US20070293320A1 - Broadcast gaming - Google Patents

Broadcast gaming Download PDF

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Publication number
US20070293320A1
US20070293320A1 US11/445,070 US44507006A US2007293320A1 US 20070293320 A1 US20070293320 A1 US 20070293320A1 US 44507006 A US44507006 A US 44507006A US 2007293320 A1 US2007293320 A1 US 2007293320A1
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gaming
player
activity
method
time
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US11/445,070
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Binh Nguyen
Craig Paulsen
Brian Underdahl
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IGT Inc
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IGT Inc
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Priority to US11/445,070 priority Critical patent/US20070293320A1/en
Assigned to IGT reassignment IGT ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: NGUYEN, BINH, PAULSEN, CRAIG, UNDERDAHL, BRIAN
Publication of US20070293320A1 publication Critical patent/US20070293320A1/en
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
    • G07F17/326Game play aspects of gaming systems
    • G07F17/3269Timing aspects of game play, e.g. blocking/halting the operation of a gaming machine
    • 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
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • G07F17/3223Architectural aspects of a gaming system, e.g. internal configuration, master/slave, wireless communication

Abstract

The present invention provides a novel broadcast gaming methods and devices. Some implementations involve broadcasting real-time video streams of game content to a player's receiver, such as a television, a mobile phone, a computer, etc. Various games may be simultaneously broadcast on separate channels. Players can purchase time slots during which the players will passively participate in the wins or losses of a game. Alternatively, players may elect to financially participate in a predetermined number of games. Based on the outcomes of games in which a player participates, a player's pre-established account is either debited or credited. Players may view gaming content at the time of broadcast or record it for later viewing.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present disclosure relates to gaming devices and methods.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Television is now available to billions of people throughout the world. Watching television broadcasts has traditionally been a passive experience for viewers. For most viewers, television viewing is still a one-way communication that consists of passively receiving entertainment content.
  • However, in some parts of the world and to varying degrees, television is becoming a two-way communications platform. For example, some cable services allow customers to view movies, athletic events or other content “on demand.” Viewers can interact with the television set or related peripheral devices in order to select entertainment content, authorize account charges, etc.
  • The term “interactive TV” (“iTV”) encompasses some such forms of using television as a two-way communications platform. iTV involves video programming that incorporates some degree of interactivity, e.g., with data on video, graphics on video, video within video, etc. To the viewer, iTV enhancements may appear as overlaid graphical and/or textual elements on the television screen. Some iTV technologies incorporate the data enhancements in the video MPEG stream such as HyperVideo. Specific reoccurring elements include icons, banners, labels, menus, interface structures, open text fields in which you can insert your email address, forms to fill out in order to buy a product, or commands to retrieve and manage video streams and graphics on a relevant Web page.
  • In Europe, iTV is currently being developed and implemented to facilitate interactive gaming, wherein the player interacts with an on-demand gaming system that offers casino-style gaming. For example, iTV is currently utilized for sports betting in the U.K. Similar methods are being deployed in Europe for casino-style gaming.
  • It seems likely that players in other jurisdictions would also be interested in using some form of interactive television for casino-type gaming, sports betting, or the like. For the foreseeable future, however, it seems unlikely that such uses of iTV will be permitted in most jurisdictions of the United States.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention provides novel broadcast gaming methods and devices. Some implementations involve broadcasting real-time video streams of game content to a player's receiver, such as a television, a mobile phone, a computer, etc. Various games may be simultaneously broadcast on separate channels. Players can purchase time slots during which the players will passively participate in the wins or losses of a game. Alternatively, players may elect to financially participate in a predetermined number of games. Based on the outcomes of games in which a player participates, a player's pre-established account is either debited or credited. Players may view gaming content at the time of broadcast or record it for later viewing.
  • Some implementations allow a player to establish predetermined “triggers” for ending their participation, e.g., when a loss amount or a win amount reaches a predetermined threshold. A player may arrange for financial participation in gaming activity while in a first jurisdiction wherein wagering on the broadcast games of chance is legal, yet the gaming content broadcasts may in some instances be viewed in a second jurisdiction wherein wagering on the broadcast games of chance may not be legal.
  • In some implementations, broadcast gaming content is based on games executed by a server. In other implementations, broadcasts are made from camera recordings of games, which may be slot games, table games or other types of wagering games. Some implementations involve purchasing a time slice during which a player may passively participate in gaming activities of another player.
  • Some gaming methods of the invention include the following steps: receiving a first indication that a first viewer will have a passive financial participation in the gaming activity; broadcasting the gaming activity during the first time slot; determining a first gaming activity outcome for the first time slot; and adjusting a first gaming account according to the first gaming activity outcome.
  • The gaming method can involve scheduling the gaming activity broadcast for the first time slot. A menu may be provided that indicates a plurality of gaming activities that will be broadcast during a corresponding plurality of time slots.
  • The gaming activity may comprise, for example, a slot game or a table game. The gaming activity may involve gaming decisions that are made during the first time slot. The gaming decisions can be made according to a rule set and/or by a gaming proxy.
  • The first indication may indicate a condition for terminating the first viewer's passive financial participation in the gaming activity before the end of the first time slot. The condition may be, for example, one or more of the following: (a) the passage of a predetermined time interval shorter than the first time slot; (b) the occurrence of a predetermined loss; and/or (c) the occurrence of a predetermined win.
  • The broadcasting step may involve making a recording of the gaming activity with a video camera and broadcasting the recording of the gaming activity. Alternatively, the broadcasting step may involve generating the gaming activity video from a game server and broadcasting the gaming activity video.
  • The gaming method may include the steps of determining that a bonusing event has occurred during the first time slot and of awarding a bonus. The bonusing event may be specific to the first viewer. The bonus may involve extending a time of passive financial participation in the gaming activity. The bonus may comprise a multiplier of the win amount for a certain time period.
  • The gaming method may involve these steps: receiving 2nd though Nth indications that 2nd though Nth viewers will have passive financial participation in the gaming activity; and adjusting 2nd though Nth gaming accounts according to the first gaming activity outcome.
  • The gaming method can include the step of displaying information that identifies the session being viewed. The information may comprise an on-screen clock, a session identifier, etc.
  • Alternative gaming methods of the invention include these steps: scheduling a plurality of gaming activities that will be broadcast during a corresponding plurality of time slots; providing a menu indicating the plurality of gaming activities and the corresponding plurality of time slots; and broadcasting the plurality of gaming activities during the corresponding plurality of time slots.
  • The menu may comprise a graphical user interface (“GUI”) that allows gaming activities to be selected for viewing. The GUI may comprise an on-screen guide and/or a 3-D casino environment. A simulated casino environment may be created through the use of images and sounds similar to what a player would experience in a live casino environment.
  • The GUI may allow the selection of gaming activities in which a user will have a passive financial participation. A user may be allowed (e.g., via the GUI) to indicate a condition for terminating a passive financial participation in a gaming activity before the end of a corresponding time slot (or before the end of the completion of a predetermined number of games). The condition may be, for example, at least one of the following: (a) the passage of a predetermined time interval; (b) the occurrence of a predetermined loss; or (c) the occurrence of a predetermined win.
  • Alternative gaming methods of the invention include the following steps: scheduling a plurality of gaming activities that will be broadcast during a corresponding plurality of time slots; providing a menu indicating the plurality of gaming activities and the corresponding plurality of time slots, the menu comprising a GUI that allows gaming activities to be selected for viewing and allows the selection of gaming activities in which a user will have a passive financial participation; verifying that a user is authorized to have a passive financial participation in gaming activities, the verifying step comprising a determination that the user is located within a first jurisdiction in which at least some of the gaming activities are legal and that the user meets age requirements of the first jurisdiction; receiving a first indication that a first user will have a passive financial participation in a first gaming activity scheduled for broadcast during a first time slot, the first gaming activity being legal within the first jurisdiction; broadcasting the first gaming activity during the first time slot; determining a first gaming activity outcome for the first time slot; and adjusting a first gaming account according to the first gaming activity outcome, the gaming account located within the first jurisdiction.
  • According to some such methods, the user may be able to view the gaming activity while the viewer is within a second jurisdiction. In the second jurisdiction, the first gaming activity may or may not be legal.
  • The present invention provides hardware that is configured to perform the methods of the invention, as well as software to control devices to perform these and other methods. These and other features of the present invention will be presented in more detail in the following detailed description of the invention and the associated figures.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 is a flow chart that outlines methods of broadcast gaming according to some implementations of the invention.
  • FIG. 2A is a flow chart that outlines methods of broadcast gaming according to alternative implementations of the invention.
  • FIG. 2B depicts a schedule of broadcast gaming on multiple channels according to some implementations of the invention.
  • FIG. 3 depicts the interactions of some exemplary networked components for providing broadcast gaming according to one implementation of the invention.
  • FIG. 4 depicts the interactions of some exemplary networked components for providing broadcast gaming according to another implementation of the invention.
  • FIG. 5 depicts the interactions of some exemplary networked components for providing broadcast gaming according to an alternative implementation of the invention.
  • FIG. 6 depicts the interactions of some exemplary networked components for providing broadcast gaming according to still another implementation of the invention.
  • FIG. 7 depicts the interactions of some exemplary networked components for providing broadcast gaming according to still another implementation of the invention.
  • FIG. 8 illustrates a network device that may be configured according to some aspects of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • In this application, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be obvious, however, to one skilled in the art, that the present invention may be practiced without some or all of these specific details. In other instances, well known process steps have not been described in detail in order not to obscure the present invention.
  • Some general features of one implementation of the invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 1. The steps of method 100 (as with other methods described herein) are not necessary all performed in the order indicated. For example, broadcasting step 130 may be a process that continues while other steps of the method are ongoing. Moreover, steps 135-145 may be performed at different times in various implementations, e.g., according to the level of player participation, when a particular player has recently participated in a game, etc.
  • In step 105, gaming content is created. The gaming content that is created in step 105 includes games of chance that will later be broadcast. This gaming content could originate from various sources. In some implementations, gaming content will be produced by a game server that generates game outcomes and associated audio and video data corresponding with these outcomes. Such a server should be in a secure environment to prevent tampering, with nearby activities monitored, logged and/or recorded, e.g., by one or more surveillance cameras.
  • In other implementations, digital content 105 is transmitted from a camera that records a game of chance such as a card game, a craps game, roulette, etc. In some such implementations, instead of generating slot game outcomes (or the like) on a game server, game content could be provided by a camera that records games played on a gaming machine. In alternative implementations, the games of chance may have previously been played and digital content 105 is provided in the form of a “re-run” of a previously-broadcast game program.
  • Some games of chance involve decision-making during the process of playing a game. However, in preferred implementations of the invention, there is no decision-making or other interaction on the part of viewers during game play. Instead, the viewers are passive participants in any type of gaming that is broadcast.
  • Accordingly, in some implementations of the invention, games of chance that are the subject matter of gaming content 105 may be performed according to predetermined rule sets. A player may, for example, be able to choose a relatively higher-risk rule set or a relatively lower-risk rule set. The rule set may be a known rule set for a particular game (e.g., a poker or blackjack rule set), etc, or the rule set can also come from a player's profile or predefined options. For example, in the game of Blackjack, the player may want to use a rule that says to always hit on 15, or in poker they may want to use a rule that says to fold unless they have at least a pair in the hole cards.
  • The rule set could be implemented by a person acting as a proxy, or by a machine (e.g., a host device, a gaming machine, etc.) that has been programmed to make decisions according to the selected rule set. Such decisions should be logged in order to make a record for dispute resolution, to create an audit trail, etc.
  • Whether according to a rule set or not, some implementations of the invention involve decision-making by one or more proxies acting on behalf of participating players. Such proxy implementations can add entertainment value and viewer interest on many different levels. For example, players could passively participate in a well-known poker player's broadcast poker game. Alternatively, a person (e.g., an attractive and/or famous person such as a model or a celebrity) could roll dice on behalf of players in a broadcast craps game or play other games of chance on behalf of participating players.
  • In some such implementations, viewers may select a proxy from among multiple players. Such implementations can provide additional viewer excitement because different viewers of the same broadcast may have chosen different players as their proxies. For example, in a broadcast poker tournament, several friends may have previously decided to choose different, competing players to be their proxies. The friends could select some or all of the same time slots and/or games and could, e.g., gather together to view the broadcast tournament. The resulting element of competition between the players' proxies would provide additional entertainment.
  • If a viewer has another player acting as a proxy, the player may not wish to financially participate at the same level as the proxy. For example, a player who has selected a proxy to play on the player's behalf during a poker tournament will generally not wish to bet at the same level as the bets made during the tournament. Therefore, in some such implementations, players' participation may be adjusted, scaled, or limited in some other way. For example, a player may financially participate in the game according to a predetermined bet per game, e.g., a predetermined bet per hand of poker. Alternatively, a player may select one or more “triggers,” discussed below with reference to FIG. 2, which will end a viewer's participation in a game.
  • In step 110, the gaming content is processed. The types of processing may vary according to the type of network used for broadcast or distribution of gaming content. Some examples will be discussed below. However, some form of encryption is desirable. Moreover, it will generally be desirable to have identifiable and uniform time intervals of the gaming content indicated (e.g., 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, etc.) by using time stamps or other such means. Such time intervals will sometimes be referred to herein as “time slots” or the like. Creating such identifiable time slots facilitates the process of licensing a player to view and/or participate in an identified portion of gaming content. In addition, identifying discrete time intervals facilitates the process of determining game results and therefore of player account reconciliation.
  • Some implementations of the invention prevent broadcasts to devices within jurisdictions in which the underlying type of gaming is not allowed. Accordingly, in optional step 115 the jurisdictions that may be receiving gaming broadcasts are evaluated. In optional step 120, it is determined whether certain jurisdictions will be able to receive broadcasts of gaming content. In optional step 125, broadcasts to selected jurisdictions are blocked.
  • These measures may be implemented, e.g., by a company responsible for distributing the gaming content, such as a telecommunications company, a cable company or other media distribution company. For example, a cable company should have a database indicating where its customers' cable modems are installed. Accordingly, a cable company could block gaming content broadcasts to addresses that are determined to be located within predetermined jurisdictions where such broadcasts will not be made.
  • However, in some implementations of the invention, gaming content can be viewed in any jurisdiction. In such implementations, actions made by players to financially participate in the gaming activities, account reconciliation, etc., should only be performed in jurisdictions in which the underlying gaming activities are legal. For example, a player could arrange, in advance, to participate in certain gaming activities and purchase one or more “time slices” while in Nevada. A player account could be maintained in Nevada and account reconciliation could also take place in Nevada. However, the player could view the broadcast gaming activities when the player is in any location. For example, if the player lives in California, all of the financial arrangements and transactions (such as game participation indications and account reconciliation) could be confined to Nevada, but the player could receive and/or view the broadcast games anywhere, including California.
  • In step 130, gaming content is broadcast to reproducing devices (e.g., televisions, cellular telephones, personal computers, etc.) in appropriate formats for those devices. Advertising content may be added to the gaming content in some implementations. For example, advertising content could correspond with known demographics of players who favor specific games. For example, energy drinks could be advertised in association with broadcasts of poker tournaments, both of which are popular with viewers in their twenties.
  • Some implementations provide a continuous, multi-channel broadcast of centrally determined games. These games could be broadcast according to a predetermined schedule. Players could make selections according to a program guide or the like, which indicates game options at different times. One such example is described below with reference to FIG. 2B.
  • In some implementations of the invention, gaming content is broadcast to all subscribers/customers who could potentially obtain a license to view and/or participate in the gaming in a “scrambled” format. When a viewer has obtained a license and a key to “de-scramble” a time interval of a broadcast, then the viewer can clearly see and hear the gaming content during that time interval.
  • In alternative implementations, at least some viewers (e.g., those who are accorded privileges due to high frequency of play, high betting amounts, higher subscription fees, etc.) may view gaming content at any time. However, such viewers will only financially participate during time intervals selected by the player or during “bonus” participation times described elsewhere herein. The times of a player's financial participation should be clearly indicated to a player, e.g., by a characteristic sound and/or visual indication on a display screen.
  • In step 135, participation of individual customers is determined. As previously noted, this could have previously occurred or could be occurring during an ongoing process in some implementations. For example, players within jurisdictions wherein the underlying games are legal could make viewing and game participation requests from their computer terminal, cellular telephone, television, etc., or from an associated peripheral device. These requests could be made in advance or while broadcasts are already being made to, and viewed by, other players.
  • In some preferred implementations, viewing of, and financial participation in, games may be pre-purchased. A player may choose, e.g., to pay a flat subscription fee or to pay varying amounts according to varying player participation levels. In alternative implementations, a player's account could be charged later, e.g., on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Some implementations involve a time-based approach and others involve a game-based approach. For example, a player may choose to financially participate in games that are broadcast during a predetermined time interval. Some players may elect to play their lucky channel, play at their lucky time, etc. In some implementations, players can play by subscription: a player may choose to financially participate in games broadcast on a certain channel during a predetermined time interval. For example, a player may choose to financially participate in games broadcast on the “Wheel of Fortune®” $0.25 denomination channel every Thursday from 8:00 to 8:05 p.m.
  • In alternative implementations, a player may choose to financially participate in a specific number of games. Such implementations may be advantageous for games having variable time durations, such as those occasioned by the additional time required for bonus rounds of a slot game. As with time-based implementations, the player may choose individual or recurring start times, channels, etc. However, a player's choices are preferably limited to choices made in advance of the broadcast; preferably, a player cannot, e.g., change a wager during a broadcast in which the player is financially participating.
  • Accordingly, such implementations may be non-interactive, yet still provide a range of choices for the players to make in advance.
  • In step 140, game results are determined, e.g., by one or more game results servers. The operation of such devices and their interaction with other devices in a network will be described in more detail below.
  • Preferably, step 140 is performed on an ongoing basis or at relative short time intervals. Such time intervals could, for example, correspond with the time intervals associated with gaming content, e.g., the smallest such time interval. For “re-runs” of previous broadcasts, game results will have already been determined, so step 140 need not be performed again.
  • In step 145, individual player accounts are reconciled. According to some implementations, an individual player's win may depend on the number of other players participating in a particular game. For example, during a time interval during which everyone wins a jackpot (e.g., a MegaBucks® jackpot), some implementations of the invention apportion the jackpot between all of the players participating in that game. However, in alternative implementations, all participating players win the full jackpot amount.
  • Some implementations provide a 2-tiered approach, wherein a relatively smaller win is paid out at full value and a relatively larger win (e.g., a progressive win) is split among the number of participating players. In one such example, if 100 people are participating during a particular slot game, an outcome of 3 cherries would pay a predetermined number of credits (e.g., 5 credits) to all 100 people. However, each participating player would only win 1/100th of a relatively large win, such as a progressive win/jackpot.
  • Splitting large wins provides the advantage of avoiding unforeseeably large payouts when many players are participating during the time a jackpot is awarded. Moreover, such implementations provide certainty regarding how much the ordinary wins are paying and eliminate potential player disappointment when, for example, a small win would otherwise be apportioned among a large number of participating players. Also, such implementations make recordkeeping easier: if all wins were split among participants, the number of participating players would always need to be determined and recorded. The number of participating players should be reported to all players whose win amounts are affected by other players' participation.
  • Additional details of player participation according to some implementations of the invention will now be discussed with reference to FIGS. 2A and 2B. Referring first to FIG. 2A, in step 205 a customer has the option of previewing gaming content in exemplary method 200. In some implementations that provide “premium” features to some players, such players may be able to view games that others are unable to view. For example, such players may be able to preview newer games before other players can.
  • A player may be provided a menu, such as menu 270 depicted in FIG. 2B, for game selection and/or previews. In menu 270 games are grouped to form “channels” of like-themed games. Different channels may have different games, denominations/wager levels, lines played, etc. Here, menu 270 indicates viewing dates and times in section 275. Area 280 indicates games to be broadcast at the corresponding dates and times. In some implementations, menu 270 will indicate a player's favorite games and their broadcast times.
  • A menu such as menu 270 may, for example, be displayed on a display device with which a player could interact. In one such example, a menu is displayed on a television screen. A player can interact with the menu using a user interface such as mouse, keypad, remote control device, etc. They player may, e.g., control the user interface to move active area 282, a cursor, etc., to a desired channel and time slot. In some implementations, additional game details (such as denomination, number of lines played, etc.) may be displayed on the menu when a desired channel and time slot is thus indicated.
  • In this example, a player may preview a live broadcast for a limited period of time without financially participating in the broadcast game. This process could allow the player to evaluate, e.g., how a game is played, game graphics and other features, whether a player, a table (e.g., a blackjack, a crap table or a poker table) or a machine is “hot,” etc. In some implementations, multiple channels and/or games can be viewed simultaneously (e.g., on split screens, inset windows, etc.) during a preview or during a normal broadcast.
  • Referring again to FIG. 2A, in step 210 a player is required to prove that he or she is old enough to participate in a game of chance and is located in a jurisdiction that allows such participation. Satisfying both criteria will be required before continuing to the next steps of method 200. Any suitable types of location, identification and/or authentication technology known in the art may be used to implement step 210. For example, in some implementations a location is determined from an IP address of a desktop computer, a laptop, etc.
  • If a player is placing an order from a television, a directory of the content provider (e.g., the cable company, satellite TV company, etc.) may be used to determine a subscriber's address.
  • If a player is placing an order from a wireless device such as a personal digital assistant (“PDA”) or a cellular telephone, the player's location could be determined from the cell station that was used to originate the call. Alternatively, the player's location could be determined according to the global positioning system and/or the location determination features of the 911 emergency network.
  • Various technologies may be used to identify a person. For example, one could use biometric identification such as voice recognition, a fingerprint scan, a retinal scan, etc. Alternatively, a password and/or PIN number may be used. In some implementations, a dongle, RFID card, magnetic stripe card, etc., may be used to identify a player.
  • Preferably, the player identification and location verification of step 210 is only performed at the time a player is placing an order, e.g., is purchasing a time slot. After this process is completed, a player could pick a number of different time slots, channels, specific numbers of games, etc., according to the implementation. (Step 215.) Alternatively, or additionally, a player may schedule periodic participation in future games, as described above. For example, a play may establish a regular schedule of participation in gaming events at predetermined times. A player's selection will preferably indicate specifics such as the time and duration of player participation (or number of games played), the number of lines played (if appropriate), the game denomination, etc., so that a player has a clear understanding of such parameters in advance of game play.
  • In some implementations of the invention, step 215 involves enrolling as a participant in one or more tournaments. In some such implementations, a predetermined number of players may join a tournament on a first-come, first-served basis. Some such tournaments allow competing players to enroll in a “time-shifted” fashion. For example, each player could select one time interval of a larger time interval, e.g., 5 minutes of an 8-hour session. Alternatively implementations allow simultaneous competition, wherein each player is assigned to one of N games (e.g., slot games) that are occurring during the same time slot. Session winners could continue to another stage.
  • In some tournaments, an incentive is provided for increased wager amounts. For example, a player may be awarded one point for every dollar the player wins.
  • Other implementations keep the wager amount constant for each player. The tournament could match denomination, game type, etc. For example, it could be a Wheel of Fortune® $0.25 tournament. Similar implementations normalize denominations so that players playing different denominations could compete on an equal basis.
  • Various types of prizes may be awarded, some of which are unique to the present invention. For example, certain outcomes could trigger the award of “extended play” bonuses wherein a player may continue to financially participate in gaming events for a time period beyond that for which the player has enrolled. The time period may be immediately following a previously-scheduled period of player participation. In some instances, a player may obtain time credits and may be able to select a future time for participation, select another game, etc.
  • Bonus-related outcomes are not necessarily associated with winning games. For example, some such outcomes can occur randomly. Other bonuses may involve matching numbers, e.g., of digits of a viewer's credit meter with a predetermined numbers or with numbers that result from game play. If the player knows what numbers need to be matched, this could add to the excitement of the game. In yet other examples, a bonus could be awarded for a player who loses the most during a predetermined period (e.g., the “Big Loser of the Day”) or who loses the most during a tournament time slot.
  • Optional step 220 allows win/loss limits to be established. Such limits are sometimes referred to herein as “triggers” or the like. In this example, win/loss triggers may be established by the player.
  • However, some implementations of the invention establish limits automatically, e.g., according to jurisdictional requirements, according to a previously-established arrangement with a player or a player's family, etc. Some such implementations provide limits on how much a player can lose during a time period, e.g., during one day. For example, in Missouri a player is not allowed to lose more than $500 per day. Some preferred implementations of the invention provide for the automatic implementation of such limitations.
  • Other implementations allow a player to establish a predetermined amount of money that the player can win or lose. Preferably, these limits will override other choices that a player may have made. For example, the player's participation could end if the player wins a predetermined amount during a predetermined time (e.g., $100, $1000, or whatever the player decides). A player could establish maximum losses in the same way. Establishing such limits may require an extra charge. Achieving a maximum loss or a maximum win could end the player's participation, even if the player might otherwise have been eligible to participate in a longer period of game play.
  • Such implementations are particularly useful when a player is participating in gaming activities wherein it is difficult (or impossible) to know what the maximum losses could be during a given time interval or a given number of games. For example, such methods can facilitate player participation in “proxy” games (e.g., broadcast poker games, craps games, roulette games, etc.) wherein a real player is deciding each bet. Alternatively, losses and/or wins could be capped by limiting a player's financial participation in other ways. For example, a player could wager a predetermined amount (e.g., per hand), regardless of what the proxy is wagering. Alternatively, a player's wager could be scaled to a fraction of the actual wagers made, with a predetermined cap on each wager and/or a predetermined overall cap, e.g., during a time period.
  • Harm minimization can also be achieved by utilizing a “V chip” in the receiving devices that is specially tailored for gaming purposes. Alternatively, or additionally, restrictions (e.g., player- or family-determined limits, provider limits or regulatory limits) can be embedded in the signal sent to the player's receiving device. These restrictions could limit the amount of game play, the time or duration of allowed game play or other means of curtailing play after certain thresholds are met.
  • This exemplary implementation is a “pay first” implementation. Accordingly, in step 225, it is determined whether a player has sufficient credit to financially participate in the selected gaming activities. In some embodiments, players are provided with a credit card reader or the like for account input. Such a credit card reader could be disposed in a television set top box, in a remote control device or other peripheral device.
  • As noted elsewhere, alternative implementations of the invention allow a player to “pay later,” i.e., after game play at a predetermined billing interval. Preferably, “pay later” arrangements are made only within predetermined limits and with players whose credit is known to be good.
  • The aforementioned limits may be used to make the determination of step 225 when a player wants to financially participating in gaming activities wherein it is difficult to know what the maximum losses could be for the selected gaming activities. In other words, step 225 can involve a determination of whether a player has sufficient funds in his or her account for a maximum loss.
  • Conversely, the determination of step 225 may be used to establish loss limits. Suppose a player wants to participate in a 5 minute time slot of a $0.25 Wheel of Fortune® game. If, for example, each instance of the game takes an average of 5 seconds to play, the player must be willing to risk losing every one of the approximately 100 games that will be played during this 5-minutes time slot, for a total of $25.00.
  • The player might be prompted, e.g., “This 5-minute time slot will result in your account being charged for $25. Do you wish to proceed?” In some such implementations, the player's account would be charged for a deposit in the amount of the maximum expected loss (here, the full $25) if the player agrees to proceed. If the player is not willing to risk the entire $25 (or if the rules of the jurisdiction or other predetermined loss limits would not permit the player to lose that much), the player could not participate in the entire 5-minute time slot.
  • In steps 230 and 235, the gaming content is broadcast and viewed. As mentioned elsewhere herein, the broadcast and viewing times may be different. Preferably, the broadcast will display an on-screen clock or other information that precisely identifies the session being viewed for validation purposes and to prevent any disputes with players claiming that they were given a session other than the one they selected. A digital video recorder (DVR), such as offered by Replay TV™ or TiVo™, can automatically record favorite games without videotape. A DVR may be configured to communicate with a cable television network, a satellite network, a broadband Internet connection, an existing telephone line, etc. A DVR or the like allows players to “time shift” broadcast and viewing times so that players can watch the games they want, when they want, pause or instant replay games (including live games) and easily find games, e.g., with a channel guide.
  • Some players may desire to view multiple game channels at once. For example, a player may desire to participate in gaming activities being broadcast on more than one gaming channel at the same time. Just as a player need not be limited to playing just one game at once, the player may also be able to display all such broadcasts simultaneously, e.g., on a split screen, in multiple windows, etc.
  • In steps 240 and 245, respectively, game results are determined and player accounts are reconciled. As noted elsewhere, step 245 may be performed at predetermined intervals and/or in response to predetermined events (e.g., within a predetermined time after a broadcast of a time during which a player is participating in one or more gaming activities).
  • Some implementations will require explicit rules for reconciling player accounts. In the absence of such rules, there is potential ambiguity regarding the beginning and end of game play, particularly for implementations in which players financially participate during a “time slot” instead of participating in a predetermined number of games. For example, bonus rounds will happen from time to time and will extend the normal time to complete a game. Even games of normal duration will often span more than one time slot: a game could be in progress when a player's time slot begins and/or ends. Therefore, it may not be known in advance (except for “re-run” gaming activity broadcasts that have taken place in the past) how many games will be played in a given time slot or in neighboring time slots.
  • Accordingly, clear rules need to be established regarding these situations and other such situations. Any game in progress at the end of a time slot could, for example, count for that time slot but not for the next one. In such implementations, if a player's time slot begins when an individual game is already in progress, the result of that game would not be used in reconciling that player's account in step 245. A “countdown” or similar scheme could indicate the beginning of a player's participation in gaming activities. In alternative implementations, only games in which a player is participating will be broadcast to that player. For example, games in progress at the beginning of a time slot that only count for the previous time slot would not be shown.
  • Some such implementations establish rules for crediting time and/or games when a game is in progress at the beginning of a time slot. For example, if a bonus round is in progress that takes extends the previous time slot by 5 seconds, the players participating in the next time slot could participate in the first 5 seconds of the next time slot. Alternatively, such players could be credited a number of games that is based on that time, e.g., 2 games having a normal duration of 3 seconds each.
  • A periodic, (e.g., monthly) reconciliation can be sent to the player. For example, a section of the bill could show account activity and either debit or credit an account of a financial institution. Some implementations allow a player to shift wins from one broadcast to be bets on other broadcasts. Such arrangements could be made in advance or on demand, e.g., after a player reviews a reconciliation statement.
  • In step 250, it is determined whether a player desires to select additional gaming activity participation. If not, the process ends until the next scheduled participation time, if any. (Step 260.) If so, the player's credit (and, in some implementations, win or loss triggers) will be evaluated. (Step 255.) Some implementations will require player identification (and location evaluation for portable devices) before a player is permitted to select additional time slots for participation.
  • While some implementations primarily involve television, this method can also be utilized for broadcast via the Internet, satellite, wired and wireless networks, etc. Preferred implementations of broadcast gaming according to the invention build upon the existing infrastructure for such networks.
  • Some exemplary networks for implementing the invention will now be described with reference to FIGS. 3 through 7. It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that more or fewer devices may be used within the general framework of these networks. For example, when an individual device (such as a server) is depicted, several devices (e.g., a rack of servers) may be used for the same purpose and/or to subdivide tasks.
  • FIG. 3 indicates both the elements of an exemplary implementation of broadcast gaming via a cable television network. Moreover, FIG. 3 indicates an exemplary flow of steps performed by such elements and information flow between the elements.
  • Digital content 305 of FIG. 3 is one form of the gaming content that may be provided according to the invention, as described above with reference to step 105 of method 100. Digital content 305 may or may not be provided continuously. A server could, for example, generate gaming data for a predetermined period of time (e.g., 5 minutes), stop until the gaming data are processed, then generate gaming data for another predetermined period of time, and so on. Digital content 305 could also come from a digital camera, as discussed above. Digital content 305 could be provided in a variety of formats, e.g., Macromedia® Flash® or MPEG4 format.
  • In this implementation, digital content 305 is zipped, encrypted, packetized and translated into the protocol necessary for transport. Step 2A, which could be performed by any appropriate computing device, includes compression, encryption and packetizing processes. In this example, key and policy server 312 provides keys 315 for the encryption of digital image packages 310, thereby forming encrypted content 320. Key and policy server 312 associates the key with a time increment of digital content 305. The same key will be provided to a viewer/player, along with a corresponding license, when central office 314 approves a player's request to view a broadcast corresponding to the time increment.
  • Encrypted content 320 is then sent to game distribution server 325. Game distribution server 325 provides the content to cable company 330 and to game results server 340. Preferably, game distribution server 325 provides the content in a widely used format such as ATM, Ethernet, etc. If necessary or convenient, cable company 330 may translate these data into another format, e.g., DOCSIS, for transmission over cable network 335 to television 345 and player's terminal 350, which includes a TiVo™ device in this example.
  • As described elsewhere herein, some implementations of the invention prevent broadcasts to devices within states in which the underlying type of gaming is not allowed. These preventive measures may be implemented, e.g., by game distribution center 325 or by cable company 330. For example, cable company 330 should have a database indicating where its customers' cable modems are installed. Accordingly, cable company 330 could block “gaming channel” broadcasts to predetermined addresses.
  • In FIG. 3, it is contemplated that the broadcast would be made first (6A), then afterwards the customer would authorize payment (7). However, as noted elsewhere herein, in preferred implementations of the invention the payment is made in advance. Moreover, in this example, a player/viewer makes viewing and financial participation selections from player terminal 350. However, such selections do not always need to be made from the customer's television 345 and/or home terminal 350. Also, in other implementations, the sequence of steps may differ. For example, the first step of all could be ordering a program.
  • In this example, a request (7) for passive participation in a future time slice of gaming is sent from player terminal 345 over Internet 355 (see 7A) via the same cable network 335 used for content distribution. The request is processed by central office 314, which keeps player accounts, receives and processes viewing and participation requests, and coordinates broadcast licensing in cooperation with key and policy server 312.
  • Here, central office 314 identifies the player and determines whether the player is making the request from an approved jurisdiction according to methods known in the art, some of which are described elsewhere herein. Some implementations of the invention may use existing conditional access (“CA”) systems to implement some aspects of these controls. Such systems may include, but are not limited to, Open VideoGuard®, Nagra®, MediaGuard®, Conax-CAS3®, DVB-Simulcrypt® or Access®. Moreover, central office 314 verifies that the player's account has sufficient funds.
  • If these results are positive, central office 314 approves the request, deducts the requisite amount from the player's account and sends an authorization (8) to key and policy server 312. Key and policy server 312 issues a key that may be used to unlock the requested broadcast time slot. Policy server 312 also generates a single-use, timed expiration license. In some implementations, the license is a multiple-device license and allows central office 314 to send the viewer response 316, which includes the encrypted key and license associated with the requested time increment of digital content 305. (See 11, 11A and 11B.)
  • Central office 314 reconciles player accounts according to information received from game results server 340. (See 5C.) The data from game results server are mapped to data pertaining to each time slot during which a player has participated in order to provide results for each player. Such a mapping may be conveniently made according to time stamps (or the like) for each time slot. As discussed elsewhere, a consistent set of rules should be applied to determine the time slots to which game results will be attributed when a game spans more than one time slot.
  • The network illustrated in FIG. 4 may operate in a very similar fashion to that of FIG. 3. However, FIG. 4 illustrates a fixed wireless system for distributing content. Here, game distribution server 425 provides encrypted content 420 to digital television broadcasting company 430 (and to game results server 440).
  • As in the primary embodiment described with reference to FIG. 3, the network illustrated in FIG. 4 allows players to place orders, make payments, etc., from player terminals 450. However, in this embodiment, there is no counterpart to cable distribution network 335, which could allow players to both receive broadcast content and to communicate with central office 414 via Internet 455. Therefore, each player communicates with Internet 455 via his or her ISP (ISP 452) and central office 414 communicates with Internet 455 via ISP 460. In this example, terminal 450 is configured for communication via Internet 455. However, another device (e.g., a laptop, a desktop PC, etc.) may be used for such communication.
  • The network illustrated in FIG. 5 may also operate in a manner very similar to that described with reference to FIG. 3. However, FIG. 5 illustrates system for distributing content via satellite. Here, game distribution server 525 provides encrypted content 520 to satellite television broadcasting center 530 and to game results server 535. Broadcasting center 530 beams data to satellite 540 (step 6), which relays broadcast data to the satellite dishes 545 of participating customers (step 6A). Television 550 and terminal 555 are used to display these broadcasts.
  • The network of FIG. 5 allows players to select gaming channels, choose times of participation, etc., from home. However, there is once again no counterpart to cable distribution network 335, which can readily be configured both for distributing broadcast content and for communicating with central office 514. Some implementations may provide for Internet access via satellite, but such systems are not widely deployed at present. Therefore, in this example, laptop 560 is configured for communication via ISP 562 with Internet 565. However, another device (e.g., terminal 555) may be used for such communication.
  • FIG. 6 depicts a network in which the Internet is used both for distributing broadcast content and for communications between players/viewers and central office 614. In this example, game distribution server 625 provides content to a player's terminal via Internet 665. In alternative embodiments, the distribution process is decentralized; game distribution server 625 provides content to servers of various content providers that provide content to customers. Here, the player's terminal is laptop 645, but the terminal could also be another type of device, such as a desktop computer.
  • FIG. 7 illustrates a network for implementing some aspects of the invention wherein players view content (and potentially place orders, etc.) on mobile wireless devices. Here, game distribution server 625 provides content to mobile wireless devices (such as PDA 745) via cellular network 740 of telephone company 730. The same cellular network 740 may be used for communications between players/viewers and central office 714 via Internet 725.
  • FIG. 8 illustrates an example of a network device that may be configured for implementing some methods of the present invention. Network device 860 includes a master central processing unit (CPU) 862, interfaces 868, and a bus 867 (e.g., a PCI bus). Generally, interfaces 868 include ports 869 appropriate for communication with the appropriate media. In some embodiments, one or more of interfaces 868 includes at least one independent processor and, in some instances, volatile RAM. The independent processors may be, for example, ASICs or any other appropriate processors. According to some such embodiments, these independent processors perform at least some of the functions of the logic described herein. In some embodiments, one or more of interfaces 868 control such communications-intensive tasks as encryption, decryption, compression, decompression, packetization, media control and management. By providing separate processors for the communications-intensive tasks, interfaces 868 allow the master microprocessor 862 efficiently to perform other functions such as routing computations, network diagnostics, security functions, etc.
  • The interfaces 868 are typically provided as interface cards (sometimes referred to as “linecards”). Generally, interfaces 868 control the sending and receiving of data packets over the network and sometimes support other peripherals used with the network device 860. Among the interfaces that may be provided are FC interfaces, Ethernet interfaces, frame relay interfaces, cable interfaces, DSL interfaces, token ring interfaces, and the like. In addition, various very high-speed interfaces may be provided, such as fast Ethernet interfaces, Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, ATM interfaces, HSSI interfaces, POS interfaces, FDDI interfaces, ASI interfaces, DHEI interfaces and the like.
  • When acting under the control of appropriate software or firmware, in some implementations of the invention CPU 862 may be responsible for implementing specific functions associated with the functions of a desired network device. According to some embodiments, CPU 862 accomplishes all these functions under the control of software including an operating system and any appropriate applications software.
  • CPU 862 may include one or more processors 863 such as a processor from the Motorola family of microprocessors or the MIPS family of microprocessors. In an alternative embodiment, processor 863 is specially designed hardware for controlling the operations of network device 860. In a specific embodiment, a memory 861 (such as non-volatile RAM and/or ROM) also forms part of CPU 862. However, there are many different ways in which memory could be coupled to the system. Memory block 861 may be used for a variety of purposes such as, for example, caching and/or storing data, programming instructions, etc.
  • Regardless of the network device's configuration, it may employ one or more memories or memory modules (such as, for example, memory block 865) configured to store data, program instructions for the general-purpose network operations and/or other information relating to the functionality of the techniques described herein. The program instructions may control the operation of an operating system and/or one or more applications, for example.
  • Because such information and program instructions may be employed to implement the systems/methods described herein, the present invention relates to machine-readable media that include program instructions, state information, etc. for performing various operations described herein. Examples of machine-readable media include, but are not limited to, magnetic media such as hard disks, floppy disks, and magnetic tape; optical media such as CD-ROM disks; magneto-optical media; and hardware devices that are specially configured to store and perform program instructions, such as read-only memory devices (ROM) and random access memory (RAM). The invention may also be embodied in a carrier wave traveling over an appropriate medium such as airwaves, optical lines, electric lines, etc. Examples of program instructions include both machine code, such as produced by a compiler, and files containing higher-level code that may be executed by the computer using an interpreter.
  • Although the system shown in FIG. 8 illustrates one specific network device of the present invention, it is by no means the only network device architecture on which the present invention can be implemented. For example, an architecture having a single processor that handles communications as well as routing computations, etc. is often used. Further, other types of interfaces and media could also be used with the network device. The communication path between interfaces may be bus based (as shown in FIG. 8) or switch fabric based (such as a cross-bar).
  • The above-described devices and materials will be familiar to those of skill in the computer hardware and software arts. Although many of the components and processes are described above in the singular for convenience, it will be appreciated by one of skill in the art that multiple components and repeated processes can also be used to practice the techniques of the present invention.
  • Although illustrative embodiments and applications of this invention are shown and described herein, many variations and modifications are possible which remain within the concept, scope, and spirit of the invention, and these variations would become clear to those of ordinary skill in the art after perusal of this application. Accordingly, the present embodiments are to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive, and the invention is not to be limited to the details given herein, but may be modified within the scope and equivalents of the appended claims.

Claims (33)

1. A gaming method, comprising:
receiving a first indication that a first viewer will have a passive financial participation in the gaming activity;
broadcasting the gaming activity during the first time slot;
determining a first gaming activity outcome for the first time slot; and
adjusting a first gaming account according to the first gaming activity outcome.
2. The gaming method of claim 1, wherein the gaming activity comprises a slot game.
3. The gaming method of claim 1, wherein the gaming activity comprises a table game.
4. The gaming method of claim 1, wherein the gaming activity involves gaming decisions that are made during the first time slot.
5. The gaming method of claim 1, further comprising the step of providing a menu indicating a plurality of gaming activities that will be broadcast during a corresponding plurality of time slots.
6. The gaming method of claim 1, wherein the first indication indicates a condition for terminating the first viewer's passive financial participation in the gaming activity before the end of the first time slot.
7. The gaming method of claim 1, wherein the broadcasting step comprises:
making a recording of the gaming activity with a video camera; and
broadcasting the recording of the gaming activity.
8. The gaming method of claim 1, wherein the broadcasting step comprises:
generating the gaming activity video from a game server; and
broadcasting the gaming activity video.
9. The gaming method of claim 1, further comprising:
determining that a bonusing event has occurred during the first time slot; and
awarding a bonus.
10. The gaming method of claim 1, further comprising:
receiving 2nd though Nth indications that 2nd though Nth viewers will have passive financial participation in the gaming activity; and
adjusting 2nd though Nth gaming accounts according to the first gaming activity outcome.
11. The gaming method of claim 1, further comprising the step of scheduling the gaming activity broadcast for the first time slot.
12. The gaming method of claim 1, further comprising the step of displaying information that identifies the session being viewed.
13. The gaming method of claim 4, wherein the gaming decisions are made by a gaming proxy.
14. The gaming method of claim 4, wherein the gaming decisions are made by applying rules from a predetermined rule set.
15. The gaming method of claim 6, wherein the condition comprises at least one of the following: (a) the passage of a predetermined time interval shorter than the first time slot; (b) the occurrence of a predetermined loss; or (c) the occurrence of a predetermined win.
16. The gaming method of claim 9, wherein the bonusing event is specific to the first viewer.
17. The gaming method of claim 9, wherein the bonus comprises extending a time of passive financial participation in the gaming activity.
18. The gaming method of claim 9, wherein the bonus comprises a multiplier of the win amount for a certain time period.
19. The method of claim 12, wherein the information comprises an on-screen clock.
20. A network, comprising:
means for receiving a first indication that a first viewer will have a passive financial participation in the gaming activity;
means for broadcasting the gaming activity during the first time slot;
means for determining a first gaming activity outcome for the first time slot; and
means for adjusting a first gaming account according to the first gaming activity outcome.
21. Software embodied in at least one machine-readable medium, the software including instructions for controlling a network to perform the following steps:
receiving a first indication that a first viewer will have a passive financial participation in the gaming activity;
broadcasting the gaming activity during the first time slot;
determining a first gaming activity outcome for the first time slot; and
adjusting a first gaming account according to the first gaming activity outcome.
22. A gaming method, comprising:
scheduling a plurality of gaming activities that will be broadcast during a corresponding plurality of time slots;
providing a menu indicating the plurality of gaming activities and the corresponding plurality of time slots; and
broadcasting the plurality of gaming activities during the corresponding plurality of time slots.
23. The gaming method of claim 22, wherein the menu comprises a graphical user interface (“GUI”) that allows gaming activities to be selected for viewing.
24. The gaming method of claim 23, wherein the GUI comprises an on-screen guide.
25. The gaming method of claim 23, wherein the GUI comprises a 3-D casino environment.
26. The gaming method of claim 23, wherein a simulated casino environment is created through the use of sounds similar to what a player would experience in a live casino environment.
27. The gaming method of claim 23, wherein the GUI allows the selection of gaming activities in which a user will have a passive financial participation.
28. The gaming method of claim 27, wherein the GUI allows a user to indicate a condition for terminating a passive financial participation in a gaming activity before the end of a corresponding time slot.
29. The gaming method of claim 28, wherein the condition comprises at least one of the following: (a) the passage of a predetermined time interval shorter than the corresponding time slot; (b) the occurrence of a predetermined loss; and (c) the occurrence of a predetermined win.
30. A network, comprising:
means for scheduling a plurality of gaming activities that will be broadcast during a corresponding plurality of time slots;
means for providing a menu indicating the plurality of gaming activities and the corresponding plurality of time slots, the menu comprising a graphical user interface (“GUI”) that allows gaming activities to be selected for viewing; and
means for broadcasting the plurality of gaming activities during the corresponding plurality of time slots.
31. Software embodied in at least one machine-readable medium, the software including instructions for controlling a network to perform the following steps:
scheduling a plurality of gaming activities that will be broadcast during a corresponding plurality of time slots;
providing a menu indicating the plurality of gaming activities and the corresponding plurality of time slots, the menu comprising a graphical user interface (“GUI”) that allows gaming activities to be selected for viewing; and
broadcasting the plurality of gaming activities during the corresponding plurality of time slots.
32. A gaming method, comprising:
scheduling a plurality of gaming activities that will be broadcast during a corresponding plurality of time slots;
providing a menu indicating the plurality of gaming activities and the corresponding plurality of time slots, the menu comprising a graphical user interface (“GUI”) that allows gaming activities to be selected for viewing and allows the selection of gaming activities in which a user will have a passive financial participation;
verifying that a user is authorized to have a passive financial participation in gaming activities, the verifying step comprising a determination that the user is located within a first jurisdiction in which at least some of the gaming activities are legal and that the user meets age requirements of the first jurisdiction;
receiving a first indication that a first user will have a passive financial participation in a first gaming activity scheduled for broadcast during a first time slot, the first gaming activity being legal within the first jurisdiction;
broadcasting the first gaming activity during the first time slot;
determining a first gaming activity outcome for the first time slot; and
adjusting a first gaming account according to the first gaming activity outcome, the gaming account located within the first jurisdiction.
33. The gaming method of claim 32, wherein the user is enabled to view the gaming activity while the viewer is within a second jurisdiction in which the first gaming activity is not legal.
US11/445,070 2006-05-31 2006-05-31 Broadcast gaming Abandoned US20070293320A1 (en)

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