US20070197275A1 - Gaming machine interfaceable with collectible gaming token - Google Patents

Gaming machine interfaceable with collectible gaming token Download PDF

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Publication number
US20070197275A1
US20070197275A1 US11/573,690 US57369005A US2007197275A1 US 20070197275 A1 US20070197275 A1 US 20070197275A1 US 57369005 A US57369005 A US 57369005A US 2007197275 A1 US2007197275 A1 US 2007197275A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
information
gaming machine
token
method
player
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Abandoned
Application number
US11/573,690
Inventor
Mark Gagner
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Bally Gaming Inc
Original Assignee
WMS Gaming Inc
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US60173504P priority Critical
Application filed by WMS Gaming Inc filed Critical WMS Gaming Inc
Priority to US11/573,690 priority patent/US20070197275A1/en
Priority to PCT/US2005/028645 priority patent/WO2006020811A2/en
Publication of US20070197275A1 publication Critical patent/US20070197275A1/en
Assigned to WMS GAMING INC. reassignment WMS GAMING INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: GAGNER, MARK B.
Assigned to BALLY GAMING, INC. reassignment BALLY GAMING, INC. MERGER (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: WMS GAMING INC.
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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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
    • G07F1/00Coin inlet arrangements; Coins specially adapted to operate coin-freed mechanisms
    • G07F1/06Coins specially adapted to operate coin-freed mechanisms
    • 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
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • G07F17/3216Construction aspects of a gaming system, e.g. housing, seats, ergonomic aspects
    • G07F17/3218Construction aspects of a gaming system, e.g. housing, seats, ergonomic aspects wherein at least part of the system is portable
    • 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
    • G07F17/3251Payment aspects of a gaming system, e.g. payment schemes, setting payout ratio, bonus or consolation prizes involving media of variable value, e.g. programmable cards, programmable tokens

Abstract

A gaming machine for conducting a wagering game controlled by a processor dispenses, receives, and interacts with collectible portable tracking devices, or tokens. The gaming machine includes a token dispenser, a token receiver and an interface. Each token is equipped with a computer readable storage medium adapted to either directly store game play information or store a player identifier which can be used to retrieve game play information from the game machine. The interface of the gaming machine facilitates communication between the computer readable storage medium and the processor. The token has a theme associated with the theme of the gaming machine. The token also includes a receiver and an information indicator for receiving and communicating gameplay or casino information to the player.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention relates generally to gaming machines and, more particularly, to a gaming machine which interfaces with a collectible gaming token capable of storing game play information, and notifying players of gaming information.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Gaming machines, such as slot machines, video poker machines and the like, have been a cornerstone of the gaming industry for several years. Generally, the popularity of such machines with players is dependent on the likelihood (or perceived likelihood) of winning money at the machine and the intrinsic entertainment value of the machine relative to other available gaming options. Where the available gaming options include a number of competing machines and the expectation of winning each machine is roughly the same (or believed to be the same), players are most likely to be attracted to the most entertaining and exciting of the machines. Shrewd operators consequently strive to employ the most entertaining and exciting machines available because such machines attract frequent play and hence increase profitability to the operator.
  • One concept which has been successfully employed to enhance the entertainment value of a game is the concept of a “secondary” or “bonus” game which may be played in conjunction with a “basic” game. The bonus game may comprise any type of game, either similar to or completely different from the basic game, which is entered upon the occurrence of a selected event or outcome of the basic game. Generally, bonus games provide a greater expectation of winning than the basic game and may also be accompanied with more attractive or unusual video displays and/or audio. Because the bonus game concept offers tremendous advantages in player appeal and excitement relative to other known games, and because such games are attractive to both players and operators, there is a continuing need to develop gaming machines with new types of bonus games to satisfy the demands of players and operators.
  • Gaming machines reward players by granting and distributing a payout when a predetermined winning combination is achieved. Gaming machines frequently have a payout schedule providing a variety of payouts for various winning combinations. However, traditional gaming machines fail to provide the player with desirable intangible awards or prizes.
  • Furthermore, traditionally, a player playing a gaming machine is largely anonymous to the gaming machine. Although player tracking cards and similar devices evolved, these devices generally track only information relating to casino operations. For example, a player tracking card may track how long a player plays at a particular gaming machine. However, these technologies do not store and track game play information, which is extremely valuable to gaming machine producers. These technologies also do not communicate with the gaming machine's processor, and exchange information with the gaming machine's system memory.
  • Thus, a need exists for a portable tracking device which interacts with the processor controlling the gaming machine, and allows gaming machines to track, store, and restore game play information. A need also exists for a gaming machine which dispenses an aesthetically pleasing, collectible game token to a player, wherein the token stores game play information. Additionally, a need exists for a portable tracking device which is capable of remotely receiving notifications and other information relating to gaming machines, game play, or casino information. The present invention is directed to satisfying these needs and solving other problems.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • In accordance with the foregoing, a gaming machine for conducting a wagering game includes a game display for displaying the wagering game. The gaming machine is controlled by a processor. The gaming machine further includes a token interface connecting the processor with a collectible portable tracking device or token. According to one aspect of the invention, the token is collectible by the player and has a theme associated with the theme of the gaming machine. The collectible token can take on many forms including tickets, cards, charms, clothing accessories, jewelry or other objects.
  • According to another aspect of the invention, the gaming machine further includes a token dispenser. The dispenser dispenses tokens to the player based upon predetermined winning outcomes of the gaming machine or other criteria executed by the processor. Alternatively, the dispenser dispenses vouchers that the player can redeem for a portable tracking device or token.
  • According to another aspect of the invention, the token includes a computer readable storage medium for storing game play information. The processor can interact with the computer readable storage medium, via the interface, to both store and retrieve game play information from the token.
  • According to yet another aspect of the invention, the token includes a receiver and an information indicator. The receiver receives game play information transmitted to the token, while the information indicator notifies the player of the game play information received by the token.
  • Additional aspects of the invention will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art in view of the detailed description of various embodiments, which is made with reference to the drawings, a brief description of which is provided below.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the gaming machine of the present invention;
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a control system suitable for operating the gaming machine of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the portable tracking device, or token, of the present invention;
  • FIG. 4 is a flow chart of the operation of the gaming machine of FIG. 1, showing the interaction of the portable tracking device, or token, with the gaming machine; and
  • FIG. 5 is a flow chart of the operation of the gaming machine of FIG. 1, showing the gaming machine notifying the player of gaming information through the portable tracking device.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail preferred embodiments of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the broad aspect of the invention to the embodiments illustrated.
  • Referring to FIG. 1, a gaming machine 10 is used in gaming establishments such as casinos. With regard to the present invention, the gaming machine 10 may be any type of gaming machine and may have varying structures and methods of operation. For example, the gaming machine 10 may be a mechanical gaming machine configured to play mechanical slots, or it may be an electromechanical or electrical gaming machine configured to play a video casino game, such as blackjack, slots, keno, poker, etc.
  • The gaming machine 10 comprises a housing 11 and includes input devices, including a value input device 20 and a player input device 16. For output the gaming machine 10 includes a primary display 12 for displaying information about the basic wagering game. The primary display 12 can also display information about a bonus wagering game and a progressive wagering game. The gaming machine 10 also includes a secondary display 14 for displaying the bonus wagering game, or for displaying award amounts of a progressive game. The gaming machine 10 may also utilize the secondary display 14 for displaying game events, game outcomes, and/or signage information. While these typical components found in the gaming machine 10 are described below, it should be understood that numerous other elements may exist and may be used in any number of combinations to create various forms of a gaming machine 10.
  • The value input device 20 may be provided in many forms, individually or in combination, and is preferably located on the front of the housing 11. The value input device 20 receives currency and/or credits which are inserted by a player. The value input device 20 may include a coin acceptor 20 a for receiving coin currency (see FIG. 1). Alternatively, or in addition, the value input device 20 may include a bill acceptor 20 b for receiving cash. Furthermore, the value input device 20 may include a ticket reader, or barcode scanner, for reading information stored on a credit ticket, a card, or other tangible portable credit storage device. The credit ticket or card may also authorize access to a central account, which can transfer money to the gaming machine 10.
  • The player input device 16 comprises a plurality of push buttons on a button panel for operating the gaming machine 10. In addition, or alternatively, the player input device 16 may comprise a touch screen mounted by adhesive, tape, or the like over the primary display 12. The touch screen contains soft touch keys 18 denoted by graphics on the underlying primary display 12 and used to operate the gaming machine 10. The touch screen provides players with an option on how to make their game selections. A player enables a desired function either by touching the touch screen at an appropriate touch key 18 or by pressing an appropriate push button 16 on the button panel. The touch keys 18 may be used to implement the same functions as push buttons 16. Alternatively, the push button panel 16 provides inputs for one aspect of the operating the game, while the touch screen keys 18 allow for input needed for another aspect of the game.
  • Continuing with FIG. 1, the gaming machine 10 also includes a token dispenser 30, preferably mounted on a front side of the housing 11. The token dispenser 30 is controlled by a processor of the gaming machine 10 to dispense a token 40 or portable tracking device (see FIG. 3), upon the occurrence of certain predefined criteria or game outcomes in the playing of the wagering game on the gaming machine 10. In this way, the gaming machine 10 dispenses a token 40 to the player through the token dispenser 30 on the gaming machine 10. Preferably, the token 40 is dispensed by the gaming machine 10 as a reward or prize associated with certain winning game outcomes or award accumulations. In the alternative, the gaming machine 10 may dispense a voucher, in the form of a ticket, card, coupon, or other device, which the player can redeem elsewhere to receive the token 40. Redemption may be accomplished directly in the casino, or host, or indirectly through remote redemption locations, either in person or through the mail or other commercial means (Internet, e-mail, etc.) The gaming machine 10 also includes a token interface 32, also preferably mounted on the front side of the housing 11, preferably proximate the token dispenser 30. The token interface 32 receives and interfaces with a token 40, or portable tracking device (see FIG. 3) inserted or connected by the player and places the token 40 in communication with the processor of the gaming machine 10, such that the processor 15 may communicate with at least one computer readable storage medium 44 on board of the token 40 (described in greater detail in relation to FIG. 3). It should be recognized that depending upon the configuration of the token 40, the token interface 32 and token dispenser 30 may be configured to be integral, or even the same device.
  • The various components of the gaming machine 10 may be connected directly to, or contained within, the housing 11, as seen in FIG. 1, or may be located outboard of the housing 11 and connected to the housing 11 via a variety of different connection methods well known in the art, including network connections, wireless connections, or other hardwired or remote connections. Thus, the gaming machine 10 comprises these components whether housed in the housing 11, or outboard of the housing 11 and connected remotely. Preferably, the primary display 12, secondary display 14, value input device 20, player input device 16, token dispenser 30, and token receiver 32 of the gaming machine 10 are visible from outside of the housing 11 of the gaming machine 10, as seen in FIG. 1.
  • The operation of the basic wagering game is displayed to the player on the primary display 12. The primary display 12 can also display the bonus game associated with the basic wagering game. The primary display 12 may take the form of a cathode ray tube (CRT), a high resolution LCD, a plasma display, a LED, or any other type of video display suitable for use in the gaming machine 10. As shown, the primary display 12 includes the touch screen overlaying the entire monitor (or a portion thereof) to allow players to make game-related selections. Alternatively, the gaming machine 10 may have a number of mechanical reels to display the outcome. In the illustrated embodiment, the gaming machine 10 is an “upright” version in which the primary display 12 is oriented vertically relative to the player. Alternatively, the gaming machine may be a “slant-top” version in which the primary display 12 is slanted at about a thirty-degree angle toward the player of the gaming machine 10.
  • A player begins play of the basic wagering game by inserting a wager input into the value input device 20 of the gaming machine 10. A player can select play by using the player input device 16 or the touch screen keys 18. The basic game consists of a plurality of symbols on reels that are displayed along at least one payline 13, yielding a plurality of outcomes of the basic game. Such outcomes are randomly selected in response to the wagering input by the player. At least one of the plurality of randomly-selected outcomes is a start-bonus outcome, which can include any variations of symbols or symbol combinations triggering a bonus game.
  • Turning now to FIG. 2, the various components of the gaming machine 10 are controlled by a central processing unit (CPU) 15, also referred to as a processor (such as a microprocessor or microcontroller). To provide gaming functions, the processor 15 executes one or more game programs. The processor 15 performs the random selection (using a random number generator (RNG)) of an outcome from the plurality of outcomes of the wagering game. Alternatively, the random event may be generated remotely at a remote computer. The remote computer may use either an RNG or pooling schema for its central determination of a game outcome. It should be appreciated that the processor 15 may include one ore more microprocessors, including but not limited to a master processor, a slave processor, and a secondary or parallel processor.
  • The processor 15 is also coupled to or includes a system memory 19 and a money/credit detector 17. The system memory 19 may comprise a volatile memory (e.g., a random-access memory (RAM)) and a non-volatile memory 34 (e.g., an EEPROM). The money/credit detector 17 signals the processor 15 that money and/or credits have been input via the value input device 20. The system memory 19 may include multiple RAM and multiple program memories. Preferably, these components are located within the housing 11 of the gaming machine 10 and not visible externally. However, as explained above, these components may be located outboard of the housing 11 and connected to the remainder of the components of the gaming machine 10 via a variety of different connection methods well known in the art, including network connections, wireless connections, or other hardwired or remote connections.
  • As seen in FIG. 2, the processor 15 is also connected to, and controls, the primary display 12, the player input device 16, and a pay off mechanism 22. The pay off mechanism 22 is operable in response to instructions from the processor 15 to award a payoff to the player in response to certain winning outcomes that might occur in the basic or the bonus game. The payoff may be provided in the form of points, bills, tickets, coupons, cards, etc. For example, in FIG. 1, the payoff mechanism 22 includes both a ticket printer 22 a and a coin outlet 22 b. However, any of a variety of pay off mechanisms 22 well known in the art may be implemented, including cards, coins, tickets, smartcards, cash, etc. The pay off amounts distributed by the payoff mechanism 22 are determined by one or more pay tables stored in the system memory 19.
  • The processor 15 is connected to the token interface 32 which in turn may be placed in communication with a token 40. In this way, the token interface 32 signals the processor 15 that a token 40 has been received in the token interface 32, and permits communication between the token 40 and the processor 15, which may be either wired or wireless communications. The processor 15 is also connected to the token dispenser 30, to signal the dispenser 30 to dispense a token 40 upon the occurrence of a predetermined winning outcome. The token dispenser 30 also interfaces with the token 40 prior to dispensing the token 40, such that the processor 15 may communicate gaming information to the token 40, to be stored on the computer readable storage medium 44 (see FIG. 3). In one embodiment, the token 40 does not store game related information directly, but rather only stores a player or account identifier which is associated with certain game related information stored elsewhere.
  • Communications between the peripheral components of the gaming machine 10 and the processor 15 occur through input/output (I/O) circuits 23 a. As such, the processor 15 also controls and receives inputs from the peripheral components of the gaming machine 10. Further, the processor 15 communicates with external systems 50 via the I/O circuits 23 b. Although the I/O circuits 23 may be shown as a single block, it should be appreciated that the I/O circuits 23 may include a number of different types of I/O circuits.
  • The gaming machine 10 dispenses a collectible gaming token 40 capable of storing game play information and notifying players of gaming information. An example of the token 40 is depicted in FIG. 3. The token 40 comprises a body 42, a computer readable storage medium 44, a receiver 46, and an information indicator 48. As seen in FIG. 3, the body 42 of the token 40 comprises a three-dimensional, portable object. Preferably, the body 42 of the token 40 includes features or portions decorated with the theme of the gaming machine 10. In this way, the token 40 has a theme and the gaming machine 10 has a theme, and the two themes are similar, shared, or complementary. For example, the theme of the gaming machine 10 may be related to a particular board game such as the popular MONOPOLY™ board game. MONOPOLY™ is a registered trademark owned by and used with permission by Hasbro, Inc. and Hasbro International, Inc., Pawtucket, R. I. Nevertheless, it will be appreciated that the gaming machine 10 may be implemented with any of several other board game themes other than MONOPOLY™. The body 42 of the token 40, in such a case, may then be a character, playing piece, or figurine associated with the MONOPOLY™ board game. As seen in FIG. 3, for example, the token 40 has a body 42 which resembles the Rich Uncle Pennybags character of the MONOPOLY™ board game. In the most preferred embodiment of the invention, the body 42 of the token 40 comprises a figurine of a character, game piece, game element, or other object associated with the theme of the gaming machine 10. However, it should be understood that the token 40 may take on a variety of three-dimensional forms without departing from the spirit of the present invention. The theme of the gaming machine 10 and the theme of the token 40 may also take on various other themes including those of board games, game shows, television shows, movies, or other audio-visual and entertainment devices. Preferably, the theme of the token 40 is directly related to or associated with the theme of the gaming machine 10.
  • The token 40 further includes a computer readable storage medium 44 connected to, or embedded within, the body 42. The computer readable storage medium 44 may be one of many well-known storage mediums in the art including, but not limited to, RAM, ROM, magnetic stripes, Smartcard devices, etc. All that is necessary is that the computer readable storage medium 44 be capable of storing information and be readable by the processor 15 of the gaming machine 10.
  • As seen in FIG. 3, an information indicator 48 is also connected to, or embedded within, the body 42 of the token 40. The information indicator 48 is capable of communicating gaming information stored in the computer readable storage medium 44 on the token 40, or received by the token's receiver 46 (described below). The information indicator 48 conveys gaming information through the token 40 to the player, either in visual form, auditory form, or tactile form. In one preferred embodiment, the information indicator 48 comprises a visual display in the form of text fixed on the body 42 of the token, along with variable indicators proximate to the text. For example, the fixed text may be written on one surface of the body 42, with a corresponding LED serving as a variable indicator next to the text. Activation of the information indicator 48 occurs by lighting the LED corresponding to the fixed text to be conveyed. Alternatively, the information display 48 may be a video display comprising an LCD or other video display screen. All that is preferred is that the video display have at least some variable indicating component such that the gaming information displayed by the information indicator 48 can be varied. Furthermore, the information indicator 48 may be a vibration element providing tactile notification of gaming information to the player. In yet another embodiment, the information indicator 48 may convey the information audibly to the player, for example using a speaker or headphones.
  • The token 40 further includes a remote receiver 46 connected to, or embedded within, the body 42 of the token 40, and in communication with the information indicator 48. Alternatively, or additionally, the receiver 46 may be in communication with the computer readable storage medium 44. The receiver 46 receives gaming information communications from either the gaming machine 10 or casino thereby allowing the gaming information to be communicated to the player through the token's information indicator 48. The receiver 46 may take on one of any variety of well-known receiving mechanisms in the art, and may be either wireless or a physical connection. Preferably, the receiver 46 a is a wireless receiver and takes the form of an antenna for receiving wireless signals (see FIG. 3). In the most preferred embodiment, the receiver 46 is an RFID transponder. If the receiver 46 b employs a physical connection, the receiver 46 b may be appropriately located on the exterior of the body 42 of the token 40 such that the receiver 46 b may be connected to, or interfaced with, the token interface 32 (see FIG. 1). In this way, the receiver 46 b may be an Ethernet port, a serial port, a parallel port, or one of many well known physical connection apparatuses for transferring computer information. Thus, as seen in FIG. 3, the receiver 46 can either be a wireless antennae device 46 a or a physical coupling port 46 b.
  • Turning to FIG. 4, the interaction of the gaming machine 10 with the collectible token 40 is depicted. Upon the occurrence of a certain preselected winning game outcome, gaming machine 10 awards the player by dispensing a collectible token 40 via the token dispenser 30. Prior to dispensing, the processor 15 of the gaming machine 10 may interact with the computer readable storage medium 44 on the token 40 to transfer and store to certain gaming information onto the token 40. More specifically, gaming information may be transferred from the system memory 19 to the computer readable storage medium 44 on the token 40 by the processor 15. Thus, when the token 40 is dispensed to the player, the computer readable storage medium 44 may contain gaming information in a portable format that the player can take away the machine 10.
  • The gaming information that can be stored on the computer readable storage medium 44 can include any information relating to the play of the wagering game. For example, information relating to past plays of the game, including the player's previous wins, winning hands, bonus awards, prizes collected, etc. may be stored on the token 40. Other gaming or game play information may include jackpot information (jackpots won, size of jackpots, etc.), progressive information (size of progressive jackpots, history of progressive jackpots awarded, etc.), player information (friends or associates currently in the casino playing gaming machines, friends past performance on machines, gatherings of players for play, etc.) and gaming machine availability information (gaming machines which are available for play, gaming machine usage data, tournament information, etc.) In addition to these enumerated forms of gaming information, those skilled in the art will recognize many different variations of gaming or game play information desirable to be transmitted to the collectible token 40.
  • The gaming information stored in the computer readable storage medium 44 on the token 40 can also be displayed on the display, or information indicator 48, of the token 40. Thus, the token 40 serves as a portable device for the player to transport and track gaming information. This provides an attractive feature in that the player can demonstrate his prowess at a particular game to his friends, relatives, etc., and thus provides a mechanism for the player to exercise “bragging rights” relating to the gaming machine 10. Other gaming information which may be stored on the token 40 may include collectible game awards, or “assets,” which may be collected over multiple plays of the wagering game may be stored for use in future sessions. In this way, the token 40 serves as a memory device which, when reconnected or received by the token interface 32 of the gaming machine 10, restores certain features of the wagering game. Therefore, the computer readable storage medium 44 of the token 40 may be used to allow certain features of the wagering game to persist over multiple gaming sessions. Alternatively to storing gaming information directly on the token 40, the token 40 may store an account or player identifier which is associated with a specific player. The account identifier is transferred from the token 40 to the gaming machine 10, and the processor 15 associates the identifier with a player's account, accesses that account, and restores certain gaming information from the account. Thus, in such an alternate embodiment, the game play information is stored on the gaming machine 10 (or other remote location) rather than on the token 40, and is accessed by reading the account identifier stored on the token 40.
  • As seen in FIG. 4, the components of the gaming machine 10 permit the token 40 to be inserted into, or reconnected with, the gaming machine 10 such that gaming information stored on the computer readable storage medium 44 of the token 40 may be accessed by the processor 15. More specifically, a player possessing a collectible token 40 may insert the token 40 into the token interface 32 on the gaming machine 10 upon initiating a gaming session. The token interface 32 accepts and interfaces with the token 40, and places the token 40 communication with the processor 15, permitting communication between the processor 15 of the gaming machine 10 and the computer readable storage medium 44 on the token 40. Therefore, gaming information stored on computer readable storage medium 44 is transferred, via the token interface 32, to the gaming machine 10, preferably to the system memory 19. As stated above, the transferred gaming information may be used to restore certain features or player preferences of the wagering game. The gaming machine 10 is then ready for play by the player who inserts money or credits through the value input device 20, and initiates a play of the game.
  • The token dispenser 30 and token interface 32 may take on a variety of different forms, however, the form of these devices employed in the gaming machine 10 will depend upon the particular computer readable storage medium 44 employed by the token 40. For example, if the computer readable storage medium 44 on the token 40 is a “smart card” storage device, then the token interface 32 will comprise a “smart card” reader. Similarly, if the computer readable storage medium 44 on the token 40 is a magnetic stripe, then the token interface 32 will comprise a magnetic stripe reading device and associated connector. It should be understood that the communication between the computer readable storage medium 44 and the processor 15 may occur through either direct connection or one of many well-known wireless methods. Thus, the token interface 32 may be a wireless transceiver to send and receive wireless transmissions of gaming information to and from the token 40.
  • Turning now to FIG. 5, the token 40 may also be used to provide player notification of various gaming events, information, or casino related information. Player notification may be accomplished through direct connection of the token 40 with the gaming machine 10 (via the token interface 32), however, is most preferably accomplished remotely. Therefore, the receiver 46 on the token 40 is configured to receive gaming and/or casino information broadcast wirelessly. The receiver 46 on the token 40 may take on a variety of different wireless receivers but preferably is an RFID transponder. Gaming and/or casino information may be broadcast from either a particular gaming machine 10, or from one or more central locations within the casino, or host facility. Furthermore, such information may be broadcast to a specific token 40 using a unique identifier stored on, or associated with, the token 40, or maybe globally broadcast to one or more groups of tokens 40. A token 40 receiving a broadcast of gaming and/or casino information receives the information via its receiver 46. Once received, the information is either stored in the computer readable storage medium 44 for later use, or directly forwarded to the information indicator 48 for prompt player notification. Thus, if information received is to be immediately indicated to the player, the computer readable storage medium 44 may be bypassed. However, the information may be simultaneously sent to the information indicator 48 and the computer readable storage medium 44. Of course, any information stored within the computer readable storage medium 44 may be sent to the information indicator 48 for transmission to the player at any time, regardless of when such information was received. The token 40 is configured to produce a notification signal, via the information indicator 48, to the player. As discussed above, the form of the notification signal will be dependent on form of the information indicator 48 on the token. If the token 40 employs an information indicator 48 that is a visual display, a visual signal is activated. Similarly, if the token 40 employs an information indicator 48 that is a vibration device or a sound device, a tactile or auditory signal, respectively, is activated.
  • The present invention provides an award system for gaming machine players that has substantial advantages over traditional awards. Of significant importance is the collectibility of the token 40, which is accomplished by the theme incorporated into the body 42 of the token. The theme provides the token 40 with an aesthetically pleasing appearance which encourages the player to carry, wear, or otherwise keep the token 40 on his person. Given the very small sizes of receivers 46, information indicators 48, and storage mediums 44 available today, the body 42 of the token 40 can be configured to be quite small. Thus, the body 42 of the token 40 may be configured to be in the three-dimensional shape of earrings, a necklace, a charm, a ring, a bracelet, or many other forms of jewelry. The token 40 can also take on forms such that is an apparel accessory including, but not limited to, a belt buckle, a pin, a tie clip, a cuff link, etc. This provides the manufacturer of the gaming machine 10, as well as the casino or host, with an opportunity for advertising gaming machine product through the themed token 40, which is carried or worn even outside of the casino. The opportunities for advertising are further increased when the player exercises “bragging rights” by using the token 40 to display stored gaming information to friends and family. Using the information indicator 48, the player may display gaming information stored on the computer readable storage medium 44 to whomever he or she chooses. Moreover, the player notification feature of the token 40 provides an opportunity to advertise to the player gaming and/or casino information such as sizes of jackpots, recent payouts, tournament information, etc. The player notification feature can also be used to notify players when a player's friends and family are playing certain gaming machines, or in certain casinos/hosts. In this way, a player will be encouraged to play a gaming machine 10 with his or her friends, family, etc.
  • Each of these embodiments and obvious variations thereof is contemplated as falling within the spirit and scope of the claimed invention, which is set forth in the following claims.

Claims (45)

1. A gaming machine for conducting a wagering game, comprising:
a processor for executing the wagering game, and;
a dispenser for dispensing at least one of a voucher and a collectible token, the token having a theme associated with a theme of the gaming machine, the voucher redeemable for the collectible token.
2. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the token is an article of jewelry.
3. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the token is wearable.
4. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the token is a figurine associated with the theme of the gaming machine.
5. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the token is a three dimensional character of the theme of the gaming machine.
6. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the token has a computer readable storage medium which communicates with the processor.
7. The gaming machine of claim 6, wherein the computer readable storage medium stores gameplay information received from the processor.
8. The gaming machine of claim 7, wherein the gameplay information is selected from the group consisting of jackpot information, progressive information, player information and gaming machine availability information.
9. A gaming machine for conducting a wagering game, comprising:
a processor for executing the wagering game, and;
an interface connecting the processor with a portable tracking device, the tracking device having a computer readable storage medium, the tracking device further having a theme associated with a theme of the gaming machine.
10. The gaming machine of claim 9, wherein the computer readable storage medium stores gameplay information.
11. The gaming machine of claim 9, wherein the computer readable storage medium stores an account identifier.
12. The gaming machine of claim 11, wherein the account identifier is associated with gameplay information stored on the gaming machine.
13. The gaming machine of claim 10, wherein the gameplay information is selected from the group consisting of jackpot information, progressive information, player information and gaming machine availability information.
14. The gaming machine of claim 12, wherein the gameplay information is selected from the group consisting of jackpot information, progressive information, player information and gaming machine availability information.
15. The gaming machine of claim 9, further comprising a dispenser.
16. The gaming machine of claim 15, wherein the dispenser dispenses at least one of a voucher and the portable tracking device, wherein the voucher is redeemable for the portable tracking device.
17. The gaming machine of claim 9, wherein the theme of the gaming machine is selected from the group consisting of a board game, a game show, a television show, and a movie.
18. A method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine controlled by a processor, comprising:
receiving a wager from a player to play the game; and
dispensing a portable tracking device to the player, the portable tracking device having a computer readable storage medium in communication with the processor.
19. The method of claim 18 further comprising the step of transferring gameplay information to the computer readable storage medium through the processor.
20. The method of claim 18 further comprising the step of storing a player identifier in the computer readable storage medium.
21. The method of claim 20, wherein the player identifier is associated with gameplay information stored within the gaming machine.
22. The method of claim 19, wherein the gameplay information is selected from the group consisting of jackpot information, progressive information, player information and gaming machine availability information.
23. The method of claim 21, wherein the gameplay information is selected from the group consisting of jackpot information, progressive information, player information and gaming machine availability information.
24. The method of claim 18, wherein the portable tracking device is dispensed from the gaming machine.
25. The method of claim 18, wherein the portable tracking device has a theme associated with a theme of the gaming machine.
26. The method of claim 24, wherein the portable tracking device has a theme associated with a theme of the gaming machine.
27. The method of claim 26, wherein the theme of the gaming machine is selected from the group consisting of a board game, a game show, a television show, and a movie.
28. The method of claim 18, further comprising receiving the portable tracking device, transferring information from the computer readable storage medium to the processor, and adjusting the status of the gaming machine based upon the information received.
29. The method of claim 28, wherein the information transferred from the computer readable storage medium to the processor is one of gameplay information and a player identifier.
30. A method of notifying a player of gameplay information pertaining to a gaming machine, comprising:
providing the player a token having a receiver and an information indicator;
transmitting gameplay information to the receiver; and
activating the information indicator to notify the player regarding the gameplay information.
31. The method of claim 30, wherein the gameplay information is selected from the group consisting of jackpot information, progressive information, player information and gaming machine availability information.
32. The method of claim 30, wherein the information indicator is a visual display.
33. The method of claim 32, further comprising the step of displaying the gameplay information on the visual display.
34. The method of claim 30, wherein the providing step includes dispensing the token from the gaming machine.
35. The method of claim 34, wherein the token has a theme associated with a theme of the gaming machine.
36. The method of claim 30, wherein the receiver is a radio frequency identification transponder.
37. The method of claim 30, wherein the token includes a computer readable storage medium, wherein the computer readable storage medium stores a player identifier.
38. The method of claim 37, wherein gameplay information associated with the player identifier is transmitted to the receiver.
39. The method of claim 37, wherein the token includes a visual display, wherein gameplay information associated with the player identifier is displayed on the visual display.
40. The method of claim 32, wherein the visual display includes at least one LED.
41. The method of claim 32, wherein the visual display is an LCD.
42. The method of claim 30, wherein the token is a telecommunications device.
43. The method of claim 42, wherein the telecommunications device is selected from the group consisting of a mobile telephone, a pager, a personal daily assistant, and a text communication device.
44. The method of claim 30, wherein the information indicator comprises a vibration device.
45. The method of claim 30, wherein the information indicator emits an auditory signal.
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