WO2005020014A2 - Method for awarding prizes - Google Patents

Method for awarding prizes Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2005020014A2
WO2005020014A2 PCT/US2004/026825 US2004026825W WO2005020014A2 WO 2005020014 A2 WO2005020014 A2 WO 2005020014A2 US 2004026825 W US2004026825 W US 2004026825W WO 2005020014 A2 WO2005020014 A2 WO 2005020014A2
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
player
prize
gaming
location
allowing
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2004/026825
Other languages
French (fr)
Other versions
WO2005020014A3 (en
Inventor
Jerald C. Seelig
Lawrence M. Henshaw
Original Assignee
Atlantic City Coin & Slot Service Company, Inc.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US49660303P priority Critical
Priority to US60/496,603 priority
Application filed by Atlantic City Coin & Slot Service Company, Inc. filed Critical Atlantic City Coin & Slot Service Company, Inc.
Publication of WO2005020014A2 publication Critical patent/WO2005020014A2/en
Publication of WO2005020014A3 publication Critical patent/WO2005020014A3/en

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Classifications

    • 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
    • G07F17/3244Payment 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

Abstract

Methods and systems for awarding and dispensing prizes are disclosed. In one embodiment a gaming system involving a gaming device in communication with a cashless device dispenser and a remote network, such as a computer system is provided to the player. In another embodiment, a method for awarding and dispensing prizes includes presenting a game to the player using a gaming apparatus located at a gaming location, where the player is allowed to place a wager and a game outcome is determined. If a prize qualifying result occurs, the prize is awarded to the player and the player is allowed to obtain the prize at a location different from the gaming location. Alternatively, the player may be allowed to choose a prize at a time different from the time or date of the prize qualifying result.

Description

[01] METHOD FOR AWARDING PRIZES [02] CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[03] This application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application number 60/496,603, filed on August 19, 2003; the latter is hereby expressly incorporated by reference in its entirety. [04] BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[05] Field of the Invention

[06] The present invention relates to methods and systems for awarding prizes and for prize recipients to redeem their prizes.

[07] Description of the Related Art

[08] Methods of Awarding Prizes

[09] Gaming devices, such as slot machines, video poker machines, and the like, typically allow a player to place a wager and play a game and to produce a game outcome. The game outcome is typically a winning or losing outcome. Prizes may be awarded for winning outcomes. Typically the prizes are in the form of currency that is dispensed directly from the ga ing device. For example, if a player plays a quarter slot machine, a winning game outcome that results in a five-dollar prize would typically be dispensed to the player as twenty quarters.

In some cases the prize is dispensed to the player immediately upon the occurrence of the qualifying event. In other cases, the prize amount is adding to a player's credits that are stored in the machine. The player can then choose to continue play with the won credits or can choose to cash-out his or her winnings. Upon a cash-out event, the player's credits are typically converted to currency and dispensed to the player from the gaming device.

[10] For certain prizes, the prize is not awarded to the player directly from the gaming machine. For example, large jackpots are typically not paid out from the gaming machine in currency, but are often paid to the player by a representative of the gaming proprietor. This arrangement is advantageous because it obviates the dispensing of large quantities of currency (and is therefore more convenient for both the game player and the game proprietor), gives the game proprietor an opportunity to confirm that the player is entitled to the prize, and allows the game proprietor to ensure that any relevant regulatory requirements are complied with. [11] Other prizes are not currency based and therefore are typically unsuitable for dispensing from the gaining device. For example, some gaming machines may award goods or services, such as automobiles, vacations, or jewelry, in lieu of, or in addition to, currency based prizes. While the winning of such prizes can easily be conveyed by such machines, the prizes themselves cannot generally be dispensed by the gaming machine. [12] One method of dispensing non-currency prizes is disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 6,609,969 to Luciano et al. Luciano et al suggest linking a prize vault to a gaming machine. The prize vault may contain physical prizes, such as jewelry, that maybe immediately dispensed to a winning player. For example, when a player is awarded a prize, the player may choose a particular prize in the prize vault through an input device. The player can then be allowed access to the prize, either through automated means or by having an employee of the gaming proprietor open the vault and give the prize to the player.

[13] Alternatively, the occurrence of a particular prize qualifying event may be set to notify employees of the gaming proprietor, who then may award the prize to the player. For example, if a game winning outcome entitled the player to a car, gaming personnel could be notified of the occurrence of the qualifying event, find the player and award the prize.

[14] Current award systems are limited in both the types of prizes a player can be awarded and the way in which the prizes are awarded. For example, a player is typically awarded only a specific predetermined prize. For example, one prize on a gaming machine might be a particular make and model of automobile. The player is not able to choose what automobile he/she may receive. Although Luciano et al purport to provide an apparatus that allows a player to choose among a plurality of available prizes, the number of and types of prizes from which the player may choose are still quite limited. It would be advantageous to allow players greater control over what prize they receive and/or provide more prize choices to players. [15] Another drawback with current systems is that they award the player the prize immediately. Either the player is awarded the pre-determined prize, or the player is forced to immediately choose between the available prizes (such as in Luciano et al). It would be advantageous to allow a player to choose his or her prize at a later time or date. [16] Cashless gaming [17] Gaming devices, such as slot machines and video poker machines, were originally designed only to accept and dispense coins. This restriction is unsatisfactory for both players and for gaming proprietors. Players are unsatisfied because they are forced to carry around large quantities of heavy coins. Furthermore, players are unable to interchangeably use coins in machines designed for wagers of different denominations. For example, dollar tokens cannot be used in nickel machines and vice versa. Therefore, a player either has to carry around multiple denominations of coins or is forced to go to a cashier cage or casino attendant in order to change coins to a desired denomination. This inconvenience detracts from the player's gaming experience.

[18] The restriction to coins is also unsatisfactory to gaming proprietors. Apart from providing their patrons with a sub-optimal experience, the use of coins creates added expense and inconvenience for gaming proprietors. For instance, gaming proprietors might be required to utilize additional personnel in order to conduct coin based transactions with patrons. Gaming proprietors are also forced to deal with the logistics of maintaining sufficient amounts of various coins, including an increased security risk to gaming employees and patrons from maintaining large amounts of currency on the gaming premises. [19] Coins also create increased maintenance costs and machine down-time. For example, when coins are used, attendants must collect excess coins from machines and must fill the coin hoppers when the machines begin to run low on coins. Coins also cause wear and tear on the internal components of the gaming machines, resulting in malfunctions and broken machines. Coins generate metallic dust that can cause the machines to break and malfunction. Coins often become jammed in the coin transport mechanisms, requiring maintenance. [20] The introduction of paper currency acceptors and validators addressed some of the problems discussed above. In particular, game players are able to play games of different wager amounts by inserting paper currency into the machine. Therefore, to some extent, the player is no longer required to carry around coins of different denominations.

[21] However, other problems were not solved by paper currency acceptors. For example, even though the gaming machines might accept paper currency, they still dispense winnings in the form of coins. Once a player stops playing the game and "cashes-out" his or her winnings, the player is not able to use the coins in machines designed for different denominations of coins or tokens. The player still has to visit a cashier cage or attendant in order to change coin types or obtain paper currency. Paper currency acceptors also have not solved the problems of filling and removing currency from the machines and maintenance resulting from wear and tear on the machines caused by the coin handling functions. In fact, the paper currency acceptor and transport mechanisms have additional issues requiring maintenance and service. [22] The introduction of non-currency methods, such as tickets, vouchers, smart cards, credit cards, and other credit based transactions (generally, "cashless methods or devices") has allowed many of the previously described problems to be solved, or at least mitigated. For example, when cashless methods are used, players are able to use their cashless device on machines programmed to wager any denomination. [23] By using cashless devices, the customer must no longer tote around coins or currency. A player's winnings or losses can be added or subtracted from the value stored in the cashless device. The customer no longer has to worry about exchanging various denominations of currency. [24] Cashless devices increase the security and safety of the gaming environment. Cashless devices allow the gaming proprietor to reduce the amount of currency on site, reducing the potential for criminal activity. Cashless devices can be tied to a specific person's identity, reducing the chance for theft. For example, a gaming proprietor can require a patron to provide identification before cashing out a cashless device. Similarly, if a patron reported a cashless device as lost or stolen, the gaming proprietor may cancel the missing cashless device and issue the patron a new device.

[25] Another cashless device is a player card that can be linked to a cash or credit account, such that player's winnings or losses can be credited to or debited from the account. Preferably, the gaming machine has a reader that gathers account identifying information in the card, queries a central computer or accesses a computer network, and receives information about the player's cash or credit account.

[26] It would be advantageous to combine prizes of goods and services with cashless gaming in order to increase the variety of prizes available to the player, and increase the convenience of awarding such prizes for both game players and gaming proprietors. For example, by issuing cashless devices, gaming proprietors need not stock prizes on site, reducing the security and other associated burdens of providing such prizes. In addition, if the gaming devices are already equipped with cashless device dispensers, the gaming proprietor need not invest or add any additional gaming apparatus, such as the prize vaults suggested by Luciano et al. [27] SUMMARY OF ONE EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION [28] Advantages of One or More Embodiments of the Present Invention [29] The various embodiments of the present invention may, but do not necessarily, achieve one or more of the following advantages:

[30] the ability to award goods or a service to a player;

[31] provide a large variety of prizes to a player; [32] allow a player to choose a prize at a later date;

[33] award goods or services without installing additional apparatus; [34] allow players greater choice regarding the prize they receive; [35] allow for personalized prizes to be awarded; and [36] allow a player to apply a prize towards another item of value. [37] These and other advantages may be realized by reference to the remaining portions of the specification, claims, and abstract.

[38] Brief Description of One Embodiment of the Present Invention [39] In one embodiment, a gaming method is provided whereby a player is provided with a gaming apparatus. The gaming apparatus may be configured to present a game to the player, determine a game outcome and award a prize to the player if the game outcome is a prize qualifying outcome. The gaming apparatus may be located at a gaming location. [40] The player is allowed to place a wager and a game is presented to the player. A game outcome is determined and a prize awarded to the player if the game outcome is a prize qualifying outcome. The player is allowed to obtain the prize at a second location different from the gaming location. In another embodiment, the second location where the player is allowed to select or obtain the prize is not associated with the gaming location. That is, for this embodiment, the second location not associated with the original gaming location shall be understood to comprise (i) locations without ownership common to the original gaming location or (ii) if the second location and the original gaming location bear common ownership, then it is understood that no gaming activities, such as playing games of chance, occur at the second location. For example, the player may be allowed to select or obtain the prize at a second location selected from the group consisting of a website, a player computer or a third party vendor site. [41] In an alternative embodiment, the invention provides another method of gaming whereby the player is provided with a gaming apparatus. The gaming apparatus is configured to present a game to the player, determine a game outcome, and award a prize to the player if the game outcome is a game qualifying outcome. The game qualifying outcome occurs on a particular date and at a particular time. The player is allowed to place a wager and a game is presented to the player. A game outcome is determined. The player is allowed to choose a prize if the game outcome is a prize qualifying outcome. The player may choose the prize at a time remote from the date or time of the prize qualifying game outcome. In addition, the player may be allowed to choose the prize from among a selection of different prizes

[42] The above description sets forth, rather broadly, a summary of one embodiment of the present invention so that the detailed description that follows may be better understood and contributions of the present invention to the art may be better appreciated. Some of the embodiments of the present invention may not include all of the features or characteristics listed in the above summary. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described below and will form the subject matter of claims. In this respect, before explaining at least one preferred embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of the construction and to the arrangement of the components set forth in the following description or as illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. [43] BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS [44] Figure 1 is substantially a front view of a gaming apparatus for use with the present invention.

[45] Figure 2 is substantially a block diagram of components in one embodiment of a gaming system according to the present invention. [46] Figure 3 is substantially a flow chart illustrating the major steps of a method of the present invention. [47] DESCRIPTION OF AN EMBODIMENT OF THE PRESENT INVENTION [48] In the following detailed description of the various embodiments of the invention, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part of this application. The drawings show, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. [49] The present invention relates, generally, to methods and systems of awarding and distributing prizes. In at least one embodiment, the prizes are awarded and distributed using cashless devices, such as vouchers, coupons, tickets, stubs, certificates, memory storage devices and cards. A cashless device is meant to be anything that can be assigned or communicate a particular value or identify a particular prize, such as, for example, a voucher. [50] The prize may be a particular prize, a group of prizes, or a general type of prize. For example, in one embodiment the prize may be a particular prize, such as a specific piece of jewelry, automobile, vacation, or some other goods or service.

[51] In another embodiment, the prize may be selected by a player from an indicated group of prizes. For example, the player may be allowed to select from a predetermined group of jewelry pieces, automobiles, vacations or other goods or services. Preferably, the prizes in each group are approximately equal in value. In that case, the gaming operator provides a prize to the player that has a particular value, but which the player can select according to his or her particular taste. [52] The ability to personalize a prize may significantly increase the value of the prize to the player. For instance, if a prize is a vacation, a predetermined destination may not please all players. For example, if the predetermined vacation is to Paris, France, some players may be thrilled to go to Paris, while others would rather go to Hawaii. Even if the absolute value of both vacations were the same, they would have different personal values to different players. The ability to choose from a group of prizes allows the player to choose the prize which has the maximum value to the player, with little or no added expense to the gaming proprietor. [53] In another embodiment, the player may be able to choose a prize from a type of prize. For example, the player may be awarded a prize of jewelry, an automobile or a vacation. The player may then choose from a wide range of possibilities within each category. In at least one embodiment, the player is given a value to apply to the prize. For example, a prize may be a $4000 vacation. The player may then be allowed to choose any vacation with a maximum value of $4000. [54] Alternatively, in any of the above described embodiments, the player may be allowed to apply the value of the awarded prize towards a higher value prize. For example, when the player is awarded a predetermined prize, such as a particular make and model of automobile, the player may be allowed to apply the value of that automobile towards a higher priced automobile. The player would be responsible for paying the additional cost of the higher value prize. Similarly, when the player is awarded a particular type of prize with a certain value, such as the vacation worth $4000, the player may choose to apply the prize towards a higher priced vacation, for example, a $6000 vacation. The player would then personally pay the $2000 difference between the two prizes.

[55] The provision of prizes that are goods or services may provide opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration between gaming proprietors and those who provide or market goods or services. In the simplest case, the gaming proprietor can simply pay the goods or service provider for the prize, which the gaming proprietor can then provide as a prize to game players. [56] However, the player may be sent to a third party vendor site, such as a particular vendor or merchant in order to redeem his or her prize. For example, if an automobile were provided as a predetermined prize, a player could be required to visit a merchant in order to obtain the automobile. The merchant might be a particular automobile dealer, or might be a dealer of the make of automobile that is located proximate to the game player's place of residence. [57] Having the player visit the merchant or vendor may be advantageous for many reasons. One reason is that the vendor may be better suited to provide the prize than the gaming operator. For example, if a gaming operator were to provide an automobile as a prize, it would likely be more convenient for the gaming operator to have the game player pick up a car at a dealer rather than for the gaming operator to house the prize. This may become particularly important when more than one prize is available to a player. An automobile dealer typically maintains many types of automobiles in stock; it would be more difficult for a gaming operator to provide the same variety.

[58] In addition, a merchant or vendor of the goods or service is likely to be more knowledgeable about the prize. For example, if an automobile were awarded, an automobile dealer would be better able to answer a winning player's questions about the prize than the gaming operator. When a group of prizes is available, or the player can choose from a general prize category, a merchant or vendor may be able to help the player select the prize that best suits his her needs or personal taste. For example, when the player can choose from a group of vacations, a vendor may be able to explain the various advantages, accommodations and attractions of each destination. If the player can choose any vacation, the merchant may assist the player in designing a custom vacation that best suits his/her taste and interests, and assist in keeping the value to within the prize value, or anything above that which the player decides to pay. The ability to provide higher value prizes may also provide an incentive for merchants or vendors to provide goods or services as prizes, particularly if they stand to profit if the player chooses to apply his/her prize towards a higher value prize.

[59] Having a service or goods as a prize on a gaming device may provide a unique and valuable marketing opportunity for providers of the goods or service. For example, a new hotel may wish to advertise itself by having a vacation at the hotel as a prize on a gaming device.

Similarly, a car manufacturer may find it beneficial to advertise a new car model by having the particular car model as a gaming machine prize.

[60] Because of the marketing value of being a prize on a gaming device, the gaming proprietor may be able to exchange what is essentially advertising space on the slot machine for value, free prizes or reduced cost prizes.

[61] For example, the advertising value of having a prize on a gaming device may be more than the prize itself is worth. In such a case, the gaming operator may be able to charge the provider of the prize for having the prize appear on the gaming device. The gaming operator and the provider may agree that the provider will provide the prize to the gaming operator at no charge in exchange for the gaming operator including the provider's goods or service as a prize.

In other cases, the provider might agree to provide the goods or service to the gaming operator at a reduced cost in light of the benefit of the advertising the provider will receive. Of course, those of skill in the art will recognize that a wide range of arrangements might be reached between the provider of the goods or service and the gaming operator. The present invention is intended to encompass all such arrangements, and is not limited to any particular arrangement or arrangements.

[62] The present invention may allow for more flexibility for when a prize is awarded to a player and/or when a player must choose a particular prize. For example, the player could be presented with a prize immediately. For example, immediately upon being awarded a prize, a player could be provided with car keys, airline tickets, a piece of jewelry, or other prizes or tangible items that allow the player to access or take advantage of the prize. [63] Alternatively, the prize could be chosen or obtained by the player at a later date. For example, the player could be given a cashless device, or some other indicia such as a ticket, voucher or coupon, to redeem the prize at a later date and/or at another location, such as a third party vendor site. For example, if the player has won jewelry, the player could take the cashless device or other indicia to one or more designated third party jewelry merchants or vendors at a designated time/date, by a certain date, after a certain date, or at the player's convenience. [64] Of course, other methods of confirming both that a player is entitled to the prize and the nature and value of that prize may be used. For example, the gaining operator could notify the third party vendor or merchant that a player is entitled to the prize. Players could then simply show identification at the vendor in order to confirm that they are entitled to the prize. The player's identity and prize could be entered into a database and the merchant given access to the database, for example, over an internet connection. The process could even be automated such that the gaming machine automatically enters the player's identity and prize information into a database upon the occunence of a winning event, reducing the costs of administering the prize. [65] Having the prize redeemable at a later date may have at least two advantages. First, if the prize is redeemable at a later date, players can contact a third party merchant or vendor who can provide them with the prize and/or help them select the prize from a group or category of prizes that best suits their needs or personal taste.

[66] Second, if the player can choose a prize at a later time or date, the player may be given more time to reflect on what prize best suits his/her needs or individual taste. After players have initially won a prize, they may be in a very excited state. If the player chooses a prize in such a state, the player may later decide later, upon reflection, that he/she would have enjoyed another prize more. They may then be less satisfied with their chosen prize, and therefore with their gaming experience. Allowing players to choose a prize at a later time or date may allow them to feel more confident in the prize that they have chosen, particularly when assisted in selecting a prize by a knowledgeable third party merchant or vendor, and players will therefore be more satisfied with their gaming experience. [67] Of course, additional variations of the above method can be used and still fall within the scope of the present invention. For example, rather than visiting a third party merchant or vendor, the player could be allowed to select a prize from an automated or semi-automated system. For example, a computer terminal could be provided where a player could browse through available prizes and perhaps be given more information about each of the available prizes. The player could also customize the prize, and provide information, such as a delivery address.

[68] Players might be allowed to choose a prize, and learn more about the prizes, from the comfort of their home using an internet connection. The player may be allowed to access a website where the player can learn about various prizes that are available, select the desired prize and arrange for delivery or pick-up of the prize. By selecting a prize from the comfort of their home, players are given ample time to reflect on the prize they choose, making their experience more pleasant and less stressful. Alternatively, using the Internet connection, the player may be given the option of choosing a prize as described above, or redeeming all of, or part of, his/her prize voucher for credits to play an on-line game of chance, for example, video poker or other similar games of chance.

[69] The player's prize can be indicated and/or obtained by a cashless device. Cashless devices are preferably capable of having a variable value and/or indicating that a player has won goods or service. One way this can be achieved is by imprinting a unique code or identifier on the cashless device. This code could be, for example, a bar code or could be encoded on a magnetic strip, such as those used on credit cards. The identifier may be associated with a database that stores information about the cashless device and a player account. The information stored can include many different things. In at least one embodiment, the information includes player information and identification of any prizes to which the player is entitled. Preferably, the information stored in the database can be modified. For example, the database entry may be updated when a player is awarded a prize and when a player redeems a prize.

[70] The cashless device may contain indicia conveying various useful information to the player, the gaming proprietor, a third party merchant, vendor and combinations thereof. For example, the cashless device may contain an identification feature, such as a stored security number or driver's license number, that allows the gaming proprietor or merchant to determine that the cashless device is authentic and not a forgery. The cashless device may identify such information as the date, time, location and particular machine at which the player was awarded the prize. The cashless device may contain indicia identifying the prize, group of prizes, category of prize, or prize value to which the player is entitled. In at least one embodiment, the cashless device contains directions on how to redeem the cashless device for a prize, for example, by listing a website to visit, a telephone number to call or a location to visit.

[71] Cashless devices can also contain, or be linked to, a player tracking system. Player tracking systems are often used by gaming proprietors to track a player's wagering habits, and to award "comps" such as, for example, room upgrades, free meals and show tickets. The information recorded might include, for example, the kind of games the player has played, how often the player visits the establishment, the amount won or lost by the player and the amount of time spent playing games of chance.

[72] Player tracking data may be used to help select a prize for the player or to customize the prize to the player. For example, player tracking data might be used to identify an appropriate third party merchant or vendor where players can claim their prize. Player tracking data might be used to determine what types of prizes the player might like to receive. The player's information might be provided to the third party merchant/vendor in order to assist the merchant in helping the player select a prize. The player's prize might be customized using the player tracking data. For example, if the prize was a vacation, the player's address could be determined from the player tracking information and transportation to the vacation may be arranged from the player's home. Similarly, delivery of prizes could be arranged to the player's home by accessing the player tracking information.

[73] The methods, processes and systems of the present invention can be used with many different types of gaming machines, including wagering devices such as, for example, slot machines and video poker machines. One example of a suitable gaming device is the slot machine illustrated in Figure 1. Of course, the present invention is not intended to be limited to wagering games or gaming devices. The present invention may find application at least in any method where it is desired to award prizes.

[74] As seen in Figure 1 , the present invention may comprise a gaming apparatus, generally indicated by reference number 10. In at least one embodiment, gaming apparatus 10 comprises a prize display 12 and a gaming device 14. Gaming device 14 may be any of a large number of devices that are configured to allow players to play a game, such as, for example, gaining devices typically found in arcade and casino environments, including arcade games, video games, gambling machines, video poker machines and slot machines. In at least one embodiment, gaming device 14 is further configured to allow a player to place a wager and play a game, such as a slot machine.

[75] Gaming device 14 may include a value acceptor for accepting value from a player, such as a coin slot 16, a cashless device dispenser/modifier 19 capable of reading and/or dispensing cashless devices. Gaming device 14 may also include a device 18 for accepting paper currency. In addition, a payout mechanism (not shown) and a coin receptacle 20 may be provided for awarding prizes or for dispensing value to players cashing out and retiring from a game. Cashless device dispenser 19 is provided to read, modify and/or dispense cashless devices. Cashless device dispenser 19 may include a printer. A handle 22 and a button 24 maybe provided for activating gaming device 14 to begin a game. A pay table 26 may further be provided to allow a player to see what symbol or combination of symbols provide a winning event. In at least one embodiment, gaming device 14 may be an S Plus™ model gaming device manufactured by International Game Technology in Reno, Nevada, USA. [76] Gaming device 14 may further include a gaming outcome display 28 that may be positioned so that a player (not shown) playing gaming device 14 can see the display 28. Game outcome display 28 may utilize physical game reels 30, 32 and 34. Game reels 30, 32 and 34 may be attached to a drive mechanism (not shown) of gaming device 14 to rotate the reels in a manner well known in the art. Each game reel 30, 32 and 34 may have a plurality of symbols (not shown) positioned on the circumference of each game reel 30, 32 and 34. Game reels 30, 32 and 34 may be positioned side-by-side with coincident axes of rotation and a portion of their individual circumferences facing outward from gaming device 14. In a presently prefened embodiment, one or more symbols appearing on at least one of reels 30, 32 and 34 comprise indicia representing goods or merchandise prizes that may be awarded in accordance with the present invention. For example, a vacation prize could be represented by a picture of palm trees and a beach, the Eiffel Tower or some other suitable representation. Alternatively, the prize could be indicated by a conesponding entry on pay table 26. [77] A panel 36 preferably covers game reels 30, 32 and 34 such that only a portion of their individual circumferences is shown to the player. At least one symbol from any of game reels 30, 32 and 34 may be used to display a game outcome. At least one pay line 38 may be provided for the player to use in determining a game outcome based on the symbol or a combination of symbols positioned thereon. In an alternative embodiment, gaming outcome display 28 utilizes a video display (not shown) displaying images of game reels and images of at least one pay line. A video display may also display game symbols in many other formats and arrangements, such as playing cards.

[78] Gaming apparatus 10 further has a prize display 12 configured to display at least one game and prize to a player. In at least one embodiment, prize display 12 is configured to display a bonus game and at least one bonus prize to the player. In other embodiments, prize display 12 may provide a primary game. Alternatively, prize display 12 may be a stand-alone device allowing a player to place a wager and play a game.

[79] In certain embodiments, prize display 12 is attached to gaming device 14 and positioned on top of gaming device 14. In other embodiments (not shown), prize display 12 may be separate from gaming device 14, but in communication with gaining device 14. In this embodiment, prize display 12 may be in communication with a plurality of different gaming devices 14 via a computer network in a manner that is well know in the art. Prize display 12 may be positioned adjacent to or remote from gaming device 14. In other embodiments, prize display 12 is a stand-alone display not in communication with gaming device 14 and it may be capable of independently accepting wagers and awarding prizes to a player.

[80] A representation of a gaming system 50 of the present invention is shown in Figure 2, where gaming device 14 may be in communication with one or more other systems in order to aid in awarding prizes, issuing cashless devices and distributing of prizes. Figure 2 illustrates gaming device 14 in communication with cashless device dispenser 19. Cashless dispenser 19 may be integrated with gaming device 14 or may be separate from gaming device 14.

[81] Gaming device 14 may also be in communication with remote network 54. Remote network 54 may be a computer system. Gaining device 14 and remote network 54 may be connected by any known or later developed techniques or communication modes, including but not limited to, for example, local area networks (LANS), wide area networks (WANS), Ethernet connections and telephone connections. [82] Remote network 54 may have a database 56 to store information such as player tracking information, prize information and cashless device information. Database 56 may store information associating a particular prize with a player, may record the identity of a cashless device, the identity of any prizes won, as well as information about how prizes may be obtained. [83] Database 56 may be in communication with other devices. Database 56 may be in communication with a computer or similar device 66 at a third party vendor. Database 56 and vendor device 66 may be connected by any suitable means. It is presently prefened that database 56 and vendor device 66 are connected via an internet connection. [84] Database 56 may be connected with a prize distribution center operated by the gaming proprietor. Preferably a device 68, such as a computer or similar mechanism, is located at the distribution center and is connected and functions similarly to device 66. The distribution center may be staffed by employees knowledgeable about the various prizes and may assist the players in their selection of prizes in a manner similar to third party vendors or merchants. [85] In one embodiment, players may choose their prize through a website 60 maintained by the gaming proprietor or other entity designated to award and present prizes. In at least one embodiment, the player is able to access website 60 through devices such as home computer 62. Once the player selects the prize, the selection can be communicated to database 56, which can then route the selection to device 68 at the prize distribution center or to third party vendor device 66 for fulfillment. As previously described, the player may choose to redeem all of, or part of, his/her prize for credits to play an on-line game of chance, for example, video poker or other similar games of chance, via an internet connection. [86] Method of Awarding a Prize

[87] A method 100 for awarding a prize to a player is illustrated in Figure 3. According to method 100, a player is presented with a game in step 102. At decision 104 the player may choose to place a wager and play the game. If no wager is placed method 100 returns to step 102. If a wager is placed method 100 proceeds to step 106.

[88] At step 106 a game outcome is determined. The game outcome is preferably either a winning outcome where a player receives a prize or a losing outcome where a player does not receive a prize. Winning outcomes may include outcomes where a player wins some prize, even though the prize may have a lower value than the player's wager.

[89] After the game outcome is determined at step 106, method 100 checks at decision 108 to see check whether or not a prize qualifying outcome has occurred. If not, method 100 proceeds to step 110, awards any other prizes to which the player may be entitled (such as currency based prizes) and then returns to step 102.

[90] If the player has won a prize according to the present invention (prize qualifying outcome), method 100 proceeds to decision 112 and determines if the prize is to be recorded via a cashless device. If not, method 100 proceeds to decision 114. [91] At decision 114, method 100 checks to see whether the player is to provide input. The player input may be information, such as, for example, a social security number, a pin number or some other means for the player to identify him or herself as being entitled to the prize. If the player is to provide such input, the player inputs the requested information in step 116 and then method 100 returns to step 102. [92] If the player is not to provide input, method 100 proceeds to step 118 where the gaming machine may present information to the player on how to redeem the prize. For example, the player could be shown a pin number, a code word or other instructions on how his her prize can be obtained. From step 118, method 100 preferably returns to step 102.

[93] If, in decision 112, the prize is to be recorded via a cashless device, method 100 proceeds to decision 120. At decision 120, method 100 checks to see if a cashless device has already been inserted into or recorded by gaming device 14. For example, the player may have swiped a player tracking card prior to initiating the gaming cycle, that is, prior to step 102. In an alternative embodiment, the player might insert a voucher or other cashless device, into gaming machine 14 where it may be held in "escrow" prior to the player cashing out his or her winnings. [94] If a cashless device has been inserted or recorded, method 100 proceeds to step 122. At step 122, the cashless device may be updated to reflect that the player is entitled to the prize awarded according to the game outcome. Step 122 may involve updating an account stored on a remote server and associated with the cashless device. Alternatively, the account information can be encoded on the cashless device itself. If such is the case, the cashless device itself can be updated at step 122. After the cashless device and/or associated account is updated, method 100 proceeds to decision 124.

[95] At decision 124, method 100 checks to see whether a physical device is to be issued to the player. If not, method 100 proceeds back to step 102. If a physical device is to be issued to the player, such as by printing a voucher or ticket, the physical device is dispensed to the player at step 126. Method 100 then returns to step 102. [96] If it is determined at decision 120 that a cashless device has not been inserted or recorded, method 100 proceeds to step 128 and records the cashless device information. The cashless device information may be recorded on the cashless device and/or stored in an account associated with the cashless device. The cashless device is then issued to the player at step 130. Method 100 then returns to step 102. [97] As a result of steps 118, 126 or 130, the player is presented with information regarding how to redeem the prize or is presented with a cashless device, such as, for example, a voucher, a coupon or a certificate. At this point the player has a range of choices available regarding when, where and how to obtain or select his/her prize. The player may decide to obtain the prize at a location different from the gaming location; the player may be allowed to choose the prize from among a selection of different prizes; and the player may be allowed to choose the prize at a time remote from the date or time of the prize qualifying outcome at the gaming location. The player may also decide to redeem all of, or part of, the prize for credits to play an on-line game of chance via an internet connection. [98] CONCLUSION [99] Although the description above contains many specifications, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of certain embodiments of this invention. Thus, the scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents rather than by the examples given.

Claims

CLAIMSI claim:
1. A gaming method comprising the following steps, but not all necessarily in order shown: (A) providing a gaming apparatus to a player; (B) allowing the player to place a wager; (C) presenting a game to the player; (D) determining a game outcome at a gaming location; (E) awarding a prize to the player if the game outcome is a prize qualifying outcome; and (F) allowing the player to obtain the prize at a second location different from the gaming location.
2. The gaming method of claim 1 further comprising allowing the player to choose the prize from among a selection of different prizes.
3. The gaming method of claim 2 further comprising allowing the player to choose the prize at a time remote from the date or time of the prize qualifying outcome.
4. The gaming method of claim 2 further comprising allowing the player to redeem all of, or part of, the prize for credits to play an on-line game of chance via an internet connection.
5. The gaming method of claim 1 comprising allowing the player to obtain the prize at a second location different from the gaming location, wherein the second location is not associated with the gaming location.
6. The gaming method of claim 1 comprising allowing the player to obtain the prize at a second location different from the gaming location, wherein the second location is selected from the group consisting of a website, a player computer and a third party vendor site.
7. A gaming method comprising the following steps, but not all necessarily in order shown: a. providing a gaming apparatus to a player; b. allowing the player to place a wager; c. presenting a game to the player; d. determining a game outcome on a particular date and at a particular time; e. awarding a prize to the player if the game outcome is a prize qualifying outcome; and f. allowing the player to choose a prize from among a selection of different prizes at a time remote from the date or time of the game outcome.
8. The gaining method of claim 7 further comprising allowing the player to obtain the prize at a second location different from location of the gaming apparatus.
9. The gaming method of claim 8 comprising allowing the player to obtain the prize at a second location different from location of the gaming apparatus, wherein the second location is not associated with gaming activities of the location of the gaming apparatus.
10. The gaming method of claim 8 comprising allowing the player to obtain the prize at a second location different from location of the gaming apparatus, wherein the second location is selected from the group consisting of a website, a player computer and a third party vendor site.
11. The gaming method of claim 7 further comprising allowing the player to redeem all of, or part of, the prize for credits to play an on-line game of chance via an internet connection.
12. A gaming system comprising: a. a gaming device; b. a remote network in communication with the gaming device; and c. a cashless device dispenser in communication with the gaming device.
13. The gaming system of claim 8 wherein the remote network further comprises a data base.
14. The gaming system of claim 9 wherein the data base is in communication with a remote computer selected from the group consisting of a proprietor computer, a vendor computer and a combination thereof.
15. The gaming system of claim 10 wherein the remote computer is in communication with the data base via an internet connection.
16. The gaming system of claim 10 wherein the data base is in further communication with a website.
17. The gaming system of claim 12 wherein the website is in further communication with a player computer.
18. The gaming system of claim 8 wherein the remote network is a computer system.
19. The gaming system of claim 8 wherein the remote network is in communication with the gaming device via a communication mode selected from the group consisting of a local area network, a wide area network, an Ethernet connection, a telephone connection and combinations thereof.
20. The gaming system of claim 8 wherein the cashless device dispenser is capable of reading or dispensing cashless devices selected from the group consisting of vouchers, coupons, tickets, stubs, certificates, memory storage devices and cards.
PCT/US2004/026825 2003-08-19 2004-08-18 Method for awarding prizes WO2005020014A2 (en)

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