wager, which is deducted from the player's credit recorded in the credit recording means. The game will end with an outcome or game result which, if it is a winning result, will cause the game control means to award a prize to the player. Typically, the prize is then added to the player's credit held in the credit recording means. Each gaming machine further includes a display means and the game controller is arranged to control game images displayed on the respective display means and to display game results at the end of the game.
  • [0013]
    When the credit establishment means establishes a player credit and associates that credit with a player tracking means of a player establishing the credit, the credit may be held either in the system controller or in the credit recording means of the machine selected by the player. When the credit is held in the system controller it will be transferred to the credit recording means of the machine selected by the player when the player inserts the associated player tracking means into the tracking input device of the selected machine.
  • [0014]
    The player tracking means may include, by way of example, a magnetic stripe card, which may either have been issued by the gaming establishment as an in-house identification mechanism, or which may be a credit card issued by a remote financial institution, a smart card issued by the gaming establishment or the remote financial institution, a ticket printed by the gaming establishment and readable by a bill acceptor mounted within the gaming machine, or any other suitable identification media, or the system may employ a fingerprint identification system, iris scanning system or other suitable biometric-sensor based identification system to enable a physical characteristic of the player to be used as the player tracking means.
  • [0015]
    The gaming machines connected to the system may include a reservation button which when pressed while the player tracking means is present causes the machine to lock and prevent further play in the absence of the respective player tracking means.
  • [0016]
    Depending on the requirements of the gaming system operator, locking may occur always or alternatively only when the players remaining credit is non-zero.
  • [0017]
    The gaming machines connected to the system may include a timeout means such that when the machine is locked for more than a predetermined time any credit held in the credit recording means of the machine is transferred to the gaming system controller and held there for the player and the machine is unlocked to allow another player to establish a credit in the credit recording means of the machine and commence play.
  • [0018]
    The gaming machines connected to the system may include credit importing means such that when a player tracking means is supplied to a gaming machine that is not currently holding a player credit in its credit recording means and is unlocked, the gaming machine will signal the system controller to transfer the credit of the player supplying the player tracking means to the credit recording means of the respective gaming machine.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0019]
    An embodiment of the invention is now described by way of example with reference to the accompanying diagrammatic drawings in which:
  • [0020]
    FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a first style of gaming machine, suitable for use in systems implementing embodiments of the present invention;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of a second style of gaming machine, suitable for use in systems implementing embodiments of the present invention;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 3 shows a block diagram of a control circuit of the gaming machines of FIGS. 1 and 2;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 4 shows a block diagram of a system implementing an embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0024]
    FIGS. 5 a and 5 b show a flow chart of the operation of an embodiment of a method of the invention; and
  • [0025]
    FIG. 6 shows a flow chart of the operation of a further embodiment of a method of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0026]
    Referring to FIG. 1 a typical gaming machine is illustrated of the type to which the present invention can be applied. The machine illustrated in FIG. 1 is of a type that allows credit input by insertion of coins or bills but the invention can also be applied to machines that only allow credit input by transfer of credit from a central cashier or from another gaming machine. In FIG. 1, reference numeral 10 generally designates a gaming machine, including a game or games to be played by a player of the machine. The machine 10 includes a console 12 having a display means in the form of a video display unit 14 on which a game 16 is played. The video display unit 14 may be implemented as a cathode ray screen device, a liquid crystal display, a plasma screen, or the like. The game 16 as illustrated in FIG. 1 is a spinning reel game which simulates the rotation of a number of spinning reels 18, however many other styles of game are also possible.
  • [0027]
    A mid-trim 20 of the machine 10 optionally houses a keypad 22 for enabling a player to play the game 16. The mid-trim 20 also houses a credit input mechanism 24 including a coin input chute 24.1 and a bill collector 24.2. As illustrated in FIG. 2, some gaming machines use a touch screen for player input, in which case the keypad 22 would not be required on the mid-trim in those machines. Instead the keys of the keypad 22 of the FIG. 1 machine would be represented as a graphic image 29 on the screen 16 and touch sensors 38 (refer to FIG. 3) located adjacent the screen surface would detect touching of the screen to record player selections. In all other respects the machines of FIGS. 1 and 2 are essentially functionally identical.
  • [0028]
    The machine 10 of FIGS. 1 and 2 includes a top box 26 on which artwork 28 is carried. The artwork 28 includes pay-tables, details of bonus awards, etc. A coin tray 30 is mounted beneath the console 12 for cash payouts from the machine I/O. In machines employing the present invention the machine is also connected via a computer network to other gaming machines and a system controller and credits can be applied to and cleared from the machine via the network. The credits can either be established at a cashiers station and transferred to the machine or alternatively a player might already have credits in another machine in the network and which they transfer to a new machine that they wish to play.
  • [0029]
    To facilitate the secure transfer of cash to a machine, each machine is provided with a card reader 24.3 and the player is issued with an identification card 27 either when entering the premises or when establishing credit in the system. This identification card 27 is inserted into the card reader 24.3 of a machine by the player after the player has established a credit on the system and has had the credit transferred to the desired machine. By inserting the card 27 into the card reader 24.3 of the machine he or she intends to play, the player identifies him or herself to the machine and establishes that the credit belongs to them. In the illustrated embodiment, the card reader 24.3 is not connected directly to the machine's controller 36 but to the system interface 51, which is connected to the network via interconnection 52 and to the machine controller 36 as seen in FIG. 3.
  • [0030]
    A reservation button 25 is provided as one of the buttons of the keypad 22 or of the pseudo-keypad 29 and is used in some circumstances to manually reserve the machine such as when the player wishes to go to the bathroom. To reserve the machine the player would press the reservation button while their identification card 27 is still in the slot of the card reader 24.3. Then by removing the card, the machine would become locked preventing use of the machine by others until the original player's card is reinserted in the slot of the card reader 25.3, or until the reservation period times out as discussed below. In the event that the reservation period times out, in a process described in more detail herein below, the machine would transfer any credits held on the machine to a player account in a central controller and unlock the machine for play by another player. If the player decided to play another machine after having reserved the previous machine they were playing, they would simply insert their identification card into the new machine which would cause their credit on the previous machine to transfer to the new machine and unlock the previous machine. If, on the other hand, the reservation period had timed out on the previous machine and the player's credit had been transferred to the central controller, then the new machine would simply transfer the players credit from the central controller to the new machine.
  • [0031]
    Referring to FIG. 3 of the drawings, a control means or control circuit 32 is illustrated. A program which implements the game and user interface is run on a processor 34 of the control circuit 32. The processor 34 forms part of a controller 36 that drives the screen of the video display unit 14 and that receives input signals from player input devices such as the optional keypad 22 (see FIG. 1) or the optional sensors 38 associated with the pseudo-keypad 29 (see FIG. 2). The sensors 38, if used, include touch sensors mounted in the screen of the video display unit 14 and associated with the representation of pseudo-buttons of the keypad 29, displayed on the display 16, thereby replicating the buttons of the keypad 22. The controller 36 also receives input pulses from the mechanism 24 to determine whether or not a player has provided sufficient credit to commence playing. The credit input mechanism 24 may comprise one or more of several credit input devices such as a coin input chute 24.1 a bill collector 24.2, and a card reader 24.3 or any suitable other type of validation device. In some embodiments of the present invention it is important that there be a player tracking input device, such as the card reader 24.3, that can be used to associate a particular player with a particular credit held in the system (either as data held in a machine or in the system controller or possibly in a further controller reserved for financial information). Note that player identification does not require knowing the actual identity of the player but is only used to associate the player with a particular credit. This is achieved in the preferred embodiment by using a player tracking card 27, which is a simple magnetic stripe card encoded with a unique code, that may be issued to the player either when they enter the establishment or when they establish a credit in the system and is read by the card reader 24.3. However other methods of player identification can be employed such as pin numbers, scannable tags of various known types such as magnetic stripe cards, smart cards, etc. iris recognition, finger prints or other bio-sensor systems.
  • [0032]
    Finally, the controller 36 optionally drives a payout mechanism which, for example, may be ticket printer 41, or a coin hopper 40 for feeding coins to the coin tray to make a pay out to a player when the player wishes to redeem his or her credit.
  • [0033]
    Again however, in embodiments of the present invention, a payout mechanism is not essential, as the player may remove the credit held in the machine by transferring it to another machine or to a cashier. Where the player tracking card 27 is a smart card and credits are stored on the card, the payout mechanism may involve writing a new credit balance to the smart card.
  • [0034]
    Referring to FIG. 4, a system in which the present invention is implemented is illustrated. The system comprises a plurality of gaming machines 10 each connected to a network by its respective system interface 51 and network connection 52. The Network connections 52 are preferably connected to the remainder of the network via a hub 53, although other networking architectures such as daisy chaining may also be employed. Controlling the network is a system controller 54 and a cashier's terminal is optionally connected, either to the system controller 54 directly, as illustrated in FIG. 4, or alternatively via the network hub 53. The Cashier may be replaced or supplemented by an electronic cashier or cash in/cash out terminal 59 comprising a controller 56 to which is connected a user touch screen 58 and a card reader 57. The electronic cashier uses EFT transactions to debit or credit a player's account at a financial institution to establish or refund a player's credit in the gaming system.
  • [0035]
    Referring to the flow chart of FIGS. 5A and 5B, the illustrated embodiment of the invention provides an improvement on the, traditional line-of-sight system for establishing a credit on a gaming machine. As before, the player gives money to a cashier and selects a gaming machine to play (step 61). If the player's selected machine is not in use credits are transferred to the gaming machine (step 62). However, when the credits are transferred to the gaming machine it is automatically locked to prevent play. The player is given a unique key which is used as a player tracking device and the key is associated with the credits transferred to the selected gaming machine (step 63). Preferably the key is a low cost magnetic card 27 encoded with a unique tracking number, and it is inserted into a compatible magnetic card reader 24.3 on the gaming machine to unlock the selected gaming machine. As explained previously herein other forms of identification may be used instead. For example, the identification material may include other types of cards such as smart cards, biometric data, and/or a personal identification number (PIN).
  • [0036]
    The player then proceeds to the selected gaming machine and inserts the card 27 to unlock the machine and proceed to play the machine (step 64). As no other player can unlock and hence play the locked gaming machine, line-of-sight visibility is no longer required. Further the cashier need no longer be a person, and could be an automated cash in/out, and card dispensing machine 59.
  • [0037]
    When the player has finished playing the gaming machine 10, and decides to “cash out” (step 65), they remove the card 27 (step 66) and return it to the cashier (step 67). When the card 27 is removed the gaming machine is again automatically locked, and secured against interference. The player presents 67 the card 27 to the cashier or inserts the card 27 into an electronic cashier 59 and the money remaining on the gaming machine is transferred back to the cashier and paid to the player by the cashier or is dispensed from the electronic cash in/out terminal, and the gaming machine is automatically unlocked for further play.
  • [0038]
    Once returned to the cashier the system may either allow the reuse of the card or prevent its further use. The card may be permanently destroyed by physical means, such as punching holes in the magnetic strip. The card may also be destroyed by logical means by recording its unique identification number in a database and not permitting its reuse. Further, cards may be enabled for use only for a preset time, for example within 24 hours of being issued, after which they are permanently disabled.
  • [0039]
    An unlocked machine with no credits cannot, of course, be played. In some implementations the gaming machines will have alternate means of inputting credits, such as a coin chute 24.1, a bank note acceptor 24.2, and can be played without an identification card. In the case where the gaming machine has no alternate credit input means it may not be necessary to unlock the machine when it has no credits, although this may in fact be done. One other reason to unlock the machine is that help and attract modes may only operate in the unlocked stated. Rather than change the design of current games to display help and attract when locked it may be preferable to simply unlock the machine, even if it cannot be played (because it has no credits).
  • [0040]
    Prior to the initial transfer of credits to the player's selected gaming machine the system detects if the gaming machine is currently in use (step 62) and if so, does not allow the transfer to proceed. The detection means determines that a player is currently using a machine if a valid card is inserted, there are credits on the machine, or buttons or the touch screen has recently been used. For example, the machine may have zero credits but a player is using the gaming machine's built-in help to examine the game. Further detection means, such as physical proximity detection, are possible.
  • [0041]
    In a further improvement, the player may decide to stop playing the machine either because they wish to move to another machine or because they wish to take a short break (step 68). In this case, they will remove their card 27 from the machine (step 69), which will cause it to lock while still retaining the player's credit. If the player chooses to play a new machine (step 71) they will move to the new machine and insert their card 27 (step 73).
  • [0042]
    The system detects the card 27 is in a different machine (and is no longer in the original machine), and automatically performs a cashless transfer of all the money from the original machine to the new one. Once complete, both machines are unlocked and the player commences playing the new machine (step 74).
  • [0043]
    In the event that after the player temporarily stops playing 68 a machine and locks it by removing their card 27 in step 69, they return to the same machine and reinsert their card (step 72), they may continue playing that machine (step 79).
  • [0044]
    Therefore, when the player leaves a machine in step 68, the removal of the card 27 in step 69 leaves the machine locked until the player redeems the outstanding credits from a cashier in step 67 or it is transferred to another machine in step 73. However, it is also possible that they will leave the machine locked permanently if they do not redeem their credits. To prevent this happening the system implements a timeout mechanism (step 70). Preferably, the operator is automatically notified to take appropriate action, such as performing manual cash out on the machine, which results in the player's credit being held at the system controller (step 75) until claimed by the player in steps 77 and 67, or until the player tries to play with the same machine in steps 76 and 72, or a different machine in 78 and 73. A full log of events is stored to enable tracking in case the player returns to play the machine further and a dispute arises with the casino operators. Alternately after the preset timeout period of a locked machine, step 75 involves the system automatically withdrawing credit from the machine and unlocking it for further play. In the event that the player returns to the old machine (step 76) and it is still vacant, they may reinsert their card 27 in the machine (step 72), which will cause the credit to transfer back to the machine after which the machine will allow the player to continue playing 79. Alternatively, the player may choose to select a new machine in step 78, in which case inserting their card 27 into the card reader of the new machine (step 73) will cause their credit to transfer to the new machine, which will unlock allowing the player to commence playing the new machine (step 74). The system may also detect multiple copies of the same card 27 in use, which would indicate either an error in the system or attempted fraud. The system takes appropriate action, such as locking the effected machines and/or setting off an alarm.
  • [0045]
    It is an advantage of preferred embodiments of this invention that the credits need not be stored at any time by the system, although it can be implemented to do so.
  • [0046]
    The storage and handling of money is a very sensitive issue, and it is preferable to limit it to those areas in which it is absolutely essential. Gaming machines already require and implement the means to store credits and are carefully tested and regulated to ensure they do so reliably.
  • [0047]
    In an alternate implementation the player gives money to the cashier (step 61) and it is stored on the system, and associated with the player's identification card 27 (step 63) until the player inserts their card 27 into a gaming machine (step 64). This has the advantage of simplicity from the player's point of view, but does require that credits be kept on the system until the player selects a machine.
  • [0048]
    It is an advantage of preferred embodiments of the system that the player need not be identified to use the system, although of course this may be done if desired. The means of doing this are well known and not described further.
  • [0049]
    Machine to Machine Credit Transfer Protocol
  • [0050]
    The system is designed such that a fault during the cashless transfer, such as a power failure or communication error, does not cause credit to be added or lost. Such techniques are well known, and one example, in which the system does not store player credit information, is described here by way of example:
  • [0051]
    When the magnetic stripe card is inserted into the new machine it is detected and a message sent to the system controller with the cards identification. The system determines that the card had been previously played on a different machine, and adds the exact same amount of credits to the new machine as exists on the previous machine.
  • [0052]
    At this point the player may start to play, but the previous machine still contains its credits unchanged, and remains locked. The system then removes the credits from the first machine and unlocks it.
  • [0053]
    The system logs each of these events and in the event of a failure can determine how to recover. Preferably a human readable log of events is simultaneously printed, identifying each cashless transaction. If a failure occurs before credits are transferred to the new machine, they still exist on the first machine and are not lost. If the failure occurs after the transfer to the new machine, the player cannot lose credits. Until the first machine is unlocked it cannot be played, so the operator will not lose any credits on that machine. The electronic or printed log may be used to understand the actual events and reconcile accounts.
  • [0054]
    Machine Reservation
  • [0055]
    Preferably the gaming machine 10 is automatically locked in when the player's card 27 is removed, except when the credit on the machine is zero, in which case the machine remains unlocked. In one implementation the gaming machine 10 may have a reserve function button 25 to reserve the machine, by locking it even when the card is removed and credits are zero, provided the reservation button is operated before the card 27 is removed 68, or during a predetermined short period (for example, 5-10 seconds) after the card is removed. The machine may also refuse to register a new card during this period.
  • [0056]
    In one possible arrangement, the reservation button may be connected directly 42 to the system interface 51 of the gaming machine 10 (refer to FIG. 4).
  • [0057]
    Alternately, instead of the reservation button 25 being interfaced directly to the system interface device 51 it may be interfaced to the gaming machine as one of many keys on keypad 22 (as is common in practice). The gaming machine 10 will then read the button status and communicate it to the system interface device 51, and hence on to the system controller 51. Alternately the gaming machine reservation button 25 might be connected 42 to the system interface device 51 as well as to the gaming machine controller 36, such that the system and the machine may both sense the gaming machine reserve button status directly. The ability to reserve a machine with zero credit is particularly useful in implementations where players are issued cards prior to giving money to the cashier. In this implementation players may be given a card on entry to the gaming establishment with no credit associated with the card on the system or any machine. The player may use the card to transfer money to a machine by using the cashier. Alternately the player can use the reservation button on the machine to lock a machine (with no credits), and then using the cashier transfer credits to that machine. The system automatically detects the reserved machine and transfers credit to it, or if the player chooses, to a different machine (in which case the first reserved machine is automatically unlocked).
  • [0058]
    FIG. 6 shows a flow chart of a process which may be performed by the system of FIG. 4 in accordance with another embodiment of the invention. The process is implemented when a player wishes to reserve a game machine and steps that would be performed by the gaming machine 10 or network that are not directly associated with the reservation function have been omitted from FIG. 6 for clarity of illustration. The description of FIG. 6 refers to the gaming machine 10 communicating with the network, which is intended to include the system interface 51 or another device associated with the gaming machine controller 36 transmitting information onto and receiving information from the network, whether under the control of the gaming machine controller 36 or not.
  • [0059]
    In step 80, a player inserts a player card 27 into a gaming machine 10. In one embodiment, the player card 27 contains details that identifies a player account that contains credits or funds that may be converted into credits. The gaming machine 10 uses its card reader 24.3 to read the card 27 and then may request, suitably by displaying a message on its display 14, the entry of a personal identification number (PIN). The player enters their PIN (step 81) and the gaming machine causes the PIN to be verified by comparing it with a pre-stored PIN associated with the player card 27. The pre-stored PIN may be stored on the card 27, or stored by the system, for example in a database of personal identification numbers and associated card numbers.
  • [0060]
    If the player enters the correct PIN, they are allowed to play the gaming machine 10 (step 82). The player may then use a user interface, for example the touch screen 29 of the gaming machine 10 to transfer credits to the gaming machine 10 from their player account if the credits were not automatically transferred, and commence play of the gaming machine 10.
  • [0061]
    Some time after commencing play, the player presses the “Reserve” button 25. In this embodiment only certain players are permitted to reserve a gaming machine 10. Therefore, after the player presses the “Reserve” button 25, or performs some other step indicating that they may wish to reserve the gaming machine, such as removing their player card while credits are still on the credits meter, the gaming machine 10 then checks the player's eligibility to reserve gaming machines 10 or causes the player's eligibility to be checked (step 84). The eligibility of a player to reserve gaming machines may be indicated by data on the player card 27, or by the system, for example in a database (which may be same database containing the PIN numbers described previously herein), containing a list of player identification numbers matching the numbers on the player cards and a flag indicating whether they are eligible to reserve gaming machines 10.
  • [0062]
    If the player is not eligible to reserve gaming machines 10, then an error message may be displayed on the display 14 of the gaming machine 10 where the player is located informing them that the reserve function is not available and optionally informing the player how to become a player that is eligible to reserve a gaming machine 10. The process then returns to step 82, allowing the player to continue to play the gaming or cash out and quit playing. If the player has simply removed their player card without pressing a reserve button and there are credits on the machine, the system may automatically reserve the machine if the player is eligible, and if not, automatically transfer credits on the machine to the player's account if the player is not eligible to reserve the-machine.
  • [0063]
    If the player is eligible to reserve gaming machines 10, then in step 86 the gaming machine 10 that the player was playing locks and displays a “Reserved” message, either on the display 14, on a display 51A (see FIG. 3) associated with the system interface 51, on both, and/or elsewhere. If the player has not already done so, they then remove their player card in step 87, which commences a timer. Optionally, the card may be automatically ejected from the card reader 24.3 and visual and/or audible alerts may prompt the player to take their card 27. For example a beeping may sound and a bezel (not shown) around the slot of the card reader 24.3 may flash and/or a prompt may be displayed on one or both the displays 14 and 51A.
  • [0064]
    While the gaming machine 10 is reserved, it monitors for the re-insertion of the player card of the player who reserved the gaming machine 10 (step 88). If a machine player card 27 has been reinserted, the process returns to step 82 and the player is allowed to continue to play the gaming machine 10. If a matching player card 27 has not been reinserted, the gaming machine 10 checks in step 89 whether the maximum reserve period has expired by checking the value of the timer started in step 87. If the maximum reserve period has not expired, then steps 88 and 89 are repeated.
  • [0065]
    If the maximum reserve time has expired, then the process proceeds to step 90, in which case the gaming machine 10 checks if there are any credits on its credit meter. If so, the credits are transferred to the player's account, identified by the player identification number stored on the player card and read by the gaming machine 10 when the player first inserted their card, and the credit meter is cleared to zero (step 91), and the process then proceeds to step 92. Step 91 may be achieved by the gaming machine 10 sending data addressed to the system controller 54 or other server or device connected to the network, which is adapted to maintain a record of player identifiers and credit balances.
  • [0066]
    If there were not credits on the machine, the process may proceed from step 90 directly to step 92. In step 92 the gaming machine 10 is unlocked and may display an attract sequence to advertise the availability of the gaming machine 10 to be played and attract players to that gaming machine 10.
  • [0067]
    In another embodiment of the present invention, step 91 may be automatically performed following the reservation of a gaming machine 10, for example following step 87. In this embodiment the credits may be transferred back to the gaming machine 10 if it is determined in step 88 that a matching player card has been reinserted, prior to allowing game play to continue in step 82.
  • [0068]
    In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the gaming machine 10 awaits confirmation of receipt of the information that it sent notifying of the value on the credit meter before clearing the credit meter in step 91.
  • [0069]
    Although the example of a preferred embodiment of the invention described in relation to FIG. 6 assumes that each player has a central player account, in alternative embodiments of the invention, the central player account may be omitted. In this case, the player may still use a player card, PIN and/or other information to identify themselves. However, the player carries their funds with them, for example on the player card, or by inserting money or money's worth into a credit mechanism 24. In this embodiment, if the player reserves a gaming machine 10, and the maximum reserve period expires, the number of credits, if any, still on the gaming machine, or a value indicating the money's worth of the credits, are stored in a database associated with the player identification information. When the player returns to a cashier's station they may be notified of their credits and paid the funds.
  • [0070]
    The eligibility of player to reserve gaming machines 10 may be qualified in a number of ways. For example, instead of having a binomial “yes” or “no” eligibility that applies for all gaming machines 10 in any location, at any time, the eligibility may be qualified by any or all of the following:
  • [0071]
    a) The player is eligible to reserve only certain gaming machines, or a certain type of gaming machine. For example, the player may only be allowed to reserve gaming machines in a certain area at a gaming venue, only allowed to reserve gaming machines that play a certain denomination or range of denominations, or only allowed to reserve gaming machines at a particular gaming venue where the gaming system is in communication with or controls multiple venues. In another example, only certain players may be eligible to reserve a gaming machine with zero credits on the meter.
  • [0072]
    b) The player is eligible to reserve gaming machines only during certain periods. The periods may be fixed, for example between 10 am and 3 pm, or may be variable, for example as set by a casino administrator, or dynamically determined depending on demand for gaming machines at the time.
  • [0073]
    c) There may be varying classes of eligibility. For example, some classes of player may be able to reserve a gaming machine for up to 5 minutes, while others may be able to reserve the same gaming machine for up to 10 minutes. The classification of the player may also determine what gaming machines they can reserve and during what periods they can reserve the gaming machine. The classification of the person may be determined using any method, for example by indicating whether they are a member of a loyalty program provided by the gaming venue, based on the player's past gaming history, or otherwise. Information indicating the player's status may be stored centrally in the gaming system or alternatively stored on a player card or other player identification device readable by a gaming machine 10, for example a magnetic swipe card or a smart card.
  • [0074]
    d) The number of times that a player can reserve a gaming machine in any given period may be limited. For example, a player may be eligible to perform a reservation of a gaming machine up to five times in any 24 hour period. Again the classification of the player may also influence the number of reserves allowed to be made in any given period of time.e) A player may be able to earn “reserve credits” through play on the gaming machines at a casino and/or otherwise.
  • [0075]
    For option e), the reserve credits may be able to be traded for reserve time on a gaming machine, so that an eligible player is one with a positive balance of reserve credits, or reserve credits above a threshold value. For example, each minute of reservation may require five reserve credits. In this embodiment the maximum reserve time may be dictated solely by the reserve credits, or the maximum time may be otherwise determined. Alternatively, a reserve may be initiated with a maximum reserve period of five minutes by trading in ten reserve credits. The number of reserve credits required and the rate of accumulation of reserve credits may be configurable.
  • [0076]
    In a still further alternative for option e), a player may need to play at a gaming venue or at any one of a number of gaming venues a certain amount and once that threshold is achieved, they may be given the ability to reserve gaming machines for a bonus period, for example one month. Optionally, the player may have to reach the threshold within a certain time limit, for example over a single month.
  • [0077]
    It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that numerous variations and/or modifications may be made to the invention as shown in the specific embodiments without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as broadly described. The present embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive.
  • [0078]
    Throughout the specification the term “comprise” and variations on this term including “comprising” and “comprises” are to be understood to imply the inclusion of a feature, integer, step or element, and not to exclude other features, integers, steps or elements.

Claims (29)

  1. 1. A gaming system comprising a server communicably connected to a plurality of gaming consoles each comprising a display and a user interface in communication with a game controller for providing a game in which a plurality of playing elements are selected and a number of outcomes is defined within said plurality of playing elements, and if a winning combination of playing elements occurs in at least one of said outcomes the game controller causes the award of an award, the player having wagered one or more credits held in a credit meter of the gaming console to play the game, the gaming consoles each further comprising player tracking apparatus operable to receive an identifier from a current player of the console and a network communication interface to enable communication with the server, wherein upon a predetermined action by the current player when the credit meter has credits on it, the gaming console becomes reserved by preventing play of the gaming console by any player other than a player with the same identifier for a predetermined period of time, and wherein if the predetermined period of time expires, the credits on the gaming console are automatically recorded by the server and associated with the current player, the credit meter is cleared, and the reserve on the gaming console ceases.
  2. 2. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the identifier comprises a player card and an associated personal identification number.
  3. 3. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the gaming system determines whether the identifier of the current player indicates that the current player is eligible to reserve the gaming console and the gaming console only becomes reserved following the predetermined action by the current player only if the current player is determined to be eligible.
  4. 4. The gaming system of claim 3, wherein the gaming system includes a plurality of different classes of gaming console and wherein at least some player identifiers indicate that the player is eligible to reserve at least one said class of gaming console but not eligible to reserve at least one other said class of gaming console.
  5. 5. The gaming system of claim 4, wherein the plurality of different classes of gaming console are classified according to at least one of the physical location of the gaming console and the denomination of the gaming console.
  6. 6. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein at least one said gaming console is not eligible to be reserved by at least one class of player during a period of time.
  7. 7. The gaming system of claim 6, wherein the period of time is preset by an operator of the gaming system.
  8. 8. The gamins system of claim 6, wherein the period of time is dynamically determined depending on a level of game play of the gaming consoles.
  9. 9. The gaming system of claim 3, wherein the gaming system determines the current player to be eligible to reserve the gaming console dependent on a player history of the current player.
  10. 10. The gaming system of claim 1, wherein the predetermined period of time is variable depending on at least one of the player identifier and data associated with the player identifier.
  11. 11. The gaming system of claim 10, wherein the data associated with the player identifier comprises tradeable units and wherein the system is operable to trade the tradeable units for reservation of a gaming console.
  12. 12. The gaming system of claim 11, wherein the system is operable to trade the tradeable units in proportion to the time that the gaming console remains reserved.
  13. 13. A gaming system comprising a server communicably connected to a plurality of gaming consoles each comprising a display and a user interface in communication with a game controller for providing a game in which a plurality of playing elements are selected and a number of outcomes is defined within said plurality of playing elements, and if a winning combination of playing elements occurs in at least one of said outcomes the game controller causes the award of an award, the player having wagered one or more credits held in a credit meter of the gaming console to play the game, the gaming consoles each further comprising player tracking apparatus operable to receive an identifier from a current player of the console and a network communication interface to enable communication with the server, wherein upon a predetermined action by the current player when the credit meter has credits on it, the gaming console is reserved by preventing play of the gaming console by any player other than a player with the same identifier for a predetermined period time, the credits on the gaming console are recorded by the server and associated with the current player and the credit meter is cleared, wherein if the predetermined period of time expires the reserve ceases and if a player with the same identifier returns to the gaming console during the predetermined period of time, the gaming console allows play of the game.
  14. 14. The gaming system of claim 13, wherein if a player with the same identifier returns to the gaming console during the predetermined period of time, the credits recorded by the server are automatically added to the credit meter.
  15. 15. The gaming system of claim 13, wherein the identifier comprises a player card and an associated personal identification number.
  16. 16. The gaming system of claim 13, wherein the gaming system determines whether the identifier of the current player indicates that the current player is eligible to reserve the gaming console and the gaming console only becomes reserved following the predetermined action by the current player only if the current player is determined to be eligible.
  17. 17. The gaming system of claim 16, wherein the gaming system includes a plurality of different classes of gaming console and wherein at least some player identifiers indicate that the player is eligible to reserve at least one said class of gaming console but not eligible to reserve at least one other said class of gaming console.
  18. 18. The gaming system of claim 17, wherein the plurality of different classes of gaming console are classified according to at least one of the physical location of the gaming console and the denomination of the gaming console.
  19. 19. The gaming system of claim 13, wherein at least one said gaming console is not eligible to be reserved by at least one class of player during a period of time.
  20. 20. The gaming system of claim 19, wherein the period of time is preset by an operator of the gaming system.
  21. 21. The gaming system of claim 19, wherein the period of time is dynamically determined depending on a level of game play of the gaming consoles.
  22. 22. The gaming system of claim 16, wherein the gaming system determines the current player to be eligible to reserve the gaming console dependent on a player history of the current player.
  23. 23. The gaming system of claim 13, wherein the predetermined period of time is variable depending on at least one of the player identifier and data associated with the player identifier.
  24. 24. The gaming system of claim 23, wherein the data associated with the player identifier comprises tradeable units and wherein the system is operable to trade the tradeable units for reservation of a gaming console.
  25. 25. The gaming system of claim 24, wherein the system is operable to trade the tradeable units in proportion to the time that the gaming console remains reserved.
  26. 26. A gaming console comprising a display and a user interface in communication with a game controller for providing a game in which a plurality of playing elements are selected and a number of outcomes is defined within said plurality of playing elements, and if a winning combination of playing elements occurs in at least one of said outcomes the game controller causes the award of an award, the player having wagered one or more credits held in a credit meter of the gaming console to play the game, the gaming consoles further comprising player tracking apparatus operable to receive an identifier from a current player of the console and a communication interface to enable transmission and reception of information with a remote communication device, wherein upon a predetermined action by the current player when the credit meter has credits on it, the gaming console becomes reserved by preventing play of the gaming console by any player other than a player with the same identifier for a predetermined period time, and wherein if the predetermined period of time expires, the gaming console automatically transmits data onto the communication interface that specifies the amount on the credit meter, clears the credit meter and ceases the reserve.
  27. 27. The gaming console of claim 26, wherein the gaming console awaits receipt of information on the communication interface that the data that specifies the amount on the credit meter has been received by a device remote from the gaming console before clearing the credit meter and ceasing the reserve.
  28. 28. A gaming console comprising a display and a user interface in communication with a game controller for providing a game in which a plurality of playing elements are selected and a number of outcomes is defined within said plurality of playing elements, and if a winning combination of playing elements occurs in at least one of said outcomes the game controller causes the award of an award, the player having wagered one or more credits held in a credit meter of the gaming console to play the game, the gaming console further comprising player tracking apparatus operable to receive an identifier from a current player of the console and a communication interface to enable communication with a remote device, wherein upon a predetermined action by the current player when the credit meter has credits on it, the gaming console is reserved by preventing play of the gaming console by any player other than a player with the same identifier for a predetermined period time, information indicating the credits on the credit meter is sent by the communication interface and the credit meter is cleared, wherein if the predetermined period of time expires the reserve ceases and if a player with the same identifier returns to the gaming console during the predetermined period of time, the gaming console allows play of the game.
  29. 29. The gaming console of claim 28, wherein if a player with the same identifier returns to the gaming console during the predetermined period of time, the console indicates this by transmitting information on its communication interface and then receives information on its communication interface, and in response thereto adds credits to the credit meter.
US11441315 2003-06-19 2006-05-25 Cashless reservation system Abandoned US20070032295A1 (en)

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