US20080153580A1 - Bezel interface for a card loading system - Google Patents

Bezel interface for a card loading system Download PDF

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Publication number
US20080153580A1
US20080153580A1 US11983771 US98377107A US2008153580A1 US 20080153580 A1 US20080153580 A1 US 20080153580A1 US 11983771 US11983771 US 11983771 US 98377107 A US98377107 A US 98377107A US 2008153580 A1 US2008153580 A1 US 2008153580A1
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Prior art keywords
card
data
gaming device
cards
player
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Abandoned
Application number
US11983771
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John Leagh Beadell
Russell Chudd
Randy Hedrick
Stanley H. Herum
Lucas W. Landau
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IGT Inc
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IGT Inc
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • G07F17/3248Payment aspects of a gaming system, e.g. payment schemes, setting payout ratio, bonus or consolation prizes involving non-monetary media of fixed value, e.g. casino chips of fixed value
    • 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

Disclosed are methods, apparatus, and systems, including computer program products, for transferring data cards between a card loading device and a data card unit of a gaming device. The gaming device includes a cabinet, a bezel, an associated display, and an associated data interface. The bezel is attached to the cabinet. The bezel has an opening providing access to a mouth of the data card unit situated in the cabinet. The data card unit is capable of receiving and dispensing data cards through the mouth. The display is configured to display card input/output (I/O) information received from a processor associated with the data card unit. The data interface is configured to communicate with a data interface of the card loading device, which is adapted to dispense data cards to and receive data cards from the mouth of the data card unit through the opening in the bezel.

Description

    RELATED APPLICATION DATA
  • This application is a continuation-in-part and claims priority of Hedrick et al., U.S. application Ser. No. 11/158,478 for “Gaming Device Including a Card Processing Assembly Having Vertically-Stacked Card Holders Operable with Thermally-Printable Data Cards and Portable Card Changeover Machines,” filed Jun. 22, 2005, which is a continuation-in-part of Hedrick et al., U.S. application Ser. No. 10/661,229 for “Gaming Device Having a Card Management System for the Management of Circulating Data Cards,” filed Sep. 12, 2003, both of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety for all purposes.
  • FIELD OF INVENTION
  • The present invention relates in general to a gaming device, and more particularly to a gaming device having a card management system for managing circulating data cards.
  • COPYRIGHT NOTICE
  • A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains or may contain material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the photocopy reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure in exactly the form it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Contemporary gaming machines, such as slot machines, poker machines, blackjack machines and keno machines, generally are adapted to accept paper currency (such as dollar bills) and tokens or coins (such as quarters and half dollars) from a player. For instance, a player may purchase dollar tokens from a cashier and insert the tokens into the gaming device to play a game. If a player earns a payout, the gaming device provides additional credits for the player or dispenses the appropriate number of tokens to the player. The player may cash in the tokens at the cashier for currency.
  • The use of coins and tokens has several disadvantages. Because each token represents a relatively small amount of currency, a player typically handles a number of tokens. It is typical for a gaming device to dispense a handful of tokens to a player for a typical win. The supply and handling of tokens in a gaming facility requires substantial labor, storage space and security procedures. Also, containers are typically provided to players for carrying tokens from place to place. Dirt and germs tend to accumulate on the containers and the tokens as they circulate from player to player. The high number of tokens and containers thus contribute to colds and other health conditions. With the advance of electronics, several techniques have been developed as an alternative for tokens, coins and paper currency in gaming machines.
  • Various conventional systems and devices may provide an electronic alternative to tokens, but they fail to disclose a gaming device which receive, store and dispense data cards to facilitate the recirculation of such cards similar to the circulation of tokens or coins. Player-specific cards require a player to open an account and permanently keep a card. The replacement costs for these types of cards can be relatively high because players tend to lose or dispose cards after the balance becomes zero, and also players do not always carry the cards with them. If they want to spontaneously play a gaming device, they must obtain a replacement card. In addition, many players do not wish to open an account and disclose their personal information. The other systems discussed above, such as the ticket systems, require a continuous replenishing of the materials needed to produce the tickets and also require substantial maintenance of such systems. The player-specific cards described above also do not allow all players to play anonymously.
  • Thermal rewritable data cards are one such alternative that are used to transfer funds in casino properties. Typically, a cashless enabled game has a gaming printer to produce rewritable cards and a rewritable card reader that supports automatic reading of rewritable cards. To coordinate the activities of multiple cashless enabled games, one or more cashless enabled games may be electronically coupled to a cashless enabled game system that controls the cashless operations of a cashless enabled game.
  • In operation, for example, a player provides currency or cash to a currency station and in exchange receives a thermal rewritable data card with a cash identifier or cash data corresponding to the amount of currency the player deposited. The player uses that data card to play a gaming device by loading the data card in the loading portion of the gaming device. If the player cashes out or voluntarily terminates the game with credits remaining, the gaming device dispenses that data card to the player with fund data or cash data corresponding to the amount of remaining cash. If, on the other hand, the player loses all credits while playing the game, the gaming device retains data card, resets it and stores it for future use. This reset data card can be used again by the same player or other players in a variety of scenarios.
  • A thermal rewritable card may be redeemed in a variety of ways. For example, the rewritable card may be redeemed for cash at a cashier's cage or used with another cashless enabled game. In order to use the rewritable card in a cashless enabled game, the rewritable card is inserted into a rewritable card reader of another cashless enabled game at a participating casino and the cashless enabled game system recognizes the rewritable card, redeems the rewritable card, and places an appropriate amount of playing credits on the cashless enabled game.
  • Cashless enabled games have found an increasing acceptance and use in the gaming industry, both with players who enjoy the speed of play and ease of transporting their winnings around the casino and casinos who have realized significant labor savings in the form of reduced coin hopper reloads in the games, and an increase in revenue because of the speed of play. Practical field experience with printers used in cashless enabled games has illustrated that there are areas for improvement in the current printer designs and implementation. These areas in need of improvement include methods and means for using rewritable card media.
  • In a conventional gaming machine, thermal rewritable data cards are stored in one or more suitable data card bins associated with the data card unit. Such data cards include new, i.e. unused cards not yet dispersed to players, as well as cards retained by the data card unit because they have no remaining balance of credits. Often, defect cards, i.e. cards that no longer function properly or have been defaced, are also stored. When a card holder in the gaming device is full or empty, a slot attendant must service the gaming device and manually add or remove cards from the bins of the data card unit.
  • The conventional servicing of a data card unit is an inaccurate, time consuming, and cumbersome process. Without being able to see how full or empty are the card storage bins, casino attendants are often left to estimate or guess whether tickets need to be replenished and removed in a particular gaming device. These issues become more problematic with new casino attendants, unfamiliar with the average volume of play of a certain bank of machines. Further, when an attendant decides to service a machine, one or more security keys are generally required to physically unlock a gaming machine door enclosing the data card unit. Often a casino attendant needs to summon security personnel to come and open the machine, before it can be serviced, causing additional delay and downtime. When the door is eventually opened, the attendant must then manually replenish and/or remove tickets. This often requires the attendant to free the data card unit from any mounting and restraining apparatus, pull the card unit out, feed tickets into the unit, push a feed button to pull the first ticket from a stack of tickets for output from the card unit, push the card unit back into its original location, close, and lock the gaming machine door.
  • The above-described servicing of a gaming device takes the device out of use for the service period of time. Game play is interrupted, because players cannot play the machine while it is being serviced. The gaming device, and hence the owner/operator of the gaming establishment in which the device is situated, do not make money during the entire time when the machine is serviced. The lengthy loading and unloading process associated with conventional gaming device card units can cause significant loss of revenue to the gaming establishment. In some instances, even after the gaming device is back online, players may have lost interest in the machine and pursued entertainment elsewhere, leading to further losses for a gaming establishment.
  • The conventional procedure of servicing the data card unit of a gaming device also compromises the security of the device. This is because the gaming device must be unlocked and opened during data card transfers, exposing the inner peripherals and components of the machine. In many conventional gaming machine cabinet configurations, components are located in similarly accessible regions of the cabinet. Thus, opening a door to access the data card often means providing access to the bill acceptor, cash storage bin, ticket printer, and sometimes even one or more processors of the gamine device. When the gaming device is open, patrons have the opportunity to grab coins, bills, tickets, tamper with operation of the device and its peripherals, and engage in other mischievous and illegal conduct.
  • SUMMARY OF INVENTION
  • Disclosed are gaming machines, including related methods, apparatus, and systems, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for transferring data cards between a card loading device and a data card unit of a gaming device.
  • According to one aspect of the present invention, a gaming device includes a cabinet, a bezel, an associated display, and an associated data interface. The bezel is attached to the cabinet. The bezel has an opening providing access to a mouth of a data card unit situated in the cabinet. The data card unit is capable of receiving and dispensing data cards through the mouth. The display is configured to display card input/output (I/O) information received from a processor associated with the data card unit. The data interface is configured to communicate with a data interface of a card loading device adapted to dispense data cards to and receive data cards from the mouth of the data card unit through the opening in the bezel.
  • In one implementation, the data interface associated with the bezel is configured to receive code from the data interface of the card loading device. The code can include firmware associated with the gaming device or peripherals in the gaming device, including the data card unit. The data interface associated with the bezel can be a wired or wireless interface. Various communications protocols can be used, including Infrared Data Association (IrDA) protocol.
  • In one implementation, a card entry member is coupled between the bezel and the data card unit. The card entry member has a card entry region aligned with the bezel opening and the mouth of the data card unit. The card entry member can be formed of a translucent material. One or more LEDs can be situated proximate the card entry member, such as on a backside of the bezel, to illuminate the translucent material.
  • In one implementation, a button is mounted to the bezel. A display can be situated on the button. The button can be movable or fixed with respect to the bezel, depending on the desired implementation.
  • In one implementation, the card I/O information can be associated with a state or mode of a gaming session, and can include one or more items such as: a text message, a symbol, a graphic object, and an animated object. The card I/O information includes status information for transferring data cards between the card loading device and the data card unit. In one implementation, the card I/O information includes one or more of: card insert status, an insert card instruction, a retrieve card instruction, and a card orientation indication. The status information can include status indicators such as: card holder availability, card holder level, card holder empty, card holder not empty, card holder full, card holder capacity, load status, number of cards dispensed, and number of cards received.
  • In one implementation, the card I/O information includes a message indicating a condition. The message can include one or more items such as: a code, a color, and a light pattern. The condition can be one or more items such as: power off, ready, processing card in, processing card out, card in escrow, card presented, device disabled, acceptable quality card holder near full, acceptable quality card holder near empty, unacceptable quality card holder near full, and unacceptable quality card holder near empty. In one implementation, the condition can be one or more items such as: power off, ready, ready card in, acceptable quality card holder full, acceptable quality card holder empty, unacceptable quality card holder full, voltage error, temperature error, print head error, jam, download complete, and card printing.
  • All of the foregoing methods and apparatus, along with other methods and apparatus of aspects of the present invention, may be implemented in software, firmware, hardware and combinations thereof. For example, the methods of aspects of the present invention may be implemented by computer programs embodied in machine-readable media and other products. Also, aspects of the invention may be implemented by networked gaming machines, game servers and other such devices. These and other features and benefits of aspects of the invention will be described in more detail below with reference to the associated drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The included drawings are for illustrative purposes and serve only to provide examples of possible structures and process steps for the disclosed card loading device.
  • FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a gaming device having a card management assembly for managing data cards.
  • FIG. 2A is a schematic diagram illustrating an embodiment of a gaming device receiving, reading, resetting and storing a data card.
  • FIG. 2B is a schematic diagram illustrating an embodiment of a gaming device retrieving a data card from its card holder and writing upon and dispensing the data card.
  • FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram illustrating an embodiment of a gaming device having the capacity to receive, read, update and dispense a data card and to receive, read, reset and store a data card.
  • FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram illustrating an embodiment of the circulation of a single data card through a plurality of gaming devices.
  • FIG. 5 is a graph of an example of multiple players using a single data card which changes between a blank state and a charged state on multiple occasions.
  • FIG. 6 is a graph of an example of multiple players using a single data card which changes between a face value charged state and a different charged state on multiple occasions.
  • FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a gaming device having a card management assembly for managing cards.
  • FIG. 8 is a top perspective view of an embodiment of a card management assembly.
  • FIG. 9 is an exploded top perspective view of the card management assembly of FIG. 8.
  • FIG. 10 is a schematic side elevation view of the card management assembly of FIG. 8.
  • FIG. 11 is a top or plan view of an embodiment of the front side or face of a data card.
  • FIG. 12 is a top or plan view of a backside of the data card of FIG. 11.
  • FIG. 13 is a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of the electronic configuration of a data card.
  • FIG. 14A is a perspective view of an embodiment of a gaming device.
  • FIG. 14B is a perspective view of another embodiment of a gaming device.
  • FIG. 15A is a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of the electronic configuration of a gaming device.
  • FIG. 15B is a schematic block diagram illustrating an embodiment of a plurality of gaming terminals in communication with a central controller.
  • FIG. 15C is a schematic block diagram illustrating an embodiment of a plurality of gaming devices in communication with a pay validation system and a plurality of gaming devices in communication with a clerk validation termination which, in turn, is in communication with a pay validation system.
  • FIG. 16 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the gaming device having vertically-stacked card holders and a camera.
  • FIG. 17A is break-away expanded view of an embodiment of the card mouth and card mouth display device of the card processing assembly illustrating card usage graphics.
  • FIG. 17B is break-away expanded view of an embodiment of the card mouth and card mouth display device of the card processing assembly illustrating player-selectable printable graphics.
  • FIG. 17C is break-away expanded view of an embodiment of the card mouth and card mouth display device of the card processing assembly illustrating a printable photograph of the player.
  • FIG. 18 is a schematic side elevation view of an embodiment of the card processing assembly.
  • FIG. 19 is a schematic rear elevation view of an embodiment of the card processing assembly.
  • FIG. 20 is a schematic front elevation view of an embodiment of the pin connector of the card processing assembly.
  • FIG. 21 is a schematic bottom view of an embodiment of the card processing assembly.
  • FIG. 22 is a top plan view of an embodiment of the thermally-printable data card.
  • FIG. 23 is a bottom view of the thermally-printable data card illustrated in FIG. 22.
  • FIG. 24 is a top plan view of an embodiment of the thermally-printable data card illustrating multiple thermally-printable areas.
  • FIG. 25 is a bottom view of the thermally-printable data card illustrated in FIG. 24.
  • FIG. 26 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the thermally-printable data card.
  • FIG. 27 is a break-away expanded view of the body of the thermally-printable data card of FIG. 26.
  • FIG. 28 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the gaming device illustrating the card changeover device at the rear of the gaming device.
  • FIG. 29 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the gaming device illustrating the card changeover device at the side of the gaming device.
  • FIG. 30 is a side elevation perspective view of an embodiment of a portable card loading device 600.
  • FIG. 31 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the gaming device illustrating the portable card loading device 600 removably attached to the gaming device.
  • FIG. 32 is a side perspective view of an embodiment of a portable card loading device 700, constructed in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.
  • FIG. 33 is a front perspective view of the portable card loading device 700.
  • FIG. 34 is a side view of a card management system including the portable card loading device 700 and card management assembly 114 of gaming device 602, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.
  • FIG. 35 shows a rear perspective view of the card loading device 700.
  • FIG. 36 shows an exploded rear view of the card loading device 700.
  • FIG. 37 shows a flow diagram of a method 800 for transferring data cards between a card loading device and a data card unit of a gaming device, performed in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 38 shows a gaming device 900 with a card receiving bezel, constructed according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 39 shows a side view of a card management system 1000 constructed according to one embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 40 shows an exploded side view of the card management system 1000, illustrating components of the bezel 908.
  • FIG. 41 shows a front perspective view of the card management system 1000, including bezel 908 and card management assembly 114.
  • FIG. 42 shows a rear perspective view of the card management system 1000, including the card management assembly 114, the card entry member 1112, and the bezel 908.
  • FIG. 43 shows a rear perspective view of the bezel 908.
  • FIG. 44 shows a front perspective view of the button 436 and display 412 of the benzel 908 assembly.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • The following patent applications and patents are hereby incorporated by reference: Hedrick et al., U.S. application Ser. No. 10/661,229 for “Gaming Device Having a Card Management System for the Management of Circulating Data Cards,” filed Sep. 12, 2003; Hedrick et al., U.S. application Ser. No. 11/158,478 for “Gaming Device Including a Card Processing Assembly Having Vertically-Stacked Card Holders Operable with Thermally-Printable Data Cards and Portable Card Changeover Machines,” filed Jun. 22, 2005; Griswold et al., U.S. application Ser. No. 10/923,568 for “Gaming System with Rewritable Display Card and LCD Input Display for Reading Same,” filed Aug. 20, 2004; Meyerhofer, U.S. Pat. No. 7,192,208 for “Rewritable Card Printer,” filed Sep. 2, 2003; Meyerhofer, U.S. Pat. No. 7,213,992 for “Rewritable Card Printer,” filed Oct. 26, 2005; Meyerhofer, U.S. application Ser. No. 10/827,802 for “Rewritable Card Printer for a Gaming Machine,” filed Apr. 19, 2004; Meyerhofer, U.S. application Ser. No. 11/678,837 for “Rewritable Card Printer,” filed Feb. 26, 2007; and Hedrick et al., U.S. application Ser. No. ______, (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P422/P-1234) for “Card Loading System for a Data Card Unit,” filed herewith.
  • Reference will now be made in detail to some specific embodiments of the invention including the best modes contemplated by the inventors for carrying out the invention. Examples of these specific embodiments are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. While the invention is described in conjunction with these specific embodiments, it will be understood that it is not intended to limit the invention to the described embodiments. On the contrary, it is intended to cover alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. Moreover, numerous specific details are set forth below in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. The present invention may be practiced without some or all of these specific details. In other instances, well known process operations have not been described in detail in order not to obscure the present invention.
  • I. General Card Management System
  • A. Card Management Assembly
  • Referring now to FIG. 1, a gaming device 10 a includes a card management system having a card management assembly 11 a; one or more data exchange card read-write devices 12 for receiving, updating, reading and dispensing data cards 14; a card transporter 16 for moving or conveying data cards 14 within the gaming device; one or more card holders 18 for holding or storing data cards 14; and a processor 20 which controls the operation of the card read-write device 12, the card transporter 16 and the card holder 18.
  • There are a plurality of different embodiments of the data cards described herein. In one embodiment, the data cards have a substantially rectangular shape of a personal identification card, are relatively rigid and are constructed of a suitable plastic material. In another embodiment, the data cards are tickets. These data cards or tickets, in one example, have a rectangular shape, are relatively flexible and are constructed of paper or plastic. Furthermore, these data cards or tickets can be assembled in a roll where each data card or ticket is cut or torn from the roll. In other embodiments, the data cards can include, consist of or have the configuration of slips, paper currency, tokens, coins or any suitable combination of such embodiments of the data cards.
  • The card read-write device 12, in this embodiment, includes a gaming device interface (not shown) which enables the gaming device processor 20 to electronically communicate with the data card 14. Using the gaming device interface, the processor 20 reads, updates or resets credit or cash identification data on a data card 14, depending upon which events occur during a game. The gaming device interface may directly contacts the data card 14, and through conduction or magnetism, enables communication. However, the gaming device interface can also include a device which enables the processor 20 and the data card 14 to communicate without such direct contact such as through the use of magnetic field technology. In one embodiment, instead of including a card read-write device, the gaming device includes a card read device and a card write device.
  • The card transporter 16, in one embodiment, includes a plurality of rollers 22 which, under the control of the processor 20, move data card 14 to and from the card read-write device 12 and to and from the card holder 18. The rollers 22 rotate at a predetermined rate and in a predetermined direction so as to move data cards 14 to their destinations. The card transporter 16 may include a path 16 a for conveying data cards 14 to the card holder 18 and a path 16 b for conveying data cards 14 to the card read-write device 12. It should be appreciated that the card transporter 16 can include any mechanism or set of mechanisms which can transport data cards 14, whether or not rollers are included.
  • The card holder 18, in one embodiment, includes at least one spring 24 which compresses the data cards and a feeder 26 adapted to feed a single data card 14 from the card holder 18 into the rollers 22 of the transport 16. It should be appreciated that the card holder 18 can include any mechanism or set of mechanisms which enables the card transporter 16 to store and retrieve data cards 14. For example, the card holder could include a chute (not shown) which, when closed, stores data cards and when opened enables a single data card to drop into a card tray (not shown) for collection by a player. In yet another embodiment, the card holder can include one or more rollers or wheels which can selectively hold and release data cards. The wheels may rotate upon the occurrence of predetermined events to feed particular data cards to a card transporter or directly to a card tray. It should be appreciated that the card holder can include any mechanism capable of holding or storing a plurality of data cards and enabling the gaming device to dispense the data cards to players.
  • In one embodiment, the gaming device includes a plurality of card holders designated for holding different types of data cards (such as data cards with integrated circuits, magnetic cards, optical cards, used cards and unused or new cards). Here, the data exchange card read-write device enables the gaming device processor to read and write machine readable data to different types of cards for those gaming devices which accommodate different types of data cards. In any case in this embodiment, players can use different types of circulating data cards to play the gaming device.
  • As illustrated in FIGS. 2A and 2B, in one embodiment gaming device 10 b includes a card management assembly 11 b for receiving a data card 14 a. Here, the gaming device processor, using the read-write device, reads the data card 14 a and stores the credit unit data on that card in the memory of the gaming device as described below and as indicated by block 28. The processor then resets the data card 14 a, bringing it to a predetermined state (such as a blank state or face value state), also as indicated by block 28. Then the gaming device processor causes the transport to move this (now) reset data card 14 a to the card holder 18 where a plurality of other data cards are stored.
  • The processor uses the gaming device memory to keep track of the player's credit units and cash balance as the player plays the game. If the player uses or exhausts all of the credit units, the game terminates and the gaming device does not dispense a data card to the player. However, if the player who inserted the data card 14 a cashes out or terminates the game and has credits, the gaming device processor causes the feeder 26 to feed a data card 14 a from the card holder 18 to the transport for conveyance to the card read-write device. There the processor stores data on that data card 14 b which corresponds to or is associated with the amount of remaining credits or cash balance, by writing data as indicated by block 30. The gaming device 10 b then dispenses the data card 14 b to the player.
  • The gaming device processor, in one embodiment, uses a computer program to operate the gaming device in conjunction with circulating data cards. The computer program can be stored in any memory or data storage device. The storage device can include software and/or hardware, including, without limitation, any tape or any disk, such as a CD-ROM, floppy disk, hard disk or any other optical or magnetic disk.
  • In one embodiment, the computer program instructs the gaming device processor to cause the gaming device to: (a) receive a certain amount of currency; (b) designate for a player a certain amount of credits which corresponds to the amount of currency received; (c) initiate a game; (d) enable the player to gain and lose credits while playing the game; (e) track any credit gains and losses; (f) terminate the game after the player cashes out or after the player loses a certain amount of credits; (g) retrieve a data card from the card holder; (h) change data on the retrieved data card; and (i) dispense the data card to the player.
  • In another embodiment, the computer program instructs the gaming device processor to cause the gaming device to: (a) receive a certain amount of currency; (b) designate for a player a certain amount of credits which corresponds to the amount of currency received; (c) initiate a game; (d) enable the player to gain and lose credits while playing the game; (e) track any credit gains and losses; (f) terminate the game after the player cashes out or after the player loses a certain amount of credits; (g) retrieve a blank data card from the card holder; (h) change data the blank data card to a charged data card; and (i) dispense the charged data card to the player.
  • In yet another embodiment, the computer program instructs the gaming device processor to cause the gaming device to: (a) receive a data card having credit unit data or other data corresponding to or associated with a certain amount of credit units or cash; (b) designate for a player a certain amount of credits which corresponds to such data stored on the received data card; (c) initiate a game; (d) enable the player to gain and lose credits while playing the game; (f) track any credit gains and losses; (g) terminate the game after the player cashes out or after the player loses a certain amount of credits; (h) reset the received data card; (i) move the received data card to the card holder; (j) retrieve a data card from the card holder; (k) change data on the retrieved data card; and (l) dispense the retrieved data card to the player.
  • In another embodiment, the computer program instructs the gaming device processor to cause the gaming device to: (a) receive a data card having credit unit data or other data corresponding to or associated with a certain amount of credit units or cash; (b) designate for a player a certain amount of credits which corresponds to such data stored on the received data card; (c) initiate a game; (d) enable the player to gain and lose credits while playing the game; (e) track any credit gains and losses; (f) terminate the game after the player cashes out or after the player loses a certain amount of credits; (g) update the received data card; and (h) dispense the received data card to the player.
  • In one embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, gaming device 10 c includes a card management assembly 11 c for receiving data card 14 c with data associated with a certain amount of credit units or cash and dispensing this same data card 14 c back to the player if credits remain when the player cashes out. If the player loses all of his/her credits, the gaming device processor resets data card. The processor then causes the transport to move data card 14 c to the card holder for storage and future dispensing. If, on the other hand, when the player cashes out or terminates the game, a certain amount of credit remains, the gaming device processor updates the data on the data card 14 c to correspond to the amount of credits or cash possessed by the player at the point of cash out, as indicated by block 32. The updating may be accomplished by writing data, as described below. In any case, gaming device 10 c then dispenses this data card 14 c to the player with the data associated with the player's balance of appropriate credit or cash. It should be appreciated that the card may be retained in the card read-write device or in the card holder while the player plays the gaming device.
  • The embodiments described in FIGS. 2A, 2B and 3 include techniques which gaming devices may employ to reuse and manipulate data cards. In one embodiment, these techniques preserve gaming device and data card resources and also simplify the manipulation of data cards within the gaming devices. Either one of these techniques may be suitable for different types of gaming devices and different types of games. It should be appreciated that the gaming device can include alternate, suitable techniques for reusing, resetting, updating and manipulating data cards within the gaming device.
  • B. Data Card
  • The gaming device processor or a currency station can reset the data cards repeatedly so that a single population of circulating data cards can serve different players at different times. The data card may be universal, meaning that it can be used by different players and different times. Though the data card is, in one embodiment, substantially rectangular and sized for a wallet, the data card can be of any suitable shape or size.
  • The type of data card suitable may have the capacity to be repeatedly reset and, in one embodiment, can be repeatedly changed between: (a) a blank state and a charged state; or (b) a face value charged state and a different charged state. During the life time of a single data card, the data card can be reset or otherwise brought to a particular state on numerous occasions. In one embodiment, the data card can be reset and brought to a particular state (such as a blank state or a face value state) hundreds or possibly thousands of times without jeopardizing the integrity or functionality of the data card.
  • The gaming device may be operable to receive currency (as described below) or the gaming device need not be adapted to receive currency. In such a non-currency embodiment, players are required to obtain data cards or tokens from currency stations in order to play the gaming device. In one embodiment, after players have finished playing, all reset data cards remain in the gaming devices and players take charged data cards to a currency station for redemption. In one embodiment, periodically a gaming enterprise employee redistributes reset data cards which have accumulated in gaming devices and currency stations in order to maintain a relatively even distribution of reset data cards in the desired places. This embodiment may be most useful to gaming enterprises which have a policy against storing currency or cash on the “floor.”
  • In one embodiment, the data card includes an integrated circuit or chip, as described below. The integrated circuit includes a data card processor and one or more memory devices. These data cards are commonly known as I/C cards or chip cards, and are also known as “smart cards” though this term is often casually used to refer to data cards in general (whether or not they include an integrated circuit). These types of data cards are commercially available from a variety of data card manufacturing companies and can be programmed for different purposes. In one embodiment, the data card includes retain code stored in its memory. When the data card has reached a predetermined state (such as a blank state or a particular face value) or when a player reaches a certain credit balance (such as zero), the retain code instructs the gaming device processor to cause the gaming device to keep or retain the data card provided by the player. The retain code can also instruct the data card processor and/or the gaming device processor to reset the data card and have it stored in the gaming device for future use.
  • In other embodiments, the data card does not include an integrated circuit or chip. Instead, the data card may include one or more mechanisms which enable the gaming device processor to read, change and reset the data stored on the data card. These mechanisms may include magnetic codes, optical codes, bar codes and/or other suitable technologies.
  • As further described below, in one embodiment the data card includes: (a) a thermo-sensitive graphics recording member or strip on the front side of the card; and (b) an elongated magnetic member or strip. The graphics recording strip enables a thermal graphics writer to record player-readable graphics on the card, and the recording strip also enables a thermal graphics eraser to erase graphics on the card. The magnetic strip enables a data exchange read-write device to read machine readable data stored on the card and to store machine-readable data on the card.
  • One or more security devices or security techniques may be incorporated into the data cards. Such security devices or techniques can prevent, deter or hinder unauthorized people from rewriting or changing data stored in the data cards.
  • In one embodiment, a suitable encryption method or encryption code is used to encrypt the data stored on the data card. Here, the gaming devices and currency stations can include a key code, unlock code or translation code. The gaming devices and currency stations use this code to access, read and/or write to the data card. In other embodiments, holographic images and/or isotope materials are incorporated into the data card to help ensure the authenticity of the data cards. It should be appreciated that other suitable know security devices and methods to aid in the security of the data cards can be utilized.
  • C. Operation
  • As illustrated in FIG. 4, a plurality of data cards (represented generally by data cards 34) may be both received and dispensed by a plurality of gaming devices (represented by gaming devices 36 a through 36 c). The same data card can be used by different players on different occasions. For example, a particular player A may initiate a game by depositing currency in a gaming device 36 a illustrated by block 38. The gaming device 36 a houses or stores a plurality of blank data cards 34 in a card holder 40 a. When player A deposits currency in gaming device 36 a, a card transporter in the gaming device brings one of the blank data cards 34 into contact with a gaming device interface. The gaming device processor, using a card read-write device, writes fund data corresponding to a certain amount of credit units on the data card which, in turn, corresponds to the amount of currency deposited.
  • After player A makes the deposit, the gaming device processor causes fund data corresponding to one hundred fifty credit units to be written on data card 34 a. Player A then plays one or more games at that gaming device 36 a. If the player cashes out or terminates the game with credits remaining, the gaming device will dispense data card 34 a with the credit, cash or fund data corresponding to the appropriate amount of remaining credits. In this example, player A purchases one hundred fifty credit units for data card 34 a, plays the game and wins an additional fifty credits, bringing the player's balance to a total of two hundred credit units. Player A then cashes out, and gaming device 36 a dispenses data card 34 a with data associated with two hundred credit units or data associated with the cash equivalent of such credit units.
  • Player A then inserts that data card 34 a into gaming device 36 b in order to play one or more games there. Player A loses one hundred twenty-five credits while playing gaming device 36 b before cashing out or terminating the game. The processor in gaming device 36 b updates the fund data on the data card 34 a to reflect a new credit unit amount of seventy-five. The gaming device 36 b then dispenses this data card 34 a to player A.
  • Continuing with the example, player A takes this data card 34 a with seventy-five credit units and inserts it into gaming device 36 c. While playing the game at gaming device 36 c, player A loses the remaining seventy-five credit units. The processor of gaming device 36 c resets the data card 34 a to a blank state, and the processor then causes the card transporter to move data card 34 a into a card holder 40 a within gaming device 36 c.
  • Player A then leaves or walks away from gaming device 36 c with no data card and no currency or payout, as indicated by block 42. As indicated by block 44, a different player B may deposit currency into gaming device 36 c. The processor of gaming device 36 c may write fund data associated with to a certain amount of credit units onto data card 34 a. This amount of credit units will correspond to the amount of currency inserted into gaming device 36 c. In this example, the processor writes onto the data card 34 a, fund data which is associated with three hundred credit units or fund data associated with the cash equivalent of such credit units.
  • While playing gaming device 36 c, player B earns an additional two hundred credits, and the processor stores fund data associated with an additional two hundred credit units (or the cash equivalent thereof) on data card 34 a appropriately. Player B then may cash out and receive data card 34 a having fund data associated with five hundred credit units stored on it or fund data associated with the cash equivalent of such credits. At this point, the player B may then take this data card 34 a to a currency station and exchange it for the appropriate amount of currency. In this example, player B takes data card 34 a to currency station 46.
  • Depending upon the particular embodiment, the currency station 46 can be a clerk validation terminal (CVT), gaming machine, wireless cashier or a manually operated cashier station. Whether the currency station is automated or run by an operator, the currency station receives the data card 34 a and initially validates the data card 34 a. This validation step involves reading the information on the data card 34 a and comparing this information to information stored in the pay validation system described below. Upon successful validation, the currency station 46 reads the fund data on this data card 34 a, resets this data card 34 a and stores it with other blank data cards 34 in card holder 40 b. In addition, currency station 46 dispenses or provides a certain amount of currency to player B which corresponds to the fund data which remained on data card 34 a, when provided to the currency station, as indicated by block 48.
  • In an example of one embodiment illustrated in FIG. 5, a single data card A is circulated to three players: player A, player B and player C. Initially, data card A is at a blank state stored in a currency station where player A deposits a certain amount of currency. The amount of currency deposited corresponds to six credit units. The currency station provides data card A to the player with fund data corresponding to six credit units. In playing one or more gaming devices, player A loses two credits and then gains three credits before cashing out. Consequently, when the player cashes out, a gaming device dispenses data card A with fund data corresponding to seven credit units. Player A then takes data card A to a currency station and, upon validation, receives a cash payout corresponding to the seven credit units. The currency station then returns the data card A to a blank state.
  • Player B then deposits a certain amount of currency at a currency station and in turn receives data card A with fund data corresponding to five credit units. In playing one or more gaming devices, player B earns two credits and then loses seven credits. Accordingly, the fund data on the data card is changed to reflect an increase by two and then a decrease to zero. Player B then leaves the gaming device and walks away with no currency and with data card A remaining inside the gaming device. Player C then deposits a certain amount of currency into this gaming device and the processor of the gaming device changes the data card A from the blank state to a charged state having fund data reflecting three credit units. Player C plays the gaming device and earns seven credits before cashing out. The processor of the gaming device thus changes the fund data on data card A to reflect an increase to ten credit units and dispenses data card A to player C. Player C then takes data card A to a currency station. Upon validation, the currency exchange provides the player C with an amount of currency corresponding to the ten credit units.
  • In another embodiment, the gaming device is adapted to receive a plurality of data cards with predetermined face values or preset credit units. For example, such data cards could be a set of data cards with fund data associated with five credit units and a set of data cards with fund data associated with to ten credit units. These data cards, in one embodiment, do not reach a blank state. Instead, after use, they are returned to their predetermined face value or state. Data cards of different face values can be stored in various gaming device card holders designated for such data cards.
  • This embodiment may be desirable to gaming enterprises which have various games which require various minimum credits to initiate the games. In the example illustrated in FIG. 6, player A obtains a five credit unit data card B by depositing the amount of currency corresponding to five credits in a gaming device. Using data card B at a gaming device, player A initially loses two credits and then gains four credits before cashing out. The processor of the gaming device updates the fund data on the data card B to reflect seven credit units. Player A then takes this data card B to a currency station and, upon validation, receives a cash equivalent of seven credit units. The currency station then returns the data card B to its predetermined face value or charged state reflecting five credit units. Player B then obtains the same data card B by depositing the amount of currency corresponding to five credit units in a currency station. After doing so, player B uses data card B to play a game and earns an additional seven credits, and the processor of the gaming device adjusts or updates the fund data on the data card B to reflect an amount of twelve credit units. Player B then takes this data card B to a currency station. Upon validation, the currency exchange provides the player B with an amount of currency corresponding to twelve credit units. The currency station returns this data card B to its predetermined face value or preset charged state reflecting five credit units.
  • Player C then deposits an amount of currency equivalent to five credit units in a currency station and receives data card B which has fund data associated with five credit units. After doing so, player C inserts data card B into a gaming device, plays the gaming device and loses three credits. The processor of the gaming device initially erases, removes or modifies the fund data to correspond to five credit units so as to return to card B three credit units to its predetermined face value. The gaming device then stores this data card B for future use, and player C walks away from the gaming device with no data card and no currency.
  • It should be appreciated that the gaming device processor can change, erase or add fund data on a data card at the beginning of a game, ending of a game, at cash out or any time during the operation of the gaming device. In addition, it should be appreciated that the examples illustrated in FIGS. 4 through 6 involve a relatively small number of players merely for illustrative purposes. The gaming device may enable an individual or numerous different players to use the same data card on different occasions. This function of the gaming device, in one embodiment, resembles the role of currency, such as dollar bills, being used or handled by different members of the general public.
  • II. Card Management System for Cards with Graphical Display
  • Referring now to FIGS. 7 through 12, an embodiment of a gaming device 110 with a gaming device processor 112 and a card management system is illustrated. The card management system includes: (a) a card management assembly 114 positioned in the gaming device 110; and (b) a plurality of cards 116 manipulated and managed by the card management assembly 114 in the gaming device 110. As described above, in one embodiment the gaming device processor 112 is the processor which controls the general operation of the gaming device. In another embodiment, the processor 112 is an extra processor which is designated for controlling the card management system.
  • A. Card Management Assembly
  • As generally illustrated in FIG. 7, in one embodiment the card management assembly 114 includes: (a) a card processing station, bay or assembly 118 where the card 116 is processed and treated as described below; (b) a recycled or used card bin or used card holder 120 for holding used cards 116 a which have been used on one or more occasions by a player; (c) a new card bin or new card holder 122 for holding new cards 116 b which have not previously been used by a player; and (d) a lower support member, platform or pan 123 which functions as a common mount for the card processing assembly 118, used card holder 120 and new card holder 122.
  • 1. Card Processing Assembly
  • As best illustrated in FIGS. 8, 9 and 10, in one embodiment, the card processing assembly 118 includes: (a) a base support unit or lower base member 124 having a plurality of walls 125 and a card track or card support member 139 for supporting the card 116 while the card 116 is in motion or at rest; (b) a suitable card entry sensor 127, such as one having a light source 127 a and a photo eye or light receiver 127 b; (c) a card transporter 130 for moving the card 116 to and from certain portions of the card processing assembly 114; (d) a data read-write device or data reader-writer 132 supported by the base member 124 for reading machine readable data stored on the data card 116 and for writing and storing machine readable data on the data card 116; (e) a graphics printing device graphics recorder or graphics printer 134 for printing, recording or forming text, symbols, images or other graphics on the data card 116 through the use of heat, chemical treatment or other suitable techniques; (f) a graphics erasing device or graphics eraser 136 for partially, substantially or entirely erasing or hiding text, symbols, images or other graphics on the data card 116; and (g) an upper or top support unit or top member 137 which functions as a common mount for the card entry sensor 127, card transporter 130, graphics printer 134 and graphics eraser 136.
  • In one embodiment, the card entry sensor 127 is electrically or electronically connected to the card transporter 130. In operation, first the player inserts the card 116 through the card slot defined by the card acceptor or card entry wall 140 connected to the exterior of the gaming device 110. When the card 116 reaches the sensor 127, the sensor 127 detects the card 116 and transmits a signal to the motor of the card transporter 130. When the card transporter motor receives this signal, the motor activates the card transporter 130, and the card transporter 130 moves the card 116 into the gaming device 110.
  • In one embodiment, the card transporter 130 includes: (a) a plurality of gears or drive wheels 141; (b) a plurality of card engagement wheels 142 coupled to the drive wheels 141; and (c) one or more electrical motors (not shown) which are mechanically coupled to the drive wheels 141 and electronically coupled to the gaming device processor 112. In operation, when powered by the motor, the drive wheels 141 transmit force to the card engagement wheels 142 which, in turn, transmit force to the cards 116. Depending upon the rotational direction of the drive wheels 141, the card transporter 130 can draw the card 116 into the gaming device 110 or dispense the card 116 from the gaming device 110.
  • As best illustrated in FIG. 9, the data reader-writer 132 of the card processing assembly 118 can include any suitable electronic or electromagnetic card interface device which reads machine-readable data on the card 116 and also writes machine-readable data to the card 116. In one embodiment where the card 116 has a magnetic strip, layer or member 143 as described below, and the data reader-writer 132 includes an electromagnetic or magnetized device 144 which is in communication with the gaming device processor 112. When the card 116 enters the card processing assembly or station 118, the processor 112 uses the magnetized device 144 to read the data on the card 116 in order to determine if the card 116 is the proper type of card to be inserted into the gaming device 110. If so, the magnetized device 144 then reads other information on the card 116 such as the fund data corresponding to the total quantity of credit units and the name of the player. The processor 112 retrieves this information and stores this information in the memory device of the gaming device 110.
  • In one embodiment, where the card 116 includes a heat sensitive graphics recording medium or member 146 (illustrated in FIG. 11), the graphics printer 134 includes: (a) a laser, heat or thermal energy source (not shown) and a thermal energy director or printing head (not shown) which directs the energy source to designated areas or portions of the graphics recording member 146; and (b) a plurality of biasing members or springs 148 which bias the printing head against the graphics recording member 146. For example, the printing head can direct the thermal energy source so that the thermal energy source is applied to the graphics recording member 146 in a designated pattern or form. The processor 112 uses the graphics printer 134 to cause player-readable text, symbols, images or other graphics to appear on the graphics recording member 146. In one embodiment, when the player has completed playing the gaming device 110, the graphics printer 134 prints player-specific information on the recording member 146, such as the player's name and the player's balance of credit units (or the monetary value of such credit units).
  • In this embodiment, the graphics eraser 136 of the card processing assembly 118 may include: (a) a thermal energy source (not shown) and a thermal energy director or erasing head (not shown) which directs and applies the thermal energy source to part or all of the heat sensitive graphics recording member 146 of the card 116; and (b) a plurality of biasing members or springs 150 which bias the thermal energy director against the graphics recording member 146. As described below, when a certain degree or level of thermal energy is applied to the heat sensitive graphics recording member 146, the text, symbols, images or other graphics on the printing layer 146 have a decreased intensity, darkness or visibility or are otherwise removed, erased or become invisible. Using the graphics printer 134 and the graphics eraser 136, the processor 112 can print and erase player-readable text, symbols, images and other graphics on the card 116.
  • In one embodiment, the card 116 remains in the card processing assembly or station 118 while the player is playing the gaming device 110. In one example, when the player is finished playing, the processor 112 uses the magnetized device 144 to remove or adjust the fund data on the card 116 and to then store fund data associated with the player's current balance of credit units on the card 116. At this phase, the processor 112 may use the graphics eraser 136 to erase all text from the card 116, and the processor 112 may use the graphics printer 134 to print the player's name and the monetary equivalent of the player's credit balance on the card 116.
  • Next, the card transporter 130, under control of the processor 112, dispenses the card 116 to the player. In this case, the player leaves the gaming device 110 with the same card 116 which the player inserted into the gaming device 110. However, the card 116 has a different credit balance, a new printing of the player's name and a different player-readable monetary or purse value printed on the card 116.
  • 2. Used Card Holder
  • In some cases, the player may finish playing the gaming device 110 with no remaining balance of credits, and the player may not be interested in keeping the card 116. In this scenario, the used card holder 120 of the card management assembly 114 functions as a repository or storage place for such used cards 116 a. As best illustrated in FIG. 9, the used card holder 120 includes: (a) a lower base unit or lower retaining member 152 having a plurality of retaining walls 154; and (b) an upper unit, top unit or top member 156 for manipulating the cards 116 and 116 a. The lower retaining member 152 may include a suitable card lifting mechanism or card lifting device 157 which applies a force to the bottom of the stack of cards 116 a. Depending upon the embodiment, the card lifting device 157 can include one or more biasing members, such as springs (not shown), or a motorized platform (not shown) which moves the stack of cards 116 a upward or downward depending upon whether a used card 116 a is entering or leaving the lower retaining member 152. In addition, the lower retaining member 152 can include a card level sensor 158 for sensing when the old card holder 120 is empty or when the quantity of old cards 116 a in the old card holder 120 has otherwise reached a designated level.
  • The top member 156 of the used card holder 120, in one embodiment, includes: (a) a sliding closure member, gate or door 159 shown partially open in FIG. 10; (b) a substantially flat support member or platform 160 positioned so as to overlay the door 159; (c) a coupling member or arm 162 which couples the door 159 to the platform 160; (d) a slide bar or rod 164 which couples the arm 162 to the platform 160, enabling the arm 162 and the door 158 to slide relative to the platform 160; (e) a motor 166; (f) a worm gear 168 which is coupled to the motor 166 and which is also engaged with the arm 162; and (g) a motor (not shown) which drives a card engagement wheel 170.
  • In operation, the gaming device processor 112 controls the motors of the used card holder 120 in order to selectively deposit used cards 116 into the used card holder 120 and to retrieve used cards 116 a from the used card holder 120.
  • In one embodiment, the memory device of the gaming device 110 includes at least one card management instruction, command or program. This card management program directs the processor 112 to move a card 116, which a player has used to play the gaming device, from the card processing station 118 to the used card holder 120 on one or more conditions. One condition is if such used card 116 remains in the processing station 118 a designated amount of time after the player has finished playing the gaming device 110. As described above, when the card 116 is in the processing station 118, the processor 112, in one embodiment, removes or adjusts the fund data from the card 116 and erases all graphics from the card. Therefore, when the player finishes playing the gaming device 110 with no remaining balance of credits, and the player is not interested in keeping the card 116, the processor 112 causes the processing station 118 to move the card 116 to the used card holder 120 after a certain period of time elapses.
  • At the same time or shortly thereafter, the processor 112 activates the motors of the used card holder 120 and causes the door 159 to slide away from the retaining walls 154, thereby exposing the opening 172. The processor 112 then causes the card engagement wheel 170 to rotate in a direction which directs the card 116 over the opening 172. When the card 116 reaches the opening 172, the card 116 drops into the lower retaining member 152.
  • Once a card 116 is erased and moved into the used card holder 120, the card 116, which at that point is a used card 116 a, is available for use by future players of the gaming device 110. For example, a new player may initiate play of the gaming device by depositing coins, tokens or a ticket into the gaming device 110. When this player finishes playing the gaming device 110, the player may have a balance of credit units. When the player cashes-out, the processor 112 initially causes the used card holder 120 to move one of the used cards 116 a to the card processing station 118. Specifically, the processor 112 controls the used card holder 120 so that the door 159 slides open, enabling the top card 116 a to exit the retaining member 152 and to rest on top of the door 159. Next, the card engagement wheel 170 rotates in such a direction so as to move the card 116 a toward the card processing assembly or station 118. The card processing assembly 118 then, under control of the processor 112, transfers fund data associated with the player's credit units to the card 116 a and also prints or forms graphics, such as the player's name and current monetary balance, on the card 116 a. Finally, the processor 112 causes the card processing assembly 118 to dispense the card 116 a to the player. In this fashion, the same card 116 can be reused or recycled time and time again by different players of the same or different gaming devices.
  • 3. New Card Holder
  • It is expected that a certain percentage of players will begin playing the gaming device with a data card 116 and a certain percentage of players will begin playing the gaming device 110 without a data card 116 by using, for example, tokens, tickets or cash. If too many players begin playing the gaming device 110 without a data card 116, in comparison to the number of players who begin playing with a data card 116, the supply of used cards 116 a in the used card holder 116 may be depleted.
  • For this reason, the card management assembly 114 includes a new card holder 122 which holds a plurality of new or unused cards 116 b. In one embodiment, the new card holder 122 is positioned on the pan 123 in line with and directly behind the used card holder 120.
  • As best illustrated in FIG. 9, the new card holder 122 includes: (a) a lower base unit or lower retaining member 174 having a plurality of retaining walls 176; and (b) an upper unit, top unit or top member 178 for manipulating the cards 116 b. The lower retaining member 174 may include a suitable card lifting mechanism or card lifting device 180 which applies a force to the bottom of the stack of cards 116 b. Depending upon the embodiment, the card lifting device 180 can include one or more biasing members, such as springs (not shown), or a motorized platform (not shown) which moves the stack of cards 116 b upward depending upon when a new card 116 b is leaving the lower retaining member 174. In addition, the lower retaining member 174 can include a card level sensor 181 for sensing when the new card holder 122 is empty or when the quantity of new cards 116 b in the new card holder 122 has otherwise reached to a designated level.
  • The top member 178 of the used card holder 122, in one embodiment, includes: (a) a sliding closure member, gate or door 182 shown closed in FIG. 10; (b) a substantially flat support member or platform 184 positioned so as to overlay the door 182; (c) a coupling member or arm 186 which couples the door 182 to the platform 184; (d) a slide bar or rod 188 which couples the arm 186 to the platform 184, enabling the arm 186 and the door 182 to slide relative to the platform 184; (e) a motor 190; (f) a worm gear 192 which is coupled to the motor 190 and which is also engaged with the arm 186; and (g) a motor (not shown) which drives a card engagement wheel 194.
  • In operation, the gaming device processor 112 controls the motors of the new card holder 122 in order to selectively retrieve new cards 116 b from the new card holder 122. In one embodiment, the memory device of the gaming device 110 includes at least one card management instruction, command or program. This card management program directs the processor 112 to retrieve a new card 116 b from the new card holder 122 on one or more conditions. One condition is if the old card holder 120 is empty, as detected by the card level sensor 158 of the used card holder 120.
  • If this condition occurs, the processor 112 initially causes the door 158 of the old card holder 120 to remain closed, and the processor 112 causes the new card holder 122 to move one of the new cards 116 b from the top member 178 of the new card holder 122, through the top member 156 of the used card holder 120 and to the card processing station 118. Specifically, the processor 112 controls the new card holder 122 so that the door 182 slides open, enabling the top card 116 b to exit the retaining member 174 and to rest on top of the door 182. Next, the card engagement wheel 194 rotates in such a direction so as to move the card 116 b toward the old card holder 120.
  • The processor 112 then causes the card engagement wheel 170 of the old card holder 120 to force the new card 116 b toward the card processing assembly or station 118. The card processing assembly 118 then, under control of the processor 112, transfers fund data corresponding to the player's credit units to the new card 116 b and also prints graphics, such as the player's name and current monetary balance, on the new card 116 b. Finally, the processor 112 causes the card processing assembly 118 to dispense the new card 116 b to the player. In this fashion, the gaming device 110 can provide players with data cards even after there are no more used cards 116 a in the gaming device 110.
  • In one embodiment, the gaming device processor 112 uses both of the card level sensors 158 and 181 to determine or monitor the levels of cards 116 in the card holders 120 and 122. In one embodiment, when the processor 112 determines that the amount of cards 116 a or 116 b has been reduced to a certain level, the processor 112 provides a suitable output or message either on the gaming device 110 or on a facility management or maintenance system.
  • B. Data Card
  • Referring now to FIGS. 11 and 12, in one embodiment, the front side or face 198 of the data card 116 includes a printing medium or a graphics recording member 146 which can include one or more layers of material. The graphics recording member 146 may be a thermosensitive recording medium or member or a thermo-reversible medium or member. In one embodiment, the graphics recording member 146 may include one or more low-molecular weight materials, and when these materials are heated to different levels of temperature, these materials change to have different reflection densities. For example, one level of heat may cause the graphics recording member 146 to have a transparent state, and another level of heat may cause the graphics recording member 146 to have an opaque state. In another embodiment, when different levels of heat are applied to the graphics recording member 146, different chemical reactions occur in the graphics recording member 146. Here, one type of chemical reaction can cause the graphics recording member 146 to have one color, and a different chemical reaction can cause the graphics recording member 146 to have a different color.
  • In one embodiment, the thermosensitive recording member 146 has a plurality of different light transmission states associated with different levels of heat. The different light transmission states can include a transparent state, an opaque state and other states. In one embodiment, each of the light transmission states is associated with a graphical characteristic including, without limitation, black, white, color, shade and intensity.
  • In another embodiment, the thermosensitive recording member 146 has a plurality of different chemical states associated with different levels of heat where each of the chemical states may be associated with a graphical characteristic including, without limitation, black, white, color, shade and intensity.
  • In the embodiment where the recording member 146 is a thermo-reversible or thermosensitive member, the thermal head (not shown) of the graphics printer 134 applies a designated level of heat to a pattern on the recording member 146. If, for example, the pattern is the letters for the text 202, the face 198 of the card 116 displays the player-readable text 202, which in this example, is the name of the player. In another example, if the pattern is the player-readable text 204, the face 198 of the card 116 displays the text 204 to the player. In this example, the text 204 is the monetary equivalent or purse amount of the player's credit unit balance on the card 116.
  • The graphics eraser 136 can erase this text 202 and 204 by applying a certain level of heat to the recording member 146. Accordingly, the recording member 146 can be written upon and erased time and time again.
  • It should be appreciated that various suitable sizes and types of the recording member 146 can be used to accommodate different types, sizes, color and shapes of different text, images, symbols and graphics which the card processing assembly 18 may print on and remove from the recording member 146.
  • As illustrated in FIG. 12, the backside 205 of the card 116 includes a magnetic layer, strip, member, or magnetic memory device 143 which magnetically stores machine-readable data, codes or information. Using the reader-writer 132, the gaming device processor 112 can read this machine-readable code and also write this code onto the card 116. When the processor 112 stores fund data or information on the magnetic memory device 143, this data remains on the card 116. The player can take this charged card 116 to a currency station, such as a clerk validation terminal (CVT). The currency station, in one embodiment, has a magnetic read-write device which reads the fund data on the magnetic memory strip 143. By communicating with an electronic pay validation system, the currency station verifies the amount of currency payable to the player. Upon successful verification, the currency station provides the appropriate amount of currency to the player. In one embodiment, the magnetic member 143 includes one of the magnetic strips which are commercially available and commonly used on credit cards, and debit cards and the like.
  • III. Data Card Having Processor
  • Referring to FIG. 13, in one alternative embodiment, the gaming device may be used in conjunction with a data card 206 which includes: (a) a data card processor 208 which communicates with EEPROM (Erasable Electrically Programmable Read-Only Memory) 210; (b) data card ROM (Read-Only Memory) 212; (c) data card RAM (Random Access Memory) 214; and (d) data card interface 216. The data card processor 208 can include any processor which has the function and size suitable for integration into a data card. Data card processor 208 operates on a suitable operating system. The operating system known as mask may be one example of a suitable operating system. EEPROM 210 is a flexible and robust form of nonvolatile memory. Data stored in EEPROM 210 remains there even when there is no power supply, and the data can be changed relatively quickly and easily, although not as quickly as data can be changed in data card RAM 214. EEPROM 210 may store variable credit unit data, as described below.
  • Data card ROM 212 stores computer programs or code which the data card processor 208 uses to erase and write data. Data card ROM 212 may include retain code which instructs the gaming device processor and/or the data card processor 208 to cause the gaming device to retain the data card 206 once it reaches a predetermined state or once a player reaches a certain balance of credits, such as a zero balance. In one embodiment, data card ROM 212 includes data regarding a predetermined number of times in which the data card 206 can be reset or returned to a predetermined state. Data card processor 208 uses this data to deactivate data card 206 at the appropriate time. This deactivation ensures that older data cards which are vulnerable to dysfunction are removed from circulation at the proper time. Data card RAM 214 includes data which may vary from time to time. For example, RAM 214 may include data regarding how many times a data card 206 has been used or which gaming devices have received the data card 206.
  • Data card interface 216 can include any mechanism, connection or terminal which is capable of enabling the data card processor 208 to exchange data with the gaming device processor. In one embodiment, the data card interface 216 includes one or more metal contacts (not shown) which are connected to the data card processor 208 and which are exposed at the surface of the data card 206. These contacts are adapted to make direct contact with the contacts of a gaming device interface. In another embodiment, data card interface 216 does not include such contacts, but rather includes the mechanisms necessary for the data card processor 208 to communicate with the processor of the gaming device without physical contact between data card 206 or any interface or portion of the gaming device. In one embodiment, such a contact-free interface involves electrical current running through coiled wire included in the data card interface 216 and an electromagnetic field generated by the gaming device interface.
  • In one embodiment, EEPROM 210 includes a predetermined number of memory cells which are preset to “1.” Each “1” corresponds to a credit unit. Thus, if a player purchases ten credit units, ten of the memory cells in the data card would be written or set to “1.” In response to messages received by the gaming device processor, the data card processor 208 writes or rewrites data to the memory cells.
  • For each credit lost during a game, the gaming device processor may rewrite to a memory cell from “1” to “0”, and for each credit gained during a game the data card processor 208 may rewrite a memory cell from “0” to “1”. Alternatively, the gaming device processor can be programmed to minimize rewrites by not causing the data card processor 208 to write memory cells until the player cashes out or terminates the game. At that point, the gaming device processor may subtract all credit losses from all credit gains, resulting in a net credit. The gaming device processor could then cause the data card processor 208 to rewrite a certain number of memory cells from “0” to “1,” where the number of rewrites corresponds to the net credit. It may be preferable that if a player loses all credits during a game, such that all memory cells are set to “0” or there is no net credit, the gaming device processor causes the game to terminate.
  • In another embodiment, the data card need not include EEPROM or the other memory devices illustrated in FIG. 13. Rather, the data card may include non-EEPROM technology and/or alternate, suitable data storage devices which the data card processor and/or gaming device processor can use.
  • IV. Gaming Device
  • The card management system can be used in conjunction with any suitable type of gaming device. Referring now to FIGS. 14A and 14B, two alternative embodiments of the gaming device are illustrated as gaming device 310 a and gaming device 310 b, respectively. Gaming device 310 a and/or gaming device 310 b are generally referred to herein as gaming device 310.
  • In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIGS. 14A and 14B, gaming device 310 has a support structure, housing or cabinet which provides support for a plurality of displays, inputs, controls and other features of a conventional gaming machine. It is configured so that a player can operate it while standing or sitting. The gaming device may be positioned on a base or stand or can be configured as a pub-style table-top game (not shown) which a player can operate while sitting. As illustrated by the different configurations shown in FIGS. 14A and 14B, the gaming device can be constructed with varying cabinet and display configurations.
  • In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 15A, the gaming device may include at least one processor 312, such as a microprocessor, a microcontroller-based platform, a suitable integrated circuit or one or more application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC's). The processor may be in communication with or operable to access or to exchange signals with at least one data storage or memory device 314. In one embodiment, the processor and the memory device reside within the cabinet of the gaming device. The memory device stores program code and instructions, executable by the processor, to control the gaming device. The memory device also stores other data such as image data, event data, player input data, random or pseudo-random number generators, pay-table data or information and applicable game rules that relate to the play of the gaming device. In one embodiment, the memory device store fund data, credit data or credit unit data. In one embodiment, the memory device includes random access memory (RAM). In one embodiment, the memory device includes read only memory (ROM). In one embodiment, the memory device includes flash memory and/or EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read only memory). Any other suitable magnetic, optical and/or semiconductor memory may be implemented in conjunction with the gaming device.
  • In one embodiment, part or all of the program code and/or operating data described above can be stored in a detachable or removable memory device, including, but not limited to, a suitable cartridge, disk or CD ROM. A player can use such a removable memory device in a desktop, a laptop personal computer, a personal digital assistant (PDA) or other computerized platform. The processor and memory device may be collectively referred to herein as a “computer” or “controller.”
  • In one embodiment, as discussed in more detail below, the gaming device randomly generates awards and/or other game outcomes based on probability data. That is, each award or other game outcome is associated with a probability and the gaming device generates the award or other game outcome to be provided to the player based on the associated probabilities. In this embodiment, since the gaming device generates outcomes randomly or based upon a probability calculation, there is no certainty that the gaming device will ever provide the player with any specific award or other game outcome.
  • In another embodiment, as discussed in more detail below, the gaming device employs a predetermined or finite set or pool of awards or other game outcomes. In this embodiment, as each award or other game outcome is provided to the player, the gaming device removes the provided award or other game outcome from the predetermined set or pool. Once removed from the set or pool, the specific provided award or other game outcome cannot be provided to the player again. This type of gaming device provides players with all of the available awards or other game outcomes over the course of the play cycle and guarantees the amount of actual wins and losses.
  • In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 14A, the gaming device includes one or more display devices controlled by the processor. The display devices may be connected to or mounted to the cabinet of the gaming device. The embodiment shown in FIG. 14A includes a central display device 316 which displays a primary game. This display device may also display any secondary game associated with the primary game as well as information relating to the primary or secondary game. The alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 14B includes a central display device 316 and an upper display device 318. The upper display device may display the primary game, any suitable secondary game associated with the primary game and/or information relating to the primary or secondary game. As seen in FIGS. 14A and 14B, in one embodiment, the gaming device includes a credit display 320 which displays a player's current number of credits, cash, account balance or the equivalent. In one embodiment, the gaming device includes a bet display 322 which displays a player's amount wagered.
  • The display devices may include, without limitation, a monitor, a television display, a plasma display, a liquid crystal display (LCD) a display based on light emitting diodes (LED) or any other suitable electronic device or display mechanism. In one embodiment, as described in more detail below, the display device includes a touch-screen with an associated touch-screen controller. The display devices may be of any suitable configuration, such as a square, rectangle, elongated rectangle.
  • The display devices of the gaming device may be configured to display at least one and preferably a plurality of game or other suitable images, symbols and indicia such as any visual representation or exhibition of the movement of objects such as mechanical, virtual or video reels and wheels, dynamic lighting, video images, images of people, characters, places, things and faces of cards, tournament advertisements and the like.
  • In one alternative embodiment, the symbols, images and indicia displayed on or of the display device may be in mechanical form. That is, the display device may include any electromechanical device, such as one or more mechanical objects, such as one or more rotatable wheels, reels or dice, configured to display at least one and preferably a plurality of game or other suitable images, symbols or indicia.
  • As illustrated in FIGS. 14A and 14B, in one embodiment, the gaming device includes at least one currency acceptor 326 in communication with the processor. The currency acceptor 326 may include a coin slot or a payment, note or bill acceptor, where the player inserts money, tickets, coins or tokens.
  • Also, in this embodiment, the gaming device includes a data card acceptor 328 where the player can insert data cards 14 and 116 into the gaming device and receive data cards 14 and 116 from the gaming device. In one embodiment, money may be transferred to a gaming device through electronic funds transfer. When a player funds the gaming device, the processor determines the amount of funds entered and the corresponding amount is shown on the credit or other suitable display as described above.
  • As seen in FIGS. 14A, 14B and 15A, in one embodiment the gaming device includes at least one and preferably a plurality of input devices 330 in communication with the processor. The input devices can include any suitable device which enables the player to produce an input signal which is read by the processor. In one embodiment, after appropriate funding of the gaming device, the input device is a game activation device, such as a pull arm 332 or a play button 334 which is used by the player to start any primary game or sequence of events in the gaming device. The play button can be any suitable play activator such as a bet one button, a max bet button or a repeat the bet button. In one embodiment, upon appropriate funding, the gaming device begins the game play automatically. In another embodiment, upon the player engaging one of the play buttons, the gaming device automatically activates game play.
  • In one embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 14A and 14B, one input device is a bet one button 336. The player places a bet by pushing the bet one button. The player can increase the bet by one credit each time the player pushes the bet one button. When the player pushes the bet one button, the number of credits shown in the credit display may decrease by one, and the number of credits shown in the bet display may increase by one. In another embodiment, one input device is a bet max button (not shown) which enables the player to bet the maximum wager permitted for a game of the gaming device.
  • In one embodiment, one input device is a cash out button 338. The player may push the cash out button and cash out to receive a data card charged with credit units, a cash payment or other suitable form of payment corresponding to the number of remaining credits. In one embodiment, when the player cashes out, the player receives the coins or tokens in a coin payout tray 340.
  • In one embodiment, as mentioned above and seen in FIG. 15A, one input device is a touch-screen 342 coupled with a touch-screen controller 344, or some other touch-sensitive display overlay to allow for player interaction with the images on the display. The touch-screen and the touch-screen controller are connected to a video controller 346. A player can make decisions and input signals into the gaming device by touching touch-screen at the appropriate places.
  • The gaming device may further include a plurality of communication ports for enabling communication of the processor with external peripherals, such as external video sources, expansion buses, game or other displays, an SCSI port or a key pad.
  • In one embodiment, as seen in FIG. 15A, the gaming device includes a sound generating device controlled by one or more sound cards 348 which function in conjunction with the processor. In one embodiment, the sound generating device includes at least one but possibly a plurality of speakers 350 or other sound generating hardware and/or software for generating sounds, such as playing music for the primary and/or secondary game or for other modes of the gaming device, such as an attract mode. In one embodiment, the gaming device provides dynamic sounds coupled with attractive multimedia images displayed on one or more of the display devices to provide an audio-visual representation or to otherwise display full-motion video with sound to attract players to the gaming device. During idle periods, the gaming device may display a sequence of audio and/or visual attraction messages to attract potential players to the gaming device. The videos may also be customized for or to provide any appropriate information.
  • In one embodiment, the gaming machine may include a player or other sensor, such as a camera in communication with the processor (and possibly controlled by the processor) that is selectively positioned to acquire an image of a player actively using the gaming device and/or the surrounding area of the gaming device. In one embodiment, the camera may be configured to selectively acquire still or moving (e.g., video) images and may be configured to acquire the images in either an analog, digital or other suitable format. The display devices may be configured to display the image acquired by the camera as well as display the visible manifestation of the game in split screen or picture-in-picture fashion. For example, the camera may acquire an image of the player and that image can be incorporated into the primary and/or secondary game as a game image, symbol or indicia.
  • Gaming device 310 can incorporate any suitable wagering primary or base game. The gaming machine or the gaming device may include some or all of the features of conventional gaming machines or devices. The primary or base game may comprise any suitable reel-type game, card game, number game or other game of chance susceptible to representation in an electronic or electromechanical form which produces a random outcome based on probability data upon activation from a wager. That is, different primary wagering games, such as video poker games, video blackjack games, video Keno, video bingo or any other suitable primary or base game may be implemented.
  • In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIGS. 14A and 14B, a base or primary game may be a slot game with one or more paylines 352. The paylines may be horizontal, vertical, circular, diagonal, angled or any combination thereof. In this embodiment, the gaming device displays at least one and preferably a plurality of reels 354, such as three to five reels 354 in either electromechanical form with mechanical rotating reels or video form with simulated reels and movement thereof. In one embodiment, an electromechanical slot machine includes a plurality of adjacent, rotatable wheels which may be combined and operably coupled with an electronic display of any suitable type. In another embodiment, if the reels 354 are in video form, the plurality of simulated video reels 354 are displayed on one or more of the display devices as described above. Each reel 354 displays a plurality of indicia such as bells, hearts, fruits, numbers, letters, bars or other images which may correspond to a theme associated with the gaming device. In this embodiment, the gaming device awards prizes when the reels of the primary game stop spinning if specified types and/or configurations of indicia or symbols occur on an active pay line or otherwise occur in a winning pattern.
  • In one embodiment, a base or primary game may be a poker game wherein the gaming device enables the player to play a conventional game of video poker and initially deals five cards all face up from a virtual deck of fifty-two card deck. Cards may be dealt as in a traditional game of cards or in the case of the gaming device, may also include that the cards are randomly selected from a predetermined number of cards. If the player wishes to draw, the player selects the cards to hold via one or more input device, such as pressing related hold buttons or via the touch screen. The player then presses the deal button and the unwanted or discarded cards are removed from the display and replacement cards are dealt from the remaining cards in the deck. This results in a final five-card hand. The final five-card hand is compared to a payout table which utilizes conventional poker hand rankings to determine the winning hands. The player is provided with an award based on a winning hand and the credits the player wagered.
  • In another embodiment, the base or primary game may be a multi-hand version of video poker. In this embodiment, the player is dealt at least two hands of cards. In one such embodiment, the cards are the same cards. In one embodiment each hand of cards is associated with its own deck of cards. The player chooses the cards to hold in a primary hand. The held cards in the primary hand are also held in the other hands of cards. The remaining non-held cards are removed from each hand displayed and for each hand replacement cards are randomly dealt into that hand. Since the replacement cards are randomly dealt independently for each hand, the replacement cards for each hand will usually be different. The poker hand rankings are then determined hand by hand and awards are provided to the player.
  • In one embodiment, a base or primary game may be a keno game wherein the gaming device displays a plurality of selectable indicia or numbers on at least one of the display devices. In this embodiment, the player selects at least one or a plurality of the selectable indicia or numbers via an input device or via the touch screen. The gaming device then displays a series of drawn numbers to determine an amount of matches, if any, between the player's selected numbers and the gaming device's drawn numbers. The player is provided an award based on the amount of matches, if any, based on the amount of determined matches.
  • In one embodiment, in addition to winning credits in a base or primary game, the gaming device may also give players the opportunity to win credits in a bonus or secondary game or bonus or secondary round. The bonus or secondary game enables the player to obtain a prize or payout in addition to the prize or payout, if any, obtained from the base or primary game. In general, a bonus or secondary game produces a significantly higher level of player excitement than the base or primary game because it provides a greater expectation of winning than the base or primary game and is accompanied with more attractive or unusual features than the base or primary game.
  • In one embodiment, the bonus or secondary game may be any type of suitable game, either similar to or completely different from the base or primary game. In one embodiment, the gaming device includes a program which will automatically begin a bonus round when the player has achieved a triggering event or qualifying condition in the base or primary game. In one embodiment, the triggering event or qualifying condition may be a selected outcome in the primary game or a particular arrangement of one or more indicia on a display device in the primary game, such as the number seven appearing on three adjacent reels along a payline in the primary slot game embodiment seen in FIGS. 14A and 14B. In another embodiment, the triggering event or qualifying condition may be by exceeding a certain amount of game play (number of games, number of credits, amount of time), reaching a specified number of points earned during game play or as a random award.
  • In one embodiment, once a player has qualified for a bonus game, the player may subsequently enhance his/her bonus game participation through continued play on the base or primary game. Thus, for each bonus qualifying event, such as a bonus symbol, that the player obtains, a given number of bonus game wagering points or credits may be accumulated in a “bonus meter” programmed to accrue the bonus wagering credits or entries toward eventual participation in a bonus game. The occurrence of multiple such bonus qualifying events in the primary game may result in an arithmetic or geometric increase in the number of bonus wagering credits awarded. In one embodiment, extra bonus wagering credits may be redeemed during the bonus game to extend play of the bonus game.
  • In one embodiment, no separate entry fee or buy in for a bonus game need be employed. That is, a player may not purchase an entry into a bonus game; he must win or earn entry through play of the primary game and, thus, play of the primary game is encouraged. In another embodiment, qualification of the bonus or secondary game could be accomplished through a simple “buy in” by the player if, for example, the player has been unsuccessful at qualifying through other specified activities.
  • In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 15B, one or more of the gaming devices 310 may be connected to each other through a data network or a remote communication link 358 with some or all of the functions of each gaming device provided at a central location such as a central server or central controller 356. More specifically, the processor of each gaming device may be designed to facilitate transmission of signals between the individual gaming device and the central server or controller.
  • In one embodiment, the game outcome provided to the player is determined by a central server or controller and provided to the player at the gaming device. In this embodiment, each of a plurality of such gaming devices is in communication with the central server or controller. Upon a player initiating game play at one of the gaming devices, the initiated gaming device communicates a game outcome request to the central server or controller.
  • In one embodiment, the central server or controller receives the game outcome request and randomly generates a game outcome for the primary game based on probability data. In another embodiment, the central server or controller randomly generates a game outcome for the secondary game based on probability data. In another embodiment, the central server or controller randomly generates a game outcome for both the primary game and the secondary game based on probability data. In this embodiment, the central server or controller is capable of storing and utilizing program code or other data similar to the processor and memory device of the gaming device.
  • In an alternative embodiment, the central server or controller maintains one or more predetermined pools or sets of predetermined game outcomes. In this embodiment, the central server or controller receives the game outcome request and independently selects a predetermined game outcome from a set or pool of game outcomes. The central server or controller flags or marks the selected game outcome as used. Once a game outcome is flagged as used, it is prevented from further selection from the set or pool and cannot be selected by the central controller or server upon another wager. The provided game outcome can include a primary game outcome, a secondary game outcome, primary and secondary game outcomes, or a series of game outcomes such a free games.
  • The central server or controller communicates the generated or selected game outcome to the initiated gaming device. The gaming device receives the generated or selected game outcome and provides the game outcome to the player. In an alternative embodiment, how the generated or selected game outcome is to be presented or displayed to the player, such as a reel symbol combination of a slot machine or a hand of cards dealt in a card game, is also determined by the central server or controller and communicated to the initiated gaming device to be presented or displayed to the player. Central production or control can assist a gaming establishment or other entity in maintaining appropriate records, controlling gaming, reducing and preventing cheating or electronic or other errors, reducing or eliminating win-loss volatility and the like.
  • In another embodiment, one or more of the gaming devices may be in communication with a central server or controller for monitoring purposes only. That is, each individual gaming device randomly generates the game outcomes to be provided to the player and the central server or controller monitors the activities and events occurring on the plurality of gaming devices. In one embodiment, the gaming network includes a real-time or on-line accounting and gaming information system operably coupled to the central server or controller. The accounting and gaming information system of this embodiment includes a player database for storing player profiles, a player tracking module for tracking players and a credit system for providing automated casino transactions.
  • A plurality of the gaming devices may be capable of being connected together through a data network. In one embodiment, the data network is a local area network (LAN), in which one or more of the gaming devices are substantially proximate to each other and an on-site central server or controller as in, for example, a gaming establishment or a portion of a gaming establishment. In another embodiment, the data network is a wide area network (WAN) in which one or more of the gaming devices are in communication with at least one off-site central server or controller. In this embodiment, the plurality of gaming devices may be located in a different part of the gaming establishment or within a different gaming establishment than the off-site central server or controller. Thus, the WAN may include an off-site central server or controller and an off-site gaming device located within gaming establishments in the same geographic area, such as a city or state. The WAN gaming system may be similar to the LAN gaming system described above, although the number of gaming devices in each system may vary relative to each other.
  • In another embodiment, the data network is an internet or intranet. In this embodiment, the operation of the gaming device can be viewed at the gaming device with at least one internet browser. In this embodiment, operation of the gaming device and accumulation of credits may be accomplished with only a connection to the central server or controller (the internet/intranet server) through a conventional phone or other data transmission line, digital signal line (DSL), T-1 line, coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, or other suitable connection. In this embodiment, players may access an Internet game page from any location where an internet connection and computer, or other internet facilitators are available. The expansion in the number of computers and number and speed of internet connections in recent years increases opportunities for players to play from an ever-increasing number of remote sites. It should be appreciated that enhanced bandwidth of digital wireless communications may render such technology suitable for some or all communications, particularly if such communications are encrypted. Higher data transmission speeds may be useful for enhancing the sophistication and response of the display and interaction with the player.
  • In another embodiment, a plurality of gaming devices at one or more gaming sites may be networked to a central server in a progressive configuration, as known in the art, wherein a portion of each wager to initiate a base or primary game may be allocated to bonus or secondary event awards. In one embodiment, a host site computer is coupled to a plurality of the central servers at a variety of mutually remote gaming sites for providing a multi-site linked progressive automated gaming system. In one embodiment, a host site computer may serve gaming devices distributed throughout a number of properties at different geographical locations including, for example, different locations within a city or different cities within a state.
  • In one embodiment, the host site computer is maintained for the overall operation and control of the system. In this embodiment, a host site computer oversees the entire progressive gaming system and is the master for computing all progressive jackpots. All participating gaming sites report to, and receive information from, the host site computer. Each central server computer is responsible for all data communication between the gaming device hardware and software and the host site computer.
  • In another embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 15C, one or more of the gaming devices 310 are in communication with a pay validation system 360 through a network or a plurality of communication lines or channels 362. The pay validation system 360 can include any suitable system for tracking payment transaction information for the use of data cards 14 and 116 with gaming devices 310. In one embodiment, the pay system is similar to the commercially available pay system known as the EZ Pay™ cashless gaming system. In one embodiment, the pay validation system 360 includes a pay validation processor 364 in communication with one or more databases 366. The databases 366 store transaction information. In another embodiment, a plurality of gaming devices 310 are connected to one or more clerk validation terminals (CVT's) 368 through a suitable communication channel 362. Here, the CVT 368 is connected to the pay validation system 360 through a communication channel 362.
  • In operation of one example, a player may play a gaming device 310 using a data card, and when the player finishes playing the gaming device, the gaming device may provide the data card to the player with fund data corresponding to a balance of four hundred credit units, the equivalent of two hundred dollars. At this point, the gaming device transfers this fund data or information to the pay validation system 360. When the player goes to a CVT 368 to obtain the two hundred dollars, the CVT 368 compares the fund data on the data card to the fund data stored on the pay validation system 360 for that data card. If the fund data matches, the CVT 368 pays the player two hundred dollars. If the fund data does not match, the CVT 368 does not pay the player the two hundred dollars.
  • To illustrate the circulation of data cards, in one example, a player deposits a certain amount of currency or cash in a gaming device. The gaming device stores a supply of data cards. After receiving the currency, the gaming device processor transfers fund data associated with a balance of credit units to the gaming device memory. The gaming device enables the player to play the game with a possibility of experiencing credit gains and credit losses. As instructed by one or more programs in the gaming device, the gaming device processor tracks the number of credit gains and credit losses. If the player has no remaining credits or reaches a minimal level of credits, the gaming device processor will terminate the game and not dispense a data card to the player.
  • In another example, the player may insert a data card with fund data corresponding to a certain number of credit units into the gaming device to begin playing. The gaming device reads and writes to the data card to reflect the player's credit gain or loss. If the player ends the game with no credits, the gaming device may erase and retain the data card for future use.
  • In either example, if the player ends the game with a balance of credits, the processor of the gaming device, using the card read-write device, may update the fund data on the data card and then dispense that data card to the player. The player may then redeem the data card at a CVT or currency station for the amount of currency associated with the fund data remaining on that data card. In this manner data cards can be reset and reused repeatedly by different players.
  • V. Gaming Device Having Card Processing Assembly With Vertically-Stacked Card Holders
  • Referring now to FIG. 16, an embodiment a gaming device 400 having a housing 402 is illustrated. The housing 402 supports: (a) a processor 404; (b) a display device 406 which displays a game to the player; (c) a card processing assembly 408 used to process data cards, such as data card 410; and (d) a card information indicator or card mouth display device 412 mounted to the housing 402 adjacent to the card processing assembly 408.
  • As best illustrated in FIGS. 17A, 17B, 17C and 18, the card processing assembly 408 includes: (a) a card mouth 414 which receives and dispenses data cards; (b) a card hopper, driver or transporter 416 which drives or moves the data cards from the card mouth 414 to the card holders 420 and 422; (c) a read-write device 419 which reads the machine-readable data on the data card 410 and also writes or stores machine-readable data onto the data card 410; and (d) a graphics print-erase device 421 which includes a heat source which directs heat onto the data card 410. This heat source causes graphics to appear on the data card 410, and the heat source also removes graphics from the data card 410.
  • In one embodiment, the read-write device 419 includes a data read device 419 a and a data write or data storing device 419 b. In one embodiment, the read-write device 419 includes a magnetized device that interfaces with a magnetic memory device on or in the data card 410. The read-write device 419 may include a memory device storing non-volatile memory for storing a transaction history of five hundred to ten thousand transactions or any suitable number of transactions.
  • It should be appreciated that the graphics print-erase device 421 can include a single mechanism that prints and erases cards or separate mechanisms, one of which prints and one of which erases. In one embodiment, the graphics print-erase device 421 includes a thermal graphics printer 421 a and a separate thermal graphics eraser 421 b.
  • In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 18, the card holder 420 holds acceptable quality data cards 424 which are useable, workable or otherwise satisfy a designated condition associated with an acceptable level of card integrity. The acceptable quality cards 424 include new data cards which have not been used, and the acceptable quality cards 424 can also include data cards which have been used but which have an acceptable level of integrity. Accordingly, the acceptable quality cards 424 are dispensable to players during operation of the gaming device 400.
  • The card holder 422 holds, supports or otherwise stores unacceptable quality data cards 426. The unacceptable quality cards 426 include data cards which do not meet a designated level of integrity. The unacceptable quality cards 426 may satisfy a plurality of card conditions, including, but not limited to, one or more of the following conditions:
  • a) Data card has been read a designated number of times;
    b) Data card has been written to a designated number of times;
    c) Data card has been thermally printed a designated number of times;
    d) Data card has been thermally erased a designated number of times;
    e) Data card has been used a designated number of times;
    f) Data card has been tampered with or altered;
    g) Data card has a flaw or defect;
    h) Data card is unreadable by the gaming device processor; and
    i) The intensity of the graphics printed by the print-erase device has
    been reduced by a designated percentage.
  • In one embodiment, the card processing assembly 408 includes a support member, frame or mount 427. The mount 427, which is connected to the housing 402, supports the card transporter 416, read-write device 419, print-erase device 421 and the card holders 420 and 422 in relatively close proximity to one another. As illustrated in FIG. 18, the card holders 420 and 422 are positioned or oriented in a vertically-stacked configuration. In the example illustrated, the card holder 422 is positioned above the card holder 420. In other embodiments not illustrated, the card holder 420 is positioned above the card holder 422. In additional embodiments not illustrated, the card holders 420 and 422 are off-set from one another. In this off-set configuration, one of the card holders is located above the other, but the card holders have different positions relative to a common x-axis.
  • Referring back to FIG. 16, in one embodiment, the housing 402 of the gaming device 400 has a greater degree of vertical space than horizontal space. The vertical configuration of the card processing assembly 408 enables the card processing assembly 408 to be relatively short in length. Accordingly, the card processing assembly 408 fits within the relatively small horizontal space of the housing 402.
  • Referring back to FIG. 17A, the card mouth display device 412 includes a suitable display screen, such as a liquid crystal diode (LCD) or organic light emitting diode (OLED) screen. The relatively small or miniature display device 412 displays images and graphics relating to the data card 410 used by the player. For example, the card mouth display device 412 can display an image or graphics which provides card usage instructions to the player, such as an “INSERT YOUR CARD BELOW” graphics 462.
  • In one embodiment illustrated in FIG. 17B, the card mouth display device 412, as controlled by the processor 404, displays a plurality of different graphics, symbols or images 464, 466 and 468, each of which can be printed on the face 502 of the data card 410. By using one or more input device, such as buttons 470, the user can select a desired image 464, 466 or 468. If the user selects cherry image 466, the processor 404 causes the card processing assembly 408 to thermally print the selected cherry image 466 on the face 502 of the data card 410.
  • In this way, the processor 404 enables a player to print on the card 410, casino-specific or other graphics which are displayed by the card information indicator or card mouth display device 412. This enables players to customize their data cards 410. In one embodiment, the gaming device 400 has a memory device which stores the data represented by such player-selectable graphics, and the memory device stores such data apart from the computer code use by the processor 404 to control the read-write device 419.
  • In one embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 16 and 17C, the gaming device 400 includes a digital camera 472 controlled by the processor 404. Upon the player's request, through use of an input device, the camera 472 takes a picture of the player, producing a digital photograph 474 of the player. Then the card mouth display device 412 displays the player's photograph 474. If the player is not pleased with the photograph 474, the processor 404 enables the digital camera 474 to take another picture of the player. Upon the player's input, the processor 404 causes the card processing assembly 408 to thermally print the player's photograph 474 on the face 502 of the data card 410. It should be appreciated that the display device 406 can also be used to display part or all of one or more of the graphics 464, 466, 468 and 474.
  • The card mouth 414, in one embodiment, includes: (a) a plurality of walls 428 which define a slot 429; (b) an indicator 430 which indicates or signifies information, features or events to the player; and (c) an eject device 431 which enables the player to eject the data card 410 from the gaming device 400. The slot 429 has a length and width sufficient to enable the player to insert the card 410 into the card mouth 414.
  • The indicator 430, sometimes referred to as a lighted bezel, produces a plurality of different visual effects viewable by the player. In one embodiment, the indicator 430 has a plurality of connected panels forming a rectangular shape, and the indicator 430 surrounds the perimeter of the slot 429. The indicator 430 can produce one visual effect when the gaming device is in attract mode, and the indicator 430 can produce a different visual effect when a game is being played. In one embodiment, the gaming device 400 includes one or more light sources, such as light source 432. The light source 432 directs light toward the indicator 430. This light causes the indicator 430 to illuminate with different colors when different events occur. The different colors may result from different colors of light produced by the light source 432. One embodiment of the indicator 430 is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,565,434.
  • In one embodiment, the indicator 430 includes a wall 434 defining an opening that receives a depressible activator or eject button 436. When the player depresses the button 436, the card processing assembly 408 dispenses a data card to the player. In one embodiment, the memory device of the gaming device 400 stores data associated with a plurality of different designated visual effects, and each of the visual effects is associated with a different event. For example, the different visual effects can be associated with an attract mode event, a card insert event, a game start event, a winning outcome event, a game end event, a cash-out event and a card eject event. When the player inserts the card 410, the indicator 430 may, for example, produce a green light, and when the player depresses the depressible activator 436, the indicator 430 may, for example, produce a flashing red light.
  • As illustrated in FIGS. 19 and 20, the card processing assembly 408 also includes an electronic or electrical connector or pin connector 438. The pin connector 438 is attached to the rear side 440 of the card processing assembly 408. The rear side 440 defines a plurality of holes 441. The holes 441 are sized to receive a plurality of fasteners (not shown) which connect the card processing assembly 408 to the housing 402 of the gaming device 400.
  • As best illustrated in FIG. 20, the pin connector 438, in one embodiment, includes three pin walls 422 which define holes to receive three electronic or electrical pins (not shown). It should be appreciated, however, that in other embodiments, the pin connector 438 can include any suitable number of pin walls.
  • As illustrated in FIG. 21, the under side 444 of the card processing assembly 408 defines a plurality of holes 446 a and 446 b. The holes 446 a and 446 b are sized to receive a plurality of fasteners (not shown) used to mount the card processing assembly 408 to the housing 402 of the gaming device 400. The card processing assembly 408 also includes an additional electronic connector or pin connector 448. In this embodiment, the pin connector 448 includes eight or twelve pin walls (not shown) to receive eight or twelve electronic or electrical pins (not shown). It should be appreciated, however, that the pin connector 448 can includes any number of pin walls. The connectors 438 and 448 electronically or electrically couple the card processing assembly 408 to the processor 404 of the gaming device 400.
  • VI. Data Card With Thermally-Printable Area
  • Referring to FIGS. 22 through 27, an embodiment of a thermally-printable data card 500 having an upper side or face 502, a back side or underside 504 and a body 507 positioned between the face 502 and underside 504. The thermally-printable data card 500 includes at least one thermally active or thermally printable region, member, zone or area 505 and at least one non-thermally printable region, member, zone or area 506. In operation, the card processing assembly 408 thermally prints thermal graphics 508 on or at the thermally printable area 505. The thermal graphics 508 can include any text, image, art or symbol. The thermal graphics 508 represents or describes changeable player information, player-tracking information, gaming information or gaming-related information. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 22, the thermal graphics 508 include player-related text 510 identifying the player's name or identity, payout-related text 512 identifying the purse value or redemption value of the card 500 and bar code graphics 514. The bar code graphics 514 includes a bar code which is associated with the redemption value of the card 500 which, in this example, is eight hundred dollars.
  • It should be understood that the data card system may be usable by casinos which have not yet fully converted from bar code ticket systems to the data card system. The bar code graphics 514, which are associated with the redemption value of the card, enable such casinos to continue using bar code readers for redemption purposes. This is because, in one embodiment, the card processing assembly 408 updates the thermally-printed bar code graphics 514 upon each use of a data card. Therefore, after the gaming device dispenses a data card to the player, the casino's bar code reader can determine the redemption value of the card by reading the bar code graphics 524.
  • Referring now to FIG. 24, the non-thermally printable member or area 506 includes gaming-related graphics 516 which, in this example, include gaming-related artwork and card insertion information. In the illustrated example, the graphics 516 include the representation or image of a conventional playing card. The graphics 516, in one embodiment, are permanent graphics which are preprinted on the card in the card manufacturing stage. The graphics 516 can be produced with a permanent printing substance such as ink, paint or dye.
  • As illustrated in FIGS. 23 and 25, the card 500 also includes a data device 518. The data device 518 stores machine-readable data. The data device 518 also enables the card processing assembly 408 to read machine-readable data from the card and store machine-readable data 520 to the card. In one embodiment, the data device 518 includes a magnetic data device or magnetic interface 522 that stores payout-related information, enables the reading of data on the data card and enables the writing of data to the data card. As in the example illustrated in FIGS. 23 and 25, the data device 518 can be visible on the underside 504 of the card 500. It should be appreciated, however, that in other embodiments, the data device 518 is positioned between the face 502 and underside 504 of the card 500. In such embodiment, the data device 518 is not exposed or visible. The data card 500 may include text 524 printed on the underside 504 of the card 500. This text 524 may relate to legal disclaimer language, card usage information, restrictions of use or other suitable user information.
  • It should be appreciated that the data card can include multiple thermally-printable members or areas. Referring back to FIG. 24, in one embodiment, the data card 500 includes thermally-printable area 505 a and thermally printable area 505 b. In this example, both of these areas 505 a and 505 b display thermal graphics on the face 502 of the data card 500.
  • As illustrated in FIGS. 26 and 27, the body 507 of the data card 500, in one embodiment, includes: (a) a protection member or layer 524 (having a thickness of two micrometers plus or minus one micrometer); (b) a printing member or layer 526 (for preprint purposes, such as black); (c) a thermal printing member or layer 528 (having a thickness of five to eight micrometers); (d) an insulation member or layer 530 (having a thickness of two micrometers plus or minus one micrometer); (e) a magnetic member or layer 532 (having a thickness of fifteen micrometers plus or minus two micrometers); (f) a polyethylene terephthlate (PET) member or layer 534 (having a thickness of one hundred eighty-eight to two hundred fifty micrometers); (g) a printing member or layer 536 (which may include multi-color or dye sublimation having a thickness of two micrometers plus or minus one micrometer); and (h) a protection member or layer 538 (having a thickness of two micrometers plus or minus one micrometer).
  • In one embodiment, the data card 500 includes one of the re-writable cards, such as the TC Card™, which is commercially available through Ricoh Co., Ltd or one of its subsidiaries or affiliates, including, but not limited, to Ricoh Electronics Inc.
  • In another embodiment, the data card 500 includes one of the embodiments of the rewriteable card disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,448,284; 5,448,280 and/or 5,448,279.
  • In one embodiment, the data card 500 includes one of the thermally-printable cards, such as the Kudos Card™, which is commercially available through Mitsubishi Plastics, Inc. or one of its subsidiaries or affiliates.
  • As described above, in one embodiment, the data card includes a ticket, consists of a ticket or otherwise has the configuration of a ticket. Here, the tickets 14, 14 a, 14 b, 14 c, 116, 206, 410 and 500 each have the components and functionality described herein with respect to data cards 14, 14 a, 14 b, 14 c, 116, 206, 410 and 500, respectively.
  • VI. Data Card
  • A. Card Changeover Door
  • Referring to FIGS. 28 and 29, in one embodiment, the gaming device 400 includes an access device, access panel, card changeover device or door 450 connected to the housing 402. The door 450 is connected to the rear side 452 of the housing 402, as illustrated in FIG. 28. In another embodiment, the door 450 is connected to the left side 454 of the housing 402. In each embodiment, the door 450 is positioned adjacent to the card holders 420 and 422 of the data card assembly 408. In operation, the door 450 enables an operator to: (a) replace the card holders 420 and 422 with either a replacement card holder holding new data cards or an empty card holder; or (b) insert additional cards into the card holder 420 and remove the unacceptable quality cards from the card holder 422. In one embodiment, the door 450 includes: (a) one or more coupling members, such as tracks or hinges 456, which couple the door 450 to the housing 402; and (b) one or more mechanisms or members 458 (including, but not limited to, grip members, handles and locks) which facilitate the operator's opening, closing and locking of the door 450. It should be understood that the rear side 452 can include other doors and openings, such as the vents 460. In one embodiment, the card changeover device enables the user to load into the gaming device, approximately three hundred cards, from outside of the gaming device, within approximately sixty seconds.
  • B. Portable Card Loading Devices
  • Portable card loading devices constructed in accordance with embodiments of the present invention are described herein. These card loading devices can be carried by hand by casino attendants and technicians to service gaming devices on the floor of a gaming environment such as a casino. The card loading device is an external and separate device from the gaming device, capable of interfacing, such as by docking, with an appropriate interface of the gaming device.
  • In one embodiment, the card loading device communicates with a card management assembly 114 within the gaming device and is capable of requesting and processing status information and card loading information to replenish consumable data cards and remove waste or reject cards. Responsive to received status and hopper level information, for example, the card loading device is operatively coupled to automatically load new or acceptable quality data cards, i.e. “use condition” data cards, and unload reject or unacceptable quality cards, i.e. “non-use condition” data cards. The service desirably takes place without interrupting play of the gaming machine and without opening any doors or access panels of the gaming machine. Thus, using the card loading devices described herein, a card management assembly 114 can be promptly identified and serviced when necessary, and without compromising security during the card loading operation.
  • Referring now to FIGS. 30 and 31, an embodiment of a portable card loading device 600 that may be used in conjunction with the gaming device 602 is described. The card loading device 600 may include: (a) a housing 604; (b) at least one card holder 606 positioned within the housing; (c) at least one drive mechanism or card transporter 608 used to dispense and retrieve data cards; (d) at least one input device 610 enabling the operator to provide input signals for operating the card loading device 600; (e) at least one output device 612 which provides visual and/or audio output to the operator; (f) a processor 614 in control of the card transporter 608, input device 510 and the output device 612; (g) a battery power source 616, which may be rechargeable, that provides electrical power to the card transporter 608, input device 610, the output device 612 and the processor 614; (h) an access device or panel 618 which enables the operator to access the card holder 606; (i) a hand grip member or handle 620 which assists the operator in griping, holding or supporting the card loading device 600; and (j) a mouth 622 which enables the card loading device 600 to communicate with the gaming device processor 404, distribute cards to the gaming device and receive cards from the gaming device.
  • In one embodiment, the mouth 622 includes: (a) a plurality of walls 624 which define a card slot 626; (b) upper and lower gaming device engagement members 628 and 630, respectively, which removably engage the card mouth 637 of the gaming device 602; (c) upper and lower electronic or electrical connectors 632 and 634, respectively, which operatively couple the card loading device 600 to the processor 404 of the gaming device 602; and (d) a plurality of securing members or fasteners 644 which enable the operator to removably connect the card loading device 600 to the gaming device 602.
  • Referring to FIG. 31, in one embodiment, the card mouth 637 of the gaming device 602 includes: (a) an upper electronic or electrical connector 638 which removably mates with or connects to the connector 632 of the card loading device 600; (b) a lower electronic or electrical connector 640 which removably mates with or connects to the connector 644 of the card loading device 600; and (c) a plurality of walls 642 which engage with the fasteners 644 of the card loading device's mouth 622.
  • In one embodiment, the card loading device 600 includes a plurality of securing members or fasteners 646 connected to the access panel 618 or the housing 604. The fasteners 646 enable the operator to attach the access panel 618 to the housing 604 in order to enclose the card holder 606. In addition, the fasteners 646 enable the operator to detach the access panel 618 from the housing 604 in order to gain access to the card holder 606.
  • In one embodiment, the card loading device 600 includes a support member, such as a pivotal leg 648 having a gaming device engagement pad or member 650. The leg 648 is movable between a first position where the engagement member 650 is positioned adjacent to the housing 604 and a second position where the engagement member 650 is displaced from the housing 604.
  • In operation, the processor 404 produces an alert signal which indicates a designated card depletion level of the card holder 420 or a designated card level of the card holder 422. In response, the operator opens the access panel 618 and fills the card holder 606 with a supply of acceptable quality data cards. Next, the operator attaches the mouth 622 to the mouth 637 of the gaming device 602. In doing so, the operator brings the card loading device 600 into electronic communication with the processor 404 of the gaming device 602. Then, the operator downwardly pivots the leg 648 until the engagement member 650 engages the housing 402 of the gaming device 602. In this position, the leg 648 distributes part of the weight of the card loading device 600 to the gaming device 602.
  • After making designated inputs using the input device 610, the card loading device automatically distributes a plurality of acceptable quality cards to the card holder 420 of the gaming device 602. When this distribution is complete, the gaming device 602 automatically dispenses all of the unacceptable quality cards from the card holder 422 to the card loading device 600. In one embodiment, the card loading device enables the operator to automatically load into the gaming device, approximately three hundred cards, from outside of the gaming device, within approximately sixty seconds.
  • The portable card loading device may assist operators in automatically retrieving unacceptable quality cards from gaming devices, and the card loading device may also assist operators in automatically filling gaming devices with new cards or acceptable quality cards. Because the card loading device is portable and relatively convenient to use, the card loading device increases the efficiency of operating and maintaining gaming devices which use data cards.
  • The gaming device can receive, read, update, reset, erase and house a plurality of data cards which are adapted to circulate through a plurality of gaming devices and which can be used repeatedly by multiple players on multiple occasions. The data cards usable by the gaming device can be reset or returned to a blank state or a face value state on multiple occasions. Instead of the data cards being limited to use by a single player, much like currency, any player can use them. This type of gaming device provides gaming device players and gaming enterprise operators with a greater level of convenience and ease in playing gaming devices and managing gaming facilities, respectively.
  • FIG. 32 is a side perspective view of a portable card loading device 700, constructed in accordance with another embodiment of the invention. The card loading device 700 is similar to loading device 600 in some respects, as the two devices 600 and 700 share certain components and features. For instance, the card loading device 700 includes one or more card holders 606, a card transport device 608, one or more input devices 610, one or more output devices 612, a processor 614, a power source 616, and an access device or panel 618. The portable card loading device 700 is preferably of suitable size and weight to be carried by hand, attached to a belt, or otherwise transported by a casino attendant.
  • FIG. 33 is a front perspective view of the portable card loading device 700. As shown in FIGS. 32 and 33, the mouth 622 is formed in a mating member 702, which protrudes from a housing 704 enclosing and holding the various components of card loading device 700 described herein. A data card 706 can be input to and output from mouth 622, as shown in FIG. 33.
  • FIG. 34 is a side view of a card management system including the portable card loading device 700 and card management assembly 114 of gaming device 602, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 34, mating member 702 is fitted into the card mouth 637 of card management assembly 114 during a card transfer operation. The mating member 702 is removably secured to the card mouth 637, and can be coupled and de-coupled from card management assembly 114 as desired by a casino operator.
  • As shown in FIGS. 32-34, the mating member 702 is a mechanical interface, which is adapted to engage the card mouth 637 of the gaming device 602. The mating member 702 is shaped to protrude from the housing 704, as illustrated, so that member 702 is capable of mating with the card mouth 637. The mouth 622 of mating member 702 is shaped and sized to dispense data cards such as card 706 to and receive data cards from the card mouth 637 of the gaming device 602. When card transfer at a particular gaming device is complete, the card loading device 700 can be detached from the gaming device 602 by removing mating member 702 from card mouth 637. The mouth 622 includes walls 624 defining a card slot 626, and can be constructed to include one or more of the members, fasteners, components, and connectors, as described above with respect to card loading device 600 of FIGS. 30 and 31, depending on the desired implementation.
  • In FIG. 34, when mating member 702 is fitted into the card mouth 637, member 702 serves as a mechanical support to support the weight of card loading device 700. Thus, a user such as a casino attendant does not have to manually support the weight of the card loading device 700 during card transfer to and from the gaming device, and can therefore focus on viewing information presented on display 612, and providing user input to execute the card loading operation. In addition, due to the inclusion of member 702 in card loader 700, additional supporting hardware, such as the pivotal leg 648 and engagement pad 650 described above with respect to card loading device 600, can be conveniently omitted.
  • In FIGS. 32 and 34, the mating member 702 is detachable from housing 704 of card loading device 700. To this end, in one embodiment, the mating member includes pins 708 a and 708 b which detachably fit into corresponding openings formed in housing 704. This detachable connection of mating member 702 to housing 704 provides a force limiting break-away feature, such that excessive forces imposed on the loading device 700, when engaged with the card mouth 637, cause the mating member 702 to break off from the housing 704 rather than tear or otherwise damage the card mouth 637 of the gaming device 602, its supporting structure, such as the bezels described herein, or the card loading device 700. For instance, during data card transfer, an inadvertent bump of sufficient force by the casino attendant or a player against the loading device 700 would cause the pins 708 a, 708 b of mating member 702 to snap off from housing 704, thereby detaching the mating member 702 from the housing 704. The force threshold for detachment is set so as to allow detachment before damage might be caused to gaming machine 602 or loading device 700. After detachment, the user could simply pick up the separated member 702 and housing 704, snap the two pieces back together, and complete the card transfer process.
  • In FIG. 32, the card holders 606 include a first storage bin 606 a adapted to hold one or more data cards. In one embodiment, the data cards stored in the first storage bin 606 a are acceptable quality data cards, that is, designated with the use condition. The new cards in first storage bin 606 a are intended to be loaded into the card management assembly 114 when a corresponding acceptable quality card holder is low or empty. The card holders 606 also include a second storage bin 606 b adapted to receive one or more data cards having a non-use condition or designation from a corresponding unacceptable quality, i.e. reject card holder. As further described herein, cards having the non-use designation can include, for example, damaged cards, defaced cards, and other cards determined as having no more useable life. In addition, in some situations, non-use cards also include acceptable quality cards identified for removal, for example, when one or more card holders in card management assembly 114 of gaming device 602 are at capacity.
  • In FIGS. 32 and 33, in one embodiment, a third card holder 710 is further provided in the card loading device 700. This supplemental card holder 710 can be constructed as hard container, or as a soft sack/pouch attached to the housing 704, depending on the desired implementation. The third card holder 710 provides additional reject card storage, that is, additional storage space for non-use condition cards received from the gaming device 602 during a card loading operation. For example, the card transport device 608 can be configured and coupled to transport cards having the non-use designation to the reject storage sack 710. When the sack fills up, an operator can remove it and easily destroy, recycle, or otherwise dispose of the cards. In one implementation, third card holder 710 is provided in addition to second card holder 606 b to receive non-use cards when card holder 606 b is at full capacity. In another embodiment, the third card holder 710 is provided in place of second card holder 606 b. With third card holder 710, a larger number of non-use condition data cards can be transferred to the card loading device than could otherwise be stored therein.
  • In FIG. 32, the battery or other suitable power source 616 provides power to the processor 614, the card transport device 608, and other components of the card loading device 700. The battery is preferably a rechargeable battery, such as a nickel cadmium battery, a nickel metal hydride battery or a lithium ion battery. In alternative embodiments, the card loading device 700 does not include a battery. For example, the processor 614, card transport device 608, and other components of the card loading device 700 can be powered through an external power source, for instance, using an AC adaptor. In another embodiment, such components are powered through a power interface in the mouth 622 of the card loading device 700, that mates with a power coupling in the gaming device 602.
  • In FIGS. 32 and 34, the card loading device 700 further includes a data interface 712 providing communications between the card loading device 700 and the gaming device 602. In card loading device 700, data interface 712 is located on the housing 704 separate from the member 702 and its mouth 622. The data interface 712 provides the services of electrical connectors 632 and 634, as described above with respect to card loading device 600, as well as additional services. For example, data interface 712 is capable of transferring executable code and related data, including software and/or firmware, for controlling the card management assembly 114 and possibly other peripherals and components of the gaming device 602. The data interface 712 is configured to communicate with a corresponding data interface 713 of the gaming device, for instance, including connectors 638 and 640 as described above. In this way, respective processors of the card loading device 700 and card management assembly 114 can be coupled to communicate with one another.
  • As an alternative to the wired connections described above with respect to connectors 632 and 634 vis-á-vis connectors 638 and 640 of card loader 600, the data interfaces 712 and 713 can be constructed as wireless interfaces, for example, using Infrared Data Association (IrDA) protocol. In alternative embodiments, other wireless communication protocols are used, including various optical communications standards and radio frequency (RF) communications standards.
  • FIG. 35 shows a rear perspective view of the card loading device 700. As shown, the card loading device 700 includes one or more output devices 612, including a display 714, and a speaker 716, that are coupled to the processor 614 to output visual and audio outputs to an operator, relating to card transfer and general operation of the card loading device 700 during, before, and after card and code transfer operations described herein. For example, the speaker 716 can broadcast suitable audio indicators corresponding to stages of a card loading operation, such as sounds indicating when a storage bin is full or empty, or when a firmware download operation is completed.
  • In FIG. 35, the display 714 is coupled to receive and display information including card loading information provided by the processor 614, in a suitable user interface. As shown in FIG. 35, the display is disposed on a side of housing 704 opposite the mating member 702, for ease in viewing when the card loader 700 is docked with card management assembly 114. In alternative embodiments, display 714 is situated on the top or sides of housing 704, as desired for the particular implementation. In FIG. 36, the card loading information communicated at corresponding stages of a card transfer operation can include, for example: battery 616 charge state, data interface communications status, data interface signal status and strength, gaming device ID number, card holder level and capacity for one or more of the above-described card holders, synchronization data, and status information such as load status, number of cards dispensed, and number of cards received by the card loading device 700. Various visual symbols, text, and other indicators presented in the user interface 714 can be used to convey such information.
  • FIG. 36 shows an exploded rear view of the card loading device 700. In FIGS. 35 and 36, the card loading device 700 further includes one or more input devices 610 mounted to the housing 704, and accessible by a user to operate the input devices. The input devices 610 are operatively coupled to the processor 614. Such input devices 610 enable a user to provide one or more inputs to control operation of the card loading device 700. For instance, a ‘start’ button can be provided, the pressing of which initiates the card loading operations described herein. The input devices 610 can further include a touch screen, for instance, fitted to display 612, configured to receive user input.
  • FIG. 37 shows a flow diagram of a method 800 for transferring data cards between a card loading device 600 or 700 and a data card unit (DCU) of a gaming device, performed in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. As used herein, “data card unit” and “DCU” refer to the card management assembly 114, described above. The terms “rotating data card unit,” “RDCU,” and “circulating data card unit,” as used herein, also refer to the card management assembly 114.
  • In FIG. 37, the method 800 begins in step 804, in which the card loading device (CLD) 600 or 700 is in an idle state, for instance, when carried by a technician about a gaming environment floor. The battery 616 is preferably charged, and the new card bin 606 a is preferably full. Gaming devices on the gaming floor are desirably configured with the capability of providing visual and/or audio indicators to technicians when service, i.e. card transfer, is needed. In one embodiment, a display on a bezel 908 or other panel of the gaming device shows a visual representation of the amount of cards in one or more card holders within. For instance, a graphical representation of a gas gauge for an automobile can be displayed to indicate whether a particular card holder is empty, full, or somewhere between. The technician can then easily see the indicated level of cards, and decide whether to service the gaming device.
  • In FIG. 37, when a technician identifies an electronic gaming machine (EGM) such as gaming device 602 for service, the technician can insert the mating member 702 of the card loading device 700 into the card mouth 637 portion of a gaming device, in step 808, as described above. Alternatively, when using loading device 600, the technician can dock the device 600 with gaming device 602 as described above. In some embodiments, a bezel 908 fitted to the cabinet of gaming device 602 provides a mechanical interface to the card mouth 637. This bezel includes a slot providing access to the mouth 637, and is shaped and fitted to provide a mechanical supporting structure for mounting the card loading device 700 to the gaming device 602, as well as supporting electronics components, as described in greater detail below.
  • In FIG. 37, after step 808, when the technician desires to initiate data card transfer, the technician can indicate this intention by providing one or more inputs through an input device of card loading device 700, such as pressing a region of a touch screen fitted to display 714, or pressing the start button, in step 812.
  • In FIG. 37, following step 812, a communications session is established between the card loading device 700 and the data card unit 114. In one embodiment, as shown in FIG. 37, establishing the communications session includes initiating and authenticating a communications session between the corresponding data interfaces 712 and 713 of the card loading device and the gaming device, for instance, using IrDA standards, in step 816. As described above, the electronic communications occur through a suitable wired or wireless path, depending on the implementation. In addition, as part of the establishing of communications between the data card unit 114 and card loading device 700, in step 820, the data card unit 114 preferably suspends or disconnects communications with the processor of the gaming device 602, generally provided via a USB or RS232 interface. This suspension or disconnection can be performed in response to the data card unit 114 identifying the card loader 700, in step 816.
  • In FIG. 37, the RDCU 114 determines and communicates status information for transferring data cards to and from the card loader 600 or 700. Such status information can include one or more status indicators such as card holder availability, card holder level, card holder empty, card holder not empty, card holder capacity, load status, number of cards dispensed, and number of cards received. The RDCU 114 is preferably configured with appropriate sensors and monitoring devices to gather such status information, and report it to a controller or processor for communications to the card loader 700. For example, the RDCU 114 can determine the data card level of the acceptable data cards in the recycled card holder 120 and/or new card holder 122. The data card unit 114 is also capable of determining whether there are any non-use condition data cards in the unacceptable quality data card holder. In step 824, the gathered status information of the data card unit 310 is communicated to the card loading device 600 or 700. Such information is preferably displayed on the display 612 for monitoring by the technician.
  • In FIG. 37, the operations of the card transport device 608 in the card loader 600 or 700 are synchronized with the card transport device 130 of the RDCU 114, in step 828. For instance, when the transport devices include one or more drive motors, step 828 includes synchronizing the speeds of the motors. In this way, card can be passed quickly between the card loader 600 or 700 and the RDCU 114 without collisions or jams.
  • In FIG. 37, when the respective transport devices are synchronized, data cards can be transferred between the card loading device 700 and the data card unit 114 in accordance with the status information provided in step 824. One operation and sequence for transferring cards is illustrated in FIG. 37, in steps 832-848, but other procedures and sequences are contemplated within the spirit and scope of the present invention. Generally, the data card transfer operation includes transferring “use condition” and “non-use condition” cards, as described above, between the card loader 600 or 700 and the RDCU 114, in accordance with the needs indicated by the status information received in step 824.
  • In FIG. 37, in step 832, based on the status information gathered in step 824, the data card unit 114 determines whether the data cards in the acceptable quality data card holder 122 are at the proper level. For example, the card level of the bin 122 is checked against some threshold, which can be set and adjusted as desired by the casino operator/technician, depending on the capacity of the RDCU 114. In one embodiment, the checking can be automatically performed by the processor 614 of the card loader 600 or 700. In one example, when the level in the new card bin 122 is within an acceptable and/or nominal range of the threshold, the method proceeds with the checking of any remaining card bins in step 844.
  • In FIG. 37, when the card bin is low, in step 832, the method 800 proceeds to step 836, in which the RDCU 114 instructs the card loader 600 or 700 via the established communications path that new data cards are to be transferred between the card loading device 600 and the data card unit 114. Often, the card level will be too low if the data card unit 114 had to output a number of acceptable data cards to players over some time. For example, every player who inserts a data card that is no longer usable or is defaced will often automatically receive an acceptable quality data card when they cash-out. Thus, in step 836, when the new data card level is too low, acceptable quality data cards are transferred from the first card holder 606 a of the card loader 700 to the new card bin 122 of the data card unit 114.
  • In FIG. 37, returning to step 832, sometimes the data card unit 114 determines that the data card level in the new card bin 122 is too high. For example, the card level may be too high if acceptable quality data cards have been retained by the data card unit 114 over some time period because those cards had no remaining balance of credits. If the data card level is too high, acceptable quality data cards are transferred from the new card bin 122 to the first card holder 606 a of the card loading device 700, in step 840.
  • Either before or after the checking and transferring of cards as needed for the new card bin 122, in steps 832-840, other bins within the RDCU 114 are similarly serviced. For instance, an unacceptable quality card holder holding non-use/reject condition data cards, i.e. reject card bin, in the RDCU 114, can be checked in step 844. When the status information provided in step 824 indicates that the reject card bin is not empty, in step 848, the card loader 600 or 700 can service the bin appropriately. Non-use condition cards are transferred from the reject card bin of the gaming device 602 to the card holder 606 b and/or the reject card container 710. When the reject card bin in the gaming device 602 is empty, the method proceeds to step 852.
  • In one embodiment, at least one data card transferred to the data card unit 114 from the card loader 600 or 700 is a card with a cleaning mechanism. This cleaning card is operable to clean components of the card transport devices in both the card loading device 600 or 700 and the data card unit 114. The cleaning card is also operable to clean other card processing components in the data card unit 114. After service, the data card unit 114 is configured to transfer the cleaning card to a non-use condition date card holder.
  • In another embodiment, as least one data card transferred to the data card unit 114 in method 800 is a data card with configuration data. This configuration card is operable to configure the data card unit 114 and/or other components of the gaming device 602. For instance, the data card can store data, parameters, settings, executable code, software, firmware, and other information to control the gaming device 602 or its peripherals. After information is read from the configuration card in the data card unit 114, the configuration card can be transferred to the non-use condition data card holder in the data card unit 114.
  • In addition to transferring data cards to and from the data card unit 114, in one embodiment of the invention, the card loading device 600 or 700 is operable to transfer code, such as firmware or software updates for controlling the data card unit 114 and/or other components of the gaming machine 602. Such a procedure is a convenient way of updating and servicing gaming devices with ease and in a secure setting. Steps 852-864 of FIG. 37 provide one method of servicing a gaming device in accordance with this embodiment.
  • In one example, in step 852, the data card unit 114 identifies its firmware version, and communicates this information in response to a request from the card loading device 600 or 700, and the information is displayed on display 612. In a memory within the card loader 600 or 700 is stored the current firmware version and/or firmware update modules. In step 856, when the card loader 600 or 700 determines that the identified firmware in the RDCU 114 is out of date, firmware is transferred from the card loading device 600 or 700 to the data card unit 114 through the wireless or wired data interfaces 712 and 713 described above, in step 860. In one embodiment, such code transfer can be performed simultaneously with the card transfer operations described above. After code transmission is complete, and/or when the firmware on the RDCU 114 is up-to-date, service can be designated as complete in step 864. The card loader 600 or 700 can then be safely removed in step 868.
  • The process operations of servicing card bins in steps 824-848, vis-á-vis the updating of firmware or software in steps 852-864, may be performed in the same gaming device servicing operation, in different servicing operations, at the same time, and in any order. For instance, in one embodiment, the firmware is updated before any data card transfers are performed.
  • FIG. 38 shows a gaming device 900, constructed according to one embodiment of the present invention. The gaming device 900 includes a cabinet 904 providing a supportive frame and enclosure for the various components and peripherals of the gaming device 900. One component is a bezel 908 fitted to a door 912 of the gaming device 900. In some embodiments, the door 912 opens and closes to enclose peripheral components within, such as the card management assembly 114, described above. In gaming device 900, the bezel 908 is situated in front of the card mouth 637 of the data card unit 114, providing a gateway for a user to access and use the data card unit 114. For instance, a player can input and eject thermal rewritable cards through a slot formed in bezel 908.
  • FIG. 39 shows a side view of a card management system 1000 constructed according to one embodiment of the present invention. The system 1000 includes card loading device 700, the bezel 908, and data card unit 114. As described above, data card unit 114 is disposed inside the gaming machine cabinet, while bezel 908 is fitted to a door attached to the cabinet 904 or some surface of cabinet 904. As shown, bezel 908 provides an interface through which the mating member 702 of card loading device 700 can engage the card mouth 637 of the data card unit 114 to transfer cards there between.
  • FIG. 40 shows an exploded side view of the card management system 1000, illustrating components and features of the bezel 908. The bezel 908 includes a depressible button 436 as described above with reference to FIGS. 16 and 17A-C. The depressible button 436 represents one example of an input device mounted or otherwise coupled to bezel 908. In this example, a display device 412, in the form of an LCD, is coupled to the movable button 436. On a backside of the display 412, opposite the button 436, a printed circuit board (PCB) 1104 provides suitable interfaces and connections between the display 412 and push button 436, and one or more processors, such as processor 1108 of the data card unit 114.
  • In FIG. 40, the display 412 for bezel 908 is coupled to the button 436. In one example, as shown, the display 412 is situated on a back side of button 436, and button 436 has a clear cap through which the display 412 is viewable by a user. In another example, the display 412 is mounted on the opposite side of button 436, that is, the external surface of button 436. In one embodiment, when the display 412 is located on a back side of button 436, as shown in FIG. 40, a casing can be provided to de-couple the movement of button 436 from display 412, so that display 412 remains fixed when the button 436 is pressed. Alternatively, the display 412 can be attached directly to the button 436, so that the display 412 moves with the button 436 when pressed.
  • In FIG. 40, the movable button 436 and display 412 represent one embodiment of a user input mechanism for interacting with the data card unit 114 and gaming device 900. In an alternative embodiment, in place of or in addition to the movable button 436 and display 412, a touch screen or touch sensor attached to the bezel 908 is provided to receive user input. In this alternative embodiment, the user input device can remain in a fixed position with respect to bezel 908, when pressed. Various additional input devices including switches, touch pads, touch screens, keys, and keypads, can be implemented in association with a display 412, and configured to provide interaction with a user of the data card unit 114 and gaming device 900, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.
  • In FIG. 40, the card management system 1000 further includes a card entry member 1112 coupled between the bezel 908 and the data card unit 114. The card entry member has an open card entry region shaped to meet with the card mouth 637 at one end, and receive the protruding member 702 of the card loading device 700 at the other end. In one example, the card entry region defined within card entry member 1112 has a generally flattened funnel shape to facilitate insertion of protruding member 702, while aligning with card mouth 637 of the data card unit 114, so that data cards may easily pass between the card loading device 700 and card management assembly 114. As shown, the bezel assembly 908 includes its own opening 1116 formed within the bezel 908 that meets and is aligned with the open card entry region of card entry member 1112. Thus, the bezel 908 and card entry member 1112 cooperate with the protruding member 702 of the card loading device 700 to provide an appropriately sized and clear passage for data cards to easily be transferred from one device to another.
  • In FIG. 40, in one embodiment, the processor 1108 of card management assembly 114 is coupled with suitable connectors and interfaces to the circuit board 1104 of the bezel 908, to control the display of images, text, graphics, video, and other data to be output on the display 412 of the bezel 908. In addition, in one embodiment, processor 1108 is coupled to receive and process pushes of the button 436. Alternatively, when other input mechanisms are used, such as micro-switch buttons, touch buttons, or touch screens, the processor 1108 can be similarly coupled to receive and respond to activation of such buttons. In another embodiment, part or all of the functionality of processor 1108 is implemented in another processor situated within gaming device 900, or in one or more processors mounted directly or indirectly to the bezel 908. For instance, a sub-processor handling the selection and output of video or image data to display 412 can be mounted to an area of bezel 908, and cooperate with processor 1108 to retrieve and output designated image data to the display 412, as well as receive and pass on input selections received through button 436. In addition, a processor mounted in bezel 908, or coupled to bezel 908, such as processor 1108, can be further configured to control additional components, such as lights, and one or more data interfaces 712 and 713 described herein, such as an IrDA communications port.
  • In FIG. 40, the card entry member 1112 is preferably made of a translucent material, so as to pass and diffuse light emitted from one or more LEDs, described herein, and any other lights positioned proximate to card entry member 1112. Thus, light patterns described herein can be dispersed and output through card entry member 1112 for viewing by a player or casino attendant.
  • FIG. 41 shows a front perspective view of the card management system 1000, including bezel 908 and card management assembly 114. The card entry member 1112 is shown receiving a data card 1204, such as a thermal rewritable card, through an opening 1208 formed in the bezel, the opening 1208 providing access to the mouth 637 of card management assembly 114. A front perspective view of the button 436 is shown, with display 412 coupled to the movable button 436, as explained above. In addition, a data interface 713 of the gaming device 900 is mounted to the bezel 908.
  • In FIG. 41, preferably the data interface 713 is situated so that it transmits outward from a face side 908 a of bezel 908, that is, so the interface 713 faces the corresponding data interface 712 of card loading device 700 when protruding member 702 is inserted in the bezel opening 1208 to transfer data cards. In this way, wireless communications can be established to pass information related to the receiving and dispensing of data cards, as well as to download data and code from one device to another, as described above.
  • FIG. 42 shows a rear perspective view of the card management system 1000, including the card management assembly 114, the card entry member 1112, and a rear side 908 b of the bezel 908. In FIG. 42, the bezel 908 includes a bracket mounting assembly 1304 fitted to the rear side 908 b of the bezel, providing a supportive mounting frame to attach the bezel 908 to a door or cabinet portion of gaming device 900. The bracket 1304 can also provide protection for wires, connectors, memories, data storage devices, circuit boards, processors, and any other electrical components mounted on the rear side 908 b of bezel 908.
  • FIG. 43 shows a rear perspective view of the bezel 908 with the bracket 1304 removed. As shown, electrical components mounted to the rear side 908 b of bezel 908 include a plurality of LEDs 1404 a-d, coupled to one or more processors as described above to output lighting and color patterns corresponding to operations of the data card unit 114. As shown in FIG. 42, the rear side 908 b of bezel 908 faces card entry member 1112, so that the lighting colors and patterns output by LEDs 1404 a-d illuminate the translucent material of card entry member 1112 for viewing by a player or casino attendant.
  • In FIG. 43, the LEDs 1404 a-d represent one implementation of a lighting or display device which may be mounted on or proximate to the bezel 908 to provide the output of lighting colors and patterns, as described herein. Other lights and displays with sufficient power to illuminate the card entry member 1112 can be used in place of LEDs 1404 a-d.
  • In FIG. 43, the LEDs 1404 a-d can be configured to output various visual indicators to correspond to conditions of the data card unit 114 and gaming device 900. For instance, lighting patterns can include color sequences, lighting sequences and combinations thereof as codes corresponding to operational states of the data card unit 114, as well as service indicators, and other gaming machine functions desirably communicated to players and casino technicians through bezel 908.
  • FIG. 44 shows a front perspective view of the button 436 and display 412 of the bezel 908 assembly. In the embodiment of FIG. 44, the button is implemented using snap top switches, two of which are designated by reference numerals 1504 a and 1504 b. These switches 1504 a and 1504 b are activated by the button 436, as the cap of the button 436 is depressed by a player. The display 412 may be a liquid crystal display (LCD), a light emitting diode (LED) display, organic LED (OLED), or other type of display. The display 412 is operatively coupled to display information regarding the status of operations and instructions for interacting with the card management assembly 114, such as “Insert Card,” “Reading Card,” “Printing Card,” “Eject Card,” and “Call Attendant.” The display 412 is also capable of displaying the card level in the acceptable quality data card holder and the non-use condition data card holder of the card assembly 114 for an operator. Other alerts or alarms indicating that the data card unit 114 needs to be serviced can also be displayed to an operator. When the button 436 is configured as an eject button, a player can press it to receive a data card with their remaining credits on it after playing a game on the gaming machine 900.
  • In FIGS. 39-42, the card management system 1000 defines a subsystem of one or more gaming devices in a gaming environment. The card loading device 700, the bezel 908, and the data card unit 114 are all capable of communicating with one another to transmit and respond to information related to card loading as well as information indicating operations of the data card unit 114 and gaming device itself. Normal operation of the system 1000 includes two-way communication between the bezel 908 and the data card unit 114 to pass data such as image objects, video objects, text data, and button presses between the bezel 908 and the data card unit 114. State information of the data card unit 114 can be displayed on the display 412 of the bezel 908, indicating various conditions and messages associated with operation of the data card unit 114.
  • In addition, maintenance operation for the system 1000 occurs when the card loading device 600 or 700 is docked with the bezel 908 and communications are initiated between the data interface 712 of the card loading device 700 and the data interface 713 of the bezel 908. Various data and code can be passed between the card loading device 700 and the data card unit 114 including card holder levels, feed synchronization data, and firmware updates.
  • Returning to FIG. 40, the LCD-button assembly is controlled by one or more processors 1108 to display card input/output (I/O) information associated with the data card unit 114 and possibly other peripherals of the gaming device 900. This card I/O information can include status information relating to the transfer of data cards between the card loading device 700 and the data card unit 114, as described above. For instance, displayed messages can indicate the status of a card loading procedure, corresponding to specific stages or steps of the card loading method described above with reference to FIG. 37. Various messages can be output to indicate corresponding conditions as described herein.
  • In addition, in FIG. 40, the card I/O information can indicate to a player a card insert status, an insert card instruction, a retrieve card instruction, and a card orientation indication. Thus, information can be provided at the appropriate stages of a gaming session to indicate whether or not a card has been inserted, an instruction for the player to insert a card to begin a gaming session, instructions to retrieve a card at the end of a gaming session, and an instruction indicating how a card should be oriented when it is inserted in the mouth 637 of the data card unit 114. Thus, depending on the state or mode of a gaming session, the display can output information to a player or casino attendant providing information as to the actions to take at that stage or mode of the session.
  • As used herein, the display 412 of bezel 908 not only refers to the display 412, but also refers to the LEDs 1404 a-d situated on the back side 908 b of bezel 908. That is, the LEDs 1404 a-d are operable to display color and lighting sequences to indicate state information corresponding to the operations of the data card unit 114, states and modes of a gaming session, as well as other operations of the gaming device 900. In this way, the bezel 908 includes features which facilitate and increase communication with casino patrons as well as casino attendants. The LEDs 1404 a-d can be selected to provide multiple colors to illuminate the card entry member 1112 and thereby present a multi-color lighted card entry to the player. The colors output, sequences of colors, and flashing light patterns can correspond to particular codes or information as described below. In addition, the button 436 can be configured to provide direction to players, and signal attendants when maintenance is required.
  • In FIG. 44, the button 436 and display 412 are operatively coupled to one or more processors to display various images and messages indicating the function of the button 436. These images can change according to the function and can include various colors, graphics, and video data to indicate a message corresponding to a particular condition of operation, as illustrated in Table 1:
  • TABLE 1
    CONDITION
    PRIMARY MESSAGES - TEXT
    LCD MESSAGE
    Power off OFF
    Ready INSERT CARD
    Processing Card (in) READING CARD
    Processing Card (out) PRINTING CARD
    Card in Escrow EJECT CARD
    Card Presented COLLECT CARD
    Device disabled CALL ATTENDANT
    SECONDARY MESSAGES - ICONS
    LCD ICON
    New Card Bin Near Full or DISPLAY NEW
    Near Empty CARD BIN ICON
    Reject Card Bin Near DISPLAY REJECT
    Full or Near Empty CARD BIN ICON
  • In addition, using the multi-color card entry member 1112 as a display, when illuminated by the LEDs 1404 a-d, the card entry member 1112 can communicate additional status messages to a player or casino attendant. Table 2 illustrates conditions and associated messages/signals to provide information to a casino attendant.
  • TABLE 2
    CONDITION SIGNAL
    Power off OFF
    Ready SOLID ON RED
    Ready (Player Tracking SOLID ON GREEN
    Card in Device)
    New card bin empty or full FAST BLINK
    Reject bin full FAST BLINK
    Voltage error TWO FAST BLINK
    Temperature error TWO FAST BLINK
    Print head error TWO FAST BLINK
    Jam THREE FAST BLINK
    Download Complete BLINK, THEN SOLID ON RED
    Card printing SLOW BLINK GREEN
  • Various color selections, color sequences, and light flashing patterns, as described above, can be selected to convey information to players and casino attendants, as shown in Table 3.
  • TABLE 3
    Bezel Color Solid Flashing
    Red Game is idle; no card is Invalid card insertion
    inserted
    Green An attendant or player card is A player card is
    inserted. If a player card is inserted, but eligibility
    inserted, the player is eligible for bonuses has expired
    for bonuses. for the current session.
    Orange The game is active, but no card The game is active, but
    is inserted. If the system is eligibility for bonuses, if
    configured to offer bonuses to configured for uncarded
    uncarded players, the player is players, has expired.
    eligible for bonuses.
    Blue Configurable Configurable
    Purple Configurable Configurable
    White Configurable Configurable
  • As described herein, the display 412-button 436 assembly in bezel 908 provides a user-friendly selection for a player to both receive information and input instructions corresponding to the use of data cards with the gaming device 900. In addition, other instructions can be provided on the display 412, depending on the state or mode of a gaming device. For instance, a message on the display 412 can indicate to a casino attendant which component of a card management assembly 114 requires service.
  • In one example, a casino attendant is required to first insert a security card into the card mouth 637 of card management assembly 114, before being authorized to access the data card unit 114. After authorization, an “Eject?” message is displayed on button display 412, indicating the availability of an eject service to empty the unacceptable quality data card bin within card management assembly 114. Upon pressing the button, the data card unit 114 ejects all of the reject cards from the card mouth 637 to the casino attendant for disposal.
  • While the bezel 908 described above and illustrated in the various figures is shown with a single button 436 and display 412 assembly, additional buttons, touch screens, touch pads, and switches can be mounted to bezel 908 within the spirit and scope of the present invention. In one example, a first button-display assembly is designated to provide instructions and state information to a player, regarding insertion of a data card or other functionality of the data card unit 114 of interest to the player. A second button-display assembly provides maintenance and service information of interest to casino personnel. Additional configurations of buttons and switches on bezel 908 can be provided to facilitate the communication and recognition of state information and actions requested from casino patrons and personnel.
  • The various card loading devices described herein make card loading operations a more secure event. Casino attendants can carry the loading devices from gaming device to gaming device, and service the device without opening a gaming device door. In this way, security of enclosed components such as the bill acceptor, cash box, and processor is not compromised. Theft and tampering is avoided. Also, the loading device is easy to use, and no special training is required.
  • While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to specific embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that changes in the form and details of the disclosed embodiments may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. In addition, although various advantages, aspects, and objects of the present invention have been discussed herein with reference to various embodiments, it will be understood that the scope of the invention should not be limited by reference to such advantages, aspects, and objects. Rather, the scope of the invention should be determined with reference to the appended claims.

Claims (23)

  1. 1. A gaming device comprising:
    a cabinet;
    a bezel attached to the cabinet, the bezel having an opening providing access to a mouth of a data card unit situated in the cabinet, the data card unit capable of receiving and dispensing data cards through the mouth;
    a display associated with the bezel, the display configured to display card input/output (I/O) information received from a processor associated with the data card unit; and
    a data interface associated with the bezel, the data interface configured to communicate with a data interface of a card loading device adapted to dispense data cards to and receive data cards from the mouth of the data card unit through the opening in the bezel.
  2. 2. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the data interface associated with the bezel is configured to receive code from the data interface of the card loading device.
  3. 3. The gaming device of claim 2, wherein the code includes firmware.
  4. 4. The gaming device of claim 3, wherein the firmware is associated with the gaming device.
  5. 5. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the data interface associated with the bezel is a wireless interface.
  6. 6. The gaming device of claim 5, wherein the data interface associated with the bezel is configured to communicate using Infrared Data Association (IrDA) protocol.
  7. 7. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the data interface associated with the bezel is a wired interface.
  8. 8. The gaming device of claim 1, further comprising:
    a card entry member coupled between the bezel and the data card unit, the card entry member having a card entry region aligned with the bezel opening and the mouth of the data card unit.
  9. 9. The gaming device of claim 8, wherein the card entry member is formed of a translucent material.
  10. 10. The gaming device of claim 9, further comprising one or more LEDs situated proximate the card entry member.
  11. 11. The gaming device of claim 10, wherein the one or more LEDs are situated on a back side of the bezel.
  12. 12. The gaming device of claim 1, further comprising:
    a button mounted to the bezel, the display situated on the button.
  13. 13. The gaming device of claim 12, wherein the button is moveable with respect to the bezel.
  14. 14. The gaming device of claim 12, wherein the button is fixed with respect to the bezel.
  15. 15. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the card I/O information includes status information for transferring data cards between the card loading device and the data card unit.
  16. 16. The gaming device of claim 15, wherein the status information includes one or more status indicators selected from the group consisting of: card holder availability, card holder level, card holder empty, card holder not empty, card holder full, card holder capacity, load status, number of cards dispensed, and number of cards received.
  17. 17. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the card I/O information includes a message indicating a condition.
  18. 18. The gaming device of claim 17, wherein the message includes one or more items selected from the group consisting of: a code, a color, and a light pattern.
  19. 19. The gaming device of claim 17, wherein the condition is one item selected from the group consisting of: power off, ready, processing card in, processing card out, card in escrow, card presented, device disabled, acceptable quality card holder near full, acceptable quality card holder near empty, unacceptable quality card holder near full, and unacceptable quality card holder near empty.
  20. 20. The gaming device of claim 17, wherein the condition is one item selected from the group consisting of: power off, ready, ready card in, acceptable quality card holder full, acceptable quality card holder empty, unacceptable quality card holder full, voltage error, temperature error, print head error, jam, download complete, and card printing.
  21. 21. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the card I/O information is selected from the group consisting of: card insert status, an insert card instruction, a retrieve card instruction, and a card orientation indication.
  22. 22. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the card I/O information is associated with a state or a mode of a gaming session.
  23. 23. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the card I/O information includes one or more items selected from the group consisting of: a text message, a symbol, a graphic object, and an animated object.
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US11158478 US8057296B2 (en) 2003-09-12 2005-06-22 Gaming device including a card processing assembly having vertically-stacked card holders operable with thermally-printable data cards and portable card changeover machines
US11983771 US20080153580A1 (en) 2003-09-12 2007-11-09 Bezel interface for a card loading system

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US8684811B2 (en) 2009-12-03 2014-04-01 Patent Investment & Licensing Company Gaming device having advance game information analyzer
US9916722B2 (en) 2009-12-03 2018-03-13 Patent Investment & Licensing Company Gaming device having advance game information analyzer
US9240094B2 (en) 2009-12-03 2016-01-19 Patent Investment & Licensing Company Rapid play poker gaming device
US9953490B2 (en) 2009-12-03 2018-04-24 Patent Investment & Licensing Company Rapid play poker gaming device
US9165435B2 (en) 2009-12-03 2015-10-20 Patent Investment & Licensing Company Gaming device having advance game information analyzer

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