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Title:
Spinning wheel promotional and advertising game in a retail establishment
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method, system, and apparatus for conducting a promotional and advertising game in a retail establishment to create customer excitement, entertainment, participation, and loyalty is disclosed. The game is played at unpredictable time intervals using a gaming system with a spinning wheel. The system awards prizes to participants, who are selected from supermarket patrons present in the supermarket at game time, based on the results of the spinning wheel. Numbered placards are distributed at random intervals throughout the store, and participants are invited to stand on, under, or near any available placard during the first spin of the wheel which is announced to all patrons. The participant on the winning placard spins the wheel the second time to determine the prize, if any, that the participant is awarded. Prizes may include the store proprietor's items, products and services of others, products of manufacturer sponsors, or combinations thereof.


Inventors:
Scozio, John V. (North Huntingdon, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/281319
Publication Date:
06/08/2006
Filing Date:
11/17/2005
Assignee:
SPIN TIME USA, LLC (North Huntingdon, PA, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B71/00
View Patent Images:
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Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCNEES, WALLACE & NURICK LLC (100 PINE STREET, P.O. BOX 1166, HARRISBURG, PA, 17108-1166, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of game play for promotion and advertising in a retail establishment comprising the steps of: placing a random number selecting device within a retail establishment, the random number selecting device being configured to select a number from a predetermined range of numbers; distributing a plurality of gaming placards throughout the retail establishment, each gaming placard of the plurality of gaming placards having a number corresponding to a number in the predetermined range of numbers; instructing patrons in the retail establishment to select a gaming placard of the plurality of gaming placards; generating a first number with random number selecting device; identifying a participant using the generated first number and the plurality of gaming placards, wherein the identified participant is the patron at the gaming placard corresponding to the first generated number; generating a second number for the identified participant with the random number selecting device; identifying a prize for the identified participant using the generated second number and a numbered list of prizes; and awarding the identified prize to the participant.

2. The method of game play of claim I wherein prizes on the numbered list of prizes are selected from the group consisting of products offered by the retail establishment, products sponsored by manufacturers, products and services by others who purchase rights to sponsor prizes, and combinations thereof.

3. The method of game play of claim 1 further comprising: providing at least one prize having a value equal to or higher than a predetermined value; and inviting repeat patrons or patrons from a pre-selected list established by the retail establishment to be the patrons in the retail establishment.

4. The method of game play of claim 1 further comprising the step generating a numbered list of prizes by listing a prize next to each number in the numbered list of prizes.

5. The method of game play of claim I wherein the step of identifying a prize includes corresponding the generated second number to a prize on the numbered list associated with the generated second number.

6. The method of game play of claim 1 wherein the steps of generating a first number and generating a second number each include starting and stopping the random number selecting device with a switching device.

7. The method of game play of claim 1 wherein the step of distributing a plurality of gaming placards throughout the retail establishment includes at least one of affixing the placards to a floor, mounting the placards on a shelving system, or mounting the placards from a ceiling.

8. A gaming system for promotion and advertising in a commercial venue comprising: a modular support frame configured to support one or more components of the gaming system; a random number selecting device mounted on the modular support frame, the random number selecting device being configured to select a number from a predetermined range of numbers; a plurality of gaming placards distributed throughout the commercial venue, each gaming placard having a number from the predetermined range of numbers; a prize panel mounted on the modular support frame, the prize panel being configured to display a numbered list of available prizes, the numbered list of prizes having numbers corresponding to the predetermined range of numbers; and wherein the random number selecting device is operated to generate a first selected number, the first selected number being used to select a participant, a second selected number, the second selected number being used to select a prize from the numbered list of available prizes associated with the second selected number for the participant.

9. The gaming system of claim 8 wherein the random number selecting device comprises a game board with an electronic wheel, the game board including: a plurality of numbered sections disposed on a front surface of the game board, the plurality of numbered sections corresponding to the predetermined range of numbers; a plurality of lights mounted and arranged on the game board adjacent to the plurality of numbered sectors to illuminate the plurality of numbered sectors; circuitry configured to control an illumination rate of the plurality of lights on said lighted game board illuminate; and a control device configured to control illumination of the plurality of lights to select a number from the predetermined range of numbers, the control device having neutral, go and stop positions.

10. The gaming system of claim 8 wherein the random number selecting device comprises a mechanical wheel and an indicator disposed adjacent to the mechanical wheel, the mechanical wheel including: a plurality of numbered sectors on the wheel; a plurality of pins disposed on the wheel, separating the plurality of numbered sectors; a clutch motor assembly to rotate one of the mechanical wheel or indicator; and a control device configured to electronically control the operation of the mechanical wheel, the control device configured to release the clutch motor assembly to start and stop one of the mechanical wheel or the indicator to cause the indicator to point to a numbered sector when rotation on the wheel stops.

11. The gaming system of claim 10 wherein the mechanical wheel is rotated by the clutch motor assembly and the indicator is in a fixed position, and wherein the pins located on the wheel contact the fixed indicator each time a numbered sector on the wheel passes the fixed indicator.

12. The gaming system of claim 10 wherein the mechanical wheel is in a fixed position and the indicator is rotated by the clutch motor assembly, and wherein the pins located on the wheel contact the rotating indicator each time the indicator passes a numbered sector on the wheel.

13. A gaming system of claim 8 wherein the modular support frame is configured into one of a freestanding configuration, a kiosk configuration, or a ceiling hung configuration.

14. A gaming system of claim 8 wherein the modular support frame comprises at least one of a wire mesh or canvas material disposed around the modular support frame to restrict access to the modular support frame.

15. A gaming system of claim 8 wherein the modular support components are connected by a swedge connection, and wherein the mounted components are connected in a secure manner.

16. A gaming system of claim 8 wherein the plurality of gaming placards are located at random intervals on the floor, hung from the ceiling, or attached to the shelving system of the commercial venue.

17. A gaming system of claim 16 wherein the gaming placards are illuminated to alert participants of locations of the gaming placards within the commercial venue.

18. A gaming system of claim 8 wherein the random number selecting device is powered by an onboard battery pack.

19. A gaming system of claim 8 further comprising a media panel to display advertisements or announcements, and the media panel is one of a liquid crystal display, a light emitting diode display, a television, or a light box.

20. A gaming system of claim 8 further comprising a scrolling message board to display advertisements or other messages.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of Provisional Application No. 60/629,432 filed Nov. 19, 2004, the complete disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to creating a promotional opportunity for venues and other retail establishments for their returning patrons that creates excitement, entertainment and customer loyalty. More specifically, the present invention is directed to the operation of a spinning wheel at random times to disperse prizes to store patrons.

Retail establishments, and more particularly, supermarkets, are persistently seeking novel and creative means by which to attract patrons. Intense competition in pricing and product discounts has become ubiquitous, leading retailers to develop other means by which to distinguish themselves favorably to consumers and to gain competitive advantage over other similarly situated retailers.

One technique retailers have used to attract patrons is to sponsor various games by which participants may win prizes. The marketing theory of the game sponsorship is that patrons will come to the sponsor's retail establishment to play the games in the hopes of winning a prize. Once the patrons enter the retail establishment, the likelihood increases that they will purchase an item, effectively driving up sales revenues in excess of the costs associated with creating and sponsoring the game.

A number of such related games involve simulated gambling, in which the games are displayed by electronic terminals, typically displaying a slot machine-type device with two, three, or more “spinning” wheels responsive to an input signal to generate a random or nonrandom outcome, a percentage of which outcomes correspond to one or more prizes to be awarded to the player.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,373,440 issued to Cohen et al. and assigned to UC'NWIN Systems, Inc. of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., discloses a game machine having a video screen that displays computer-generated representations of the peripheral surfaces of three adjacent wheels, which can be rotated independently of one another in a random fashion, so that the effect is the same as watching the display of mechanical slot machines. The traditional lemons, cherries, and other symbols on the wheels are replaced with images of products, services, or manufacturer's trademarks in order to indicate the prize that is associated with the “slot-machine.” A game card may have a barcode or other unique code representing patrons and may also be associated with a specific establishment or a chain of establishments in which the game card may be used to play a game. For example, each supermarket chain and each store in the chain may be identified by coded characters. The game machine can be set to operate only if it reads the code of the chain corresponding to where it is installed or if it reads the code of one or more stores where special promotions are conducted. Only those game cards which contain the codes of the selected stores in the chain would operate the game machine. The game card has a magnetic strip upon which has been reported a similar unique code. The unique code on the game card represents a particular patron, and in turn, identifies the game card. The game may be a truly random movement of the images accomplished through a known algorithm, or software may control the operation of the game and make movement of the wheels less than random, as probabilities may be pre-set by the operator to determine the outcomes.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,080,364 issued to Seidman and assigned to Take One Marketing Group, Inc. of Merion, Pa., discloses a gaming method, wherein prizes are automatically awarded based on the presentation of tokens bearing machine readable codes. Several different types of tokens may be issued which have identifying indicia. A data terminal is linked to selectively operable signs or other displays to indicate a winner or jackpot. Game tokens may be issued as cards, they may be the UPC labels from items sold in the store, or issued as other types of customer cards.

The time of the patrons' use of the card is tracked to enforce limits on the number of times in a predetermined period that a patron may play the game. Based on a programmed formula, players may accumulate points for continuity of play with which to determine rewards for good customers. The data processing system for this invention is also capable of charging the account of sponsors, proportional to the results achieved. Prizes are selected from a prize list or pool by a random number generator that identifies prizes associated with a number on the list.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,634,550 issued to Walker et al. and assigned to Walker Digital, LLC of Stamford, Connecticut, discloses a game presentation and a retail establishment, such as a virtual slot machine on a display device associated with a point-of-sale (hereinafter “POS”) terminal. A standard computer hardware system includes POS terminals with a suitable display, such as a CRT, capable of displaying computer-generated images, graphics, or photo images. A product database is associated with the POS terminal for storing identifier codes, names of products, prices of the products, and a representative image of the respective products. Also associated with the system is a coupon database for storing codes, including a table and source codes, for identifying coupons, storing the messages to be displayed on the terminal related to the respective coupon, an image for indicating a respective coupon, and coupon rules. Rules indicate under what circumstance the respective coupons may be provided as a benefit to the customer. Another table associated with the system is an upsell database, which includes identifying codes indicating the respective upsell offers. For each upsell offer, there is a message to be provided to the customer stating the terms of the upsell offer. An image with regard to each respective upsell offer, as well as rules that govern whether the upsell offers are permissible outcomes, are generated by a random process. Customer database and outcomes database are also associated with the system.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,551,692 issued to Pettit et al. and assigned to Casino Coin Company, Inc. of Las Vegas, Nev., discloses an electronic game promotion device that is a virtual slot machine. An operator can program a machine, so that within a predetermined number of operations of plays, a predetermined number of wins occurs. Prizes associated with each of the wins can also be preprogrammed, so that coupons are printed which indicate the prize when a win occurs. Precise win/lose percentages are maintained by way of counters in a CPU program to switch status when a predetermined number of wins or losses has occurred or when the operator desires to change the win/lose ratio and/or play cycle. If the gaming devices are not located at sites controlled by sponsoring retailers, the proprietors of the sites at which the gaming machines are located are paid by the retailers for presenting the machines to the public and maintaining the security of those machines. It is also necessary that the site managers maintain control over how many plays a given individual is allowed based upon instructions received from the respective sponsoring retailers. A speaker provides sound effects to the win or loss status of the play.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,815,741 issued to Small, discloses an automated marketing and gaming system. A player inserts an identification card into an automated remote interface device and accesses an account at a subject financial institution. A user indicia is compared to a game indicia. A sweepstakes processor compares the user and game indicia to determine whether a selected winning correlation is present between the game indicia and user indicia. The apparatus is adapted to be used with the network of data processing machines and the transmission facilities device, which provides data processing communication among the data processing machines. The processor can alternatively be in electronic communication with a government associated lottery system to purchase lottery chances for distribution to users of a remote interface device.

Some drawbacks associated with these various slot machine and sweepstakes games include the need to maintain complicated database systems for customer identification, prize identification, and historical data associated with restrictions on play. Further, there is initially a significant capital outlay associated with writing a program for the game, and with establishing a player token, magnetic strip card system, or other computer-based application for operating the equipment and the game. Particularly, electronic games involve a significant barrier to entry for small-, medium-, and some large-scale retail operations. Moreover, sometimes elaborate techniques must be employed to ensure that the method of practicing a game does not run afoul of established laws and regulations related to gaming and lotteries that vary from state to state, which typically require that no purchase is necessary in order to play the game and be eligible for prizes, and that no cost be associated with participation. Further, while the object is to appeal to potential customers of the retailer, the number of eligible participants may not be so limited, resulting in inefficient distribution of prizes to a pool of participants that may include many of whom are not potential or likely customers.

Hence, there is a need for a simplified, random game in which a retailer's patrons may participate without requiring a purchase, but which also targets a more focused pool of participants, while keeping the cost associated with presenting the game to a minimum.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In view of the foregoing disadvantages inherent in the known types of games present in the prior art, the present invention provides a new promotional and advertising game for a supermarket, wherein customer excitement, entertainment, participation, and loyalty is created. The present invention is directed to a game played at unpredictable time intervals in a supermarket using a spinning wheel, either electric or mechanical, which awards advertiser or store sponsored prizes to participants based on a spin of the wheel. The participants may be selected from a group of either paying or nonpaying supermarket patrons present in the supermarket at game time by a spin of the wheel. No purchase from the establishment is required for patron participation. To win, no purchase is required, and participants must associate themselves on, under, or near the numbered gaming placards while the wheel is spinning.

The gaming placards are each individually numbered to correspond with each of the numbers on the spinning wheel. They are affixed to the floor, hang from the ceiling or mount to the shelving system of the store and are randomly distributed throughout the store. To make them easily identifiable by patrons, the placards may hold LCD or LED indicator lights that blink, or otherwise illuminate to draw the patrons' attention.

When the operator determines that game play should be initiated, an announcement is made throughout the store to alert patrons. The gaming system is equipped with input and output ports to connect with the store's public announcement (P.A.) system. To begin the game play, the operator initiates the first spin of the wheel by use of the control device that signals the wheel to spin. Once the wheel is spinning, participants locate a placard in the store and occupy themselves appropriately, either standing on a floor placards, under a ceiling hung placard, or adjacent to a shelf mounted placard. While the wheel is spinning, an audio sound effect is produced in synchronization with the rotation of the wheel and broadcast throughout the store's P.A. system so that the participants know that the wheel is spinning even though they may be in another part of the store and out of the range of the wheel. The winning participant is then selected from the number that the first spin produces on the wheel. For example, if the wheel landed on the number twenty six, then the participant in the store who was associated with the placard with the number twenty six is the winning participant for the prize spin. That winning participant is then escorted to the wheel to spin the wheel a second time. The random number result of this spin can result in a prize awarded to that participant that corresponds to the number on the prize panel or no prize at all. For example, if the number produced from the second spin is thirty two, then the prize on the prize panel associated with number thirty two is the prize that the player wins. Prizes may include the store proprietor's items, products and services of others, products of manufacturer sponsors, or combinations thereof.

The electronic game board is configured with the numbers arranged in a circular or other similar shape on the front of the game board to make up the spinning wheel. Associated with each number is a light or other similar illuminating device. When utilizing the electronic game board, the spinning wheel is activated when the player or operator initiates the control device, which sends an actuation signal that engages circuitry to signal the game board to simulate a spinning wheel. The lighted number portions on the game board light up in a circular clockwise direction, giving the illusion of a spinning wheel, or the illusion that a marker is spinning around the board, pointing to a number around the game board. The speed of rotations during each ‘spin’ is varied, which ensures a random and unpredictable outcome of each individual ‘spin’. When the player determines that the spinning wheel has had enough rotations, they initiate the control device again to send an actuation signal to engage circuitry to signal the game board to simulate the slowing of the spin of the wheel on the board. When game play is over, one light remains illuminated, which indicates the winning number. Programmable devices are excluded from the circuitry to ensure that a genuine random selecting process is occurring each spin, and to ensure that there is no deterministic winning probabilities.

In an alternative embodiment, the mechanical version of the game board includes a spinning wheel composed of a device that is circular in shape and is affixed to the game board in such a way that it can spin when initiated, an indicator, and a plurality of pins located directly on the spinning wheel between the plurality of numbers. When the player is ready to begin playing the game by spinning the wheel, the player initiates the control device. The spinning game wheel is rotated in response to an actuation signal from the control device that engages a drive motor through an electromechanical clutch assembly. The clutch assembly on the wheel spins the wheel and then the rotation slows as the wheel disperses the energy from the force of the spin from the motor assembly. The clutch mechanism ensures a truly random process for spinning, as the clutch is responsive only to the button signal, and not the touch or feel of the player. The pins on the wheel allow the indicator to point to only one number at a time, as the pins separate the plurality of numbers. When the game play is over, the indicator is pointing to one number on the spinning wheel, which is the winning number.

The system used for this method of game play is an apparatus including a modular support system and a game board, a media panel, a scrolling message board and a plurality of prize panels that can be configured into several different configurations. The game board, media panel, scrolling message board and the plurality of prize panels connect to the support system by a secure connection, e.g. key lock fasteners, that ensures that the components are secured in place and not in danger of falling from the support system and causing a hazardous condition.

The media panel is a light box, LCD, or other similar type of display that is used to display any announcements or advertisements that the retail store may have for the patrons. The media panel may also be used for manufacturer or sponsor's advertisements as well. Additionally, the store may choose to display news about the game itself including when the next game play will be initiated, the last winner, the types of prizes that will be awarded, the types of prizes that have already been awarded to winning participants, and so on.

The scrolling message board is a LED or other similar type of display that is used to notify patrons and participants of any information that the store wishes to convey. Optionally, the scrolling message board may be used for announcing to the patrons and participants when the next game play will be, with the announcement displayed for a certain amount of time before game play is initiated. The scrolling message board may display that the next game play will begin in 10 minutes, optionally, the message board will count down the minutes left. This will help to retain patrons in the store for active game play. Patrons may decide to stay for the next game play if they are thinking about leaving, if they are aware that game play will start within a reasonable amount of time. The store may also wish to display the last prize that was awarded, and/or the name of the winner as well. The scrolling message board is operated by a remote control device so that the store operator can easily activate the message to be displayed without having to disassemble the system.

The prize panels are used to display the prizes that are available for winning participants. Each available prize is listed next to a number on the panel. When a winning number results from a game play, the prize associated with that number on the prize panel is the prize that the winning participant receives. These prizes can be interchanged and moved to suit the retail store's needs. In one aspect of the invention, when the dollar values of the particular prizes are at or above a predetermined value, those particular prizes are not awarded during traditional game play. These prizes are awarded during a less frequent version of the game called a “Super Spin Off”, which can only be played by repeat patrons of the retail establishment or venue who have won the traditional game one or more times. In another aspect of the invention, specific numbers on the prize panels can be sold to advertisers who have a specific interest in a particular number. The chosen numbers only distribute prizes provided from the advertisers who purchased that particular number.

In yet another aspect of the invention, the entire gaming system is sponsored by a manufacturer or similar sponsor. The sponsoring member covers the costs of operation for the gaming system, provides prizes for the prize panels, participates in advertising for the game, and pays royalties to the establishment where the game is located for the opportunity to place the game on their premises. Game sponsorship may provide enough revenues to cover the operational costs of the game, and further provide income above and beyond the cost of operational costs from the prize and gaming system sponsorship. In return for game and prize sponsorship the manufacturers receive name distribution and recognition, as their product and name is advertised as being the sponsoring entity.

Additionally, to accommodate larger stores who wish to use the gaming system, a larger number of floor placards are available to accommodate the extra floor space and increased number of patrons who may participate in the game play. A partial or complete set of extra gaming placards is available as an option to expand the game for larger establishments. In this case, there can be two placards with the same number, and therefore, two winners may result from a single spin of the wheel. If this situation occurs, each winner is given a chance to spin the wheel a second time to determine which prize each winner is awarded. In the case where a partial second set of gaming placards is awarded, not all numbers may be represented twice. Only a partial amount of the numbers are represented twice on the gaming placards, therefore, not every spin of the wheel will result in two winners. Additionally, it is not necessary that if more than one set of gaming placards are used within a single store, that two winners will result from each spin. It is possible that one of the two placards with the same number will be left unoccupied and only one winner will result.

The present invention introduces a method of game play for promotion and advertising in a retail establishment, which includes several elements. First, the method places a random number selecting device within a retail establishment, the random number selecting device being configured to select a number from a predetermined range of numbers. Next, the method distributes a plurality of gaming placards throughout the retail establishment, each gaming placard of the plurality of gaming placards corresponds to a number in the predetermined range of numbers. The method also generates a first number with random number selecting device, identifies a participant for a game with the generated first number by the random number selecting device, then generates a second number with the random number selecting device, which identifies a prize to award the participant. The prize is identified by using the second generated number and a numbered list of prizes.

The present invention also introduces a gaming system for promotion and advertising in a retail establishment having a modular support frame for displaying and mounting the various components of the system. The components include a random number selecting device being configured to select a number from a predetermined range of numbers, and a prize panel configured to display a list of available prizes corresponding to a numbered list, each number having one prize corresponding to it. The gaming system also includes a plurality of gaming placards distributed in a retail establishment, with each gaming placard having a number from the predetermined range of numbers, and a control system configured to control operation of the random number selecting device to select a number from the predetermined range of numbers.

One advantage of the present invention is the random intervals that the game is played. Patrons in the store are aware that the game is present and that there is a possibility that it will be played while they are present in the establishment, but there is a degree of uncertainty as to the exact time the game will be played. Since the intervals are random, the store can initiate game play whenever is appropriate. For example, during the operating hours of the store, the amount of patrons present in the store fluctuates and the store or game operator would most likely choose to initiate the game more often when there is the greatest amount of patrons present in the store. The random game play intervals allow the store to maximize the exposure of the game, the prizes, and the sponsors. This flexibility allows the retailers and sponsors who donate prizes for the game to have the satisfaction that their products are getting the most exposure as possible, as the game and attention to the game is occurring when the most possible patrons are present in the establishment. The random game initiation also ensures that the maximum numbers of patrons are receiving the maximum amount of chances to participate in the game as well.

Another advantage of the present invention is that participation occurs easily without spending money or without making any purchases. While many state gambling laws require that there be a “no purchase necessary” clause on all gaming methods used within their particular state, nonetheless, it is often extremely difficult to participate in the game unless a purchase has been made. The ‘no purchase’ participation often requires cumbersome mailings and other requirements, the present invention's ‘no purchase’ participation is the same as the ‘purchase’ participation. Here, the only requirement for participation is that the patron be present in the store at the time the game is initiated. Purchasers and non-purchasers alike have equal opportunity to participate and have an equal opportunity to select a prize. No deference is given to those who actually purchase an item from the establishment over those who do not.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that the game creates participant and patron excitement by physical, emotional, visual and audio stimulants. All aspects of the game stimulate the participants, adding to its potential for popularity among patrons and storeowners. Not only do the patrons and participants have the opportunity to watch the game being played when the wheel is spun, view the media panel displaying information, observe, the participants locating gaming placards throughout the store, but the patrons and participants hear the excitement created throughout the store, and they can actively participate if they choose to do so. The combination of the numerous stimulants creates a more memorable and enjoyable experience for patrons, which results in return patronage at the store for repeated participation in the game.

Another advantage of the present invention over the prior art is the use of the entire establishment space. Other gaming systems require that the participants orient themselves to an isolated location to participate in their game. The present invention requires that the participants orient themselves throughout the entire store to identify with any one of the gaming placards. This not only familiarizes the patrons and participants with the entire store, but it effectively creates exposure to all areas and departments of the establishment, creating a marketing opportunity for the storeowners. The storeowners or gaming operator have the freedom of placing the placards in any location throughout the store, allowing them to place them near any area in which they wish to give more exposure to. In addition to having freedom of placing the placards wherever the storeowner or gaming operator feels is necessary, the placards are removable and can be placed in different locations at the will of the storeowner or gaming operator. The relocating of the placards can be done, monthly, weekly, daily, between each game play, or never. The storeowner or gaming operator may also choose to relocate the placards as the demand for exposure of items or areas increases or decreases, possibly during the sales or promotions of certain items, or during seasonal demands for particular items. For example, if the store is running a promotion on deli meats one week, the storeowner may choose to place a placard near the deli department. When game play is initiated, participants identifying themselves with the gaming placards will attempt to associate with all placards throughout the store, and will approach the placard in the deli department. Whether they are successful or if someone arrives at that placard first, the store has effectively brought patrons to the deli area where there is a promotion.

The present invention has yet another advantage, which is the increased interaction of the patrons and participants with store employees. Employee/patron interaction, if pleasant, will increase repeat patronage to the store. The interaction familiarizes the employees with the patrons and the patrons with the employees, creating a more welcoming and enjoyable experience for both the employees and the patrons. When patrons feel welcome and familiar with the store as well as the employees, they are more comfortable and willing to return to the location. This return patronage can result in purchases by the patrons and increases sales and revenues for the store. In addition, as the employees become familiar with the patrons, their work experience becomes more enjoyable, allowing them to produce a better work ethic and attitude, which also creates a nicer environment for the patrons as well.

Other features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following more detailed description of the preferred embodiment, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings which illustrate, by way of example, the principles of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front view of the electronic spinning wheel gaming apparatus of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the electronic spinning wheel gaming apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a rear view of the electronic spinning wheel gaming apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of the electronic spinning wheel of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a side view of the mechanical spinning wheel of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a front view of the mechanical spinning wheel of FIG. 3.

FIG. 7 depiction of an alternate mechanical spinning wheel assembly.

FIG. 8 is a depiction of a placard used for within the retail establishment.

FIG. 9 is an example of the placement of the placards within the retail establishment.

FIG. 10 is a depiction of a prize list table.

FIG. 11 is an example of a prize list table.

FIG. 12 is a depiction of the free standing configuration of the present invention.

FIG. 13 is a depiction of the kiosk configuration of the present invention.

FIG. 14 is a depiction of the ceiling hung configuration of the present invention.

FIG. 15 is a depiction of the freestanding configuration of the system in one embodiment.

FIG. 16 is a depiction of the freestanding configuration of the system in a second embodiment.

FIG. 17 is a depiction of the side view of the system of FIGS. 15 and 16.

FIG. 18 is a depiction of a hypothetical retail establishment with the elements of the invention disposed therein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Reference now should be made to the drawing in which the same reference numbers are used throughout the different figures to designate the same components. Referring to FIGS. 1-17, the system of the present invention includes a game board 10 that has either an electronic 12 or mechanical 32 spinning wheel, or other similar device that can generate a random number. FIGS. 1, 2 and 3 show the game board 10 that has an electronic spinning wheel 12 with lighted numbered sections 14. Referring now to FIG. 4, the electronic wheel 12 is backlit with a lighting device in areas 20A and 20B. Sections 14 on the front of the game board 10 are illuminated by a harness of light emitting diodes. The front of the game board 10 can include a store logo design in the center 16 of the electronic wheel 12 or mechanical wheel 32. The electronic wheel 12 is activated when a participant or operator initiates the control device 26 which sends a signal to the circuitry, which controls the rate at which the lighted numbered sections 14 are illuminated, simulating a spinning wheel movement in a clockwise direction. Alternately, the simulated spinning movement may be in a counter-clockwise direction. Optionally, inside the electronic wheel are shielding areas to sectionally illuminate the numbered section 14 separately from the other illuminated portions of the game board 10. The main shielding prevents light from the backlight 20 from interfering with the numbered sections 14 of spinning wheel 12. The secondary shielding fits inside the main shielding and prevents light from the backlight 20 that illuminates the center logo portion 16 from illuminating the numbered sections 14. Also, a sectional shielding can be located radially or perpendicularly between the main shielding and the secondary shielding and is between each separated lighted numbered section 14. The sectional shielding helps to maintain the illumination of only one numbered section 14 at once, which prevents patron and participant confusion during game play.

FIG. 5 depicts the side view of the mechanical spinning wheel 32 for the game board 10 that is driven by an electric motor 44 having a speed control (not shown). An electronic stop and start control device (not shown) controls actuation of the wheel 32 by engaging a clutch mechanism (not shown) disposed between the motor output shaft 40 and the linkage 38 located at the rear of the mechanical spinning wheel 32. The amount of numbered sectors 14 on the mechanical spinning wheel 32 may vary. However, in the preferred embodiment, forty numbered sections 14 are employed in order to provide a sufficient number of player chances and corresponding prizes, as will be discussed below. In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, the mechanical spinning wheel 32 may be segregated into any desired number of the sectors, for example, twice the number of sectors or eighty sectors, by using an overlay on the face of the mechanical spinning wheel 32. The mechanical spinning wheel 32 also includes a plurality of pins 34 corresponding to the defining edge of each sector 14, and also has a mechanical indexing finger 36 to brush against the protruding pins 34 as the mechanical spinning wheel 32 spins. The indexing finger or indicator 36 then comes to rest against one pin 34 or between two adjacent pins 34, designating the “winning” number associated with the sector 14 where the indicator 36 finally stopped.

FIG. 6 shows the design for the front of the mechanical spinning wheel 32 on the game board 10 in a preferred embodiment. The numbered sections 14 are arranged on the circumference of the wheel 32, with the pins 34 located between each individual numbered section 14. The center of the wheel 16 may be marked with the store logo of the individual store that is using the system.

In another aspect of the invention shown in FIG. 7, the wheel 32 may be stationary, and a rotary member 66 rotates in response to the motor and clutch actuation, coming to rest in a position pointing to one of the numbers 14 on the wheel 32. A first end of the rotary member 66 includes a point 68 like and arrow and the opposite end includes a tail 70, blunt shape, or ends in the center of the wheel 16, so as to clearly indicate which end is the winning number indicator end.

FIG. 8 depicts a game placard 56 to be used in conjunction with the game board 10. Each placard 56 may be designed with the logo of the store using the game and a random number selected from the numbered sections 14 on the wheel 12, 32. The game placard 56 may also have some sort of design, which resembles the numbered sections design 14 on the wheel 12, 32. The placards 56 are strategically placed throughout the store, as shown in FIG. 9, whether on the floor 60, hanging from the ceiling 64, or hanging on the shelving units 62 of the establishment. If the placards 56 are for the floor 60, they are made with a slip resistant material for patron safety. If they hang from the ceiling 64 or from the shelving unit 62 of the establishment, they are adequately and accordingly sized to accompany their location. The placards 56 are designed that only one patron can occupy or be associated with a given placard 56 at a single time. The purpose of the placards 56, which will be discussed in further detail below, is to permit patrons to select their number associated with the spin of the wheel 12, 32 when the game is played. The patron selects a number by standing on or near a placard 56 when the start of the game is announced. Each of the placards 56 contains a unique numerical or other designation, e.g., the random number, so that there may only be one person selected to play the game. However, as discussed above, duplicate placards 56 may be used. When duplicate placards 56 are used, the possibility exists that there may be more than one winner selected. If more than one winner is selected, the store can award a prize to each winner or have a tiebreaking procedure to select the winner who receives the prize. Alternately, color coding of the placards may be used to differentiate matching numbers on the placards as well.

FIGS. 10 and 11 depict a plurality of prize panels 80 having a number of rows 86 displayed thereon. The rows 86 correspond to the number of sectors 14 on the spinning wheel 12, 32. In one embodiment, the prize panel 80 can include one or more planar display boards. A list of prizes 90 is associated with a set of numbers 84 on the prize panel 80 corresponding to the sections 14 on the wheel 12, 32. The prize panel 80 is preferably backlit so the prizes listed are illuminated for the patrons and participants to easily identify them. In a preferred embodiment, the prize panel 80 includes a header space 82 for the retailer's name and logo information. The prize panel 80 may be a simple erasable chalk or marker board that is manually operated and revised. Alternately, the prize panel 80 may be a computerized graphic display, which is changed by a computer program (not shown) that includes a data table of the various fields, e.g., prizes, sponsors, and images or logos associated therewith.

FIGS. 12-14 also depict the preferred configurations for the gaming system. First, as shown in FIG. 12, there is a free standing configuration 119, which arranges the game board 10 at the top of the support system 125. Directly below the game board 10, is the scrolling message board 22, which displays messages or game announcements that the store wishes to convey to the patrons. The scrolling message panel 22 may be LEDs or some other similar display type apparatus. The media panel 117 is directly below the scrolling message board 22, which allows the store utilizing the gaming apparatus to display media of any kind during the time that the game is not in active play. The media panel 117 could be an LCD screen, LED screen, or any form of television or display screen. The store may choose to display commercials for their establishment, local news and announcements, or any other alerts that they wish to notify the patrons and participants in the store. Directly below the media panel 117 is the prize panel 80. Another configuration shown in FIG. 13 is the kiosk 121. In the kiosk configuration 121, the game board 10 is set in the center of the prize panels 80. Below the game board 10, the scrolling message panel 22 and the media panel 117 hang on the support system 125. However, the scrolling message board 22 and the media panel 117 can be mounted above the game board 10. The third configuration shown in FIG. 14 is ceiling hung 123. In the ceiling hung configuration 123, the game board 10 is placed to the far left, the prize panels 80 are in the center, to the direct right of the game board 10, and the scrolling message board 22 and the media panel 117 are placed to the far right, directly next to the prize panels 80. All three configurations include the same components, the game board 10, the scrolling message board 22, the media panel 117 and the prize panels 80, the difference is that they are located in different positions on the support system 125 to accommodate different venues and space restrictions within those venues. In addition, any suitable arrangement or positioning of the game board 10, prize panels 80, the scrolling message panel, and media panel 117 can be used in any of the above described configurations. Furthermore, in another embodiment, the scrolling message board 22 and media panel 117 can be integrated into a single unit.

FIGS. 15 and 16 depict a more detailed drawing of the support system 125 in the free standing configuration 119. The support system 125 is designed to accommodate all configurations, and can be changed accordingly, should the venue determine that another configuration would better suit their needs. The support system 125 is versatile and can be reconfigured from one configuration to another at the venue's discretion. All four sides as well as the base 147 are covered in a covering 127 such as wire mesh, canvas, or other suitable material to prevent children, or other patrons or participants from climbing into or onto the gaming system.

FIG. 17 shows the same configuration as FIGS. 15 and 16, only from the right side 145 view. Here, leveling feet 131 are shown connected to the base piece 147 of the support system 125. Wheels may be used in place of the leveling feet as an option for a more mobile system. A ballast 133 is shown resting on the base piece 147, and filling up the entire space between the four sides to prevent the support system from tipping over. On the front of the front side 139, the support system has key slot 135 holes for connecting to the components. This allows the venues to raise or lower the components to suit their needs, and also provides for a secure connection of the components to the support system 125.

In one embodiment of the present invention as shown in FIG. 18, the game board 10 is placed prominently in a central location in a retail establishment, such as a grocery store, to signal to those present in the store that a new instance of the game is about to commence, to generate excitement among individuals in the store, and also to possibly entice passers-by to enter the store and participate in the game. The game is preferably played at arbitrary and unpredictable times during the operating hours of the establishment, so as to discourage non-patrons from appearing at predicted times solely for the purpose of gaining a chance to win a prize. The randomness of the times at which the game is played increases the likelihood that individuals present in the establishment at the time are there for the purpose of patronizing the store and not for the sole purpose of a chance to win a prize. On the other hand, it is preferable that the game be played at least once per hour in order to reassure interested patrons that there is a likelihood, should they choose to patronize the merchant, that a prize-winning opportunity will present itself. According to the discretion of the retail establishment, the spinning wheel game may be played more frequently than once an hour, provided, of course, the spins are more or less randomly timed. The choice of whether to spin more frequently may depend upon a variety of considerations, such as a large number of patrons in an establishment at a given time or a particularly busy season.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the game is played in an outdoor setting, or an outdoor establishment e.g., a sports venue. The plurality of gaming placards are distributed throughout the outdoor setting or outdoor establishment similar to the method used in indoor embodiment. The placards can be located on the ground, suspended from an apparatus such as a pole or overhang, or mounted to the walls, seats, or other similar items at the outdoor establishment. The rules and method of game play are similar as those used in the indoor embodiment. It is to be understood that modifications to the game may be needed for the outdoor embodiment to accommodate the different conditions found in the outdoor embodiment.

As a system option for the gaming system, a public address (P.A.) system may be employed for audibly announcing the commencement of the game. A wireless microphone electronically coupled through the public address system is used to announce the beginning of the game or to announce the prize winner and the winning prize. The system is equipped with audio input and output ports to enable the store to connect their store P.A. system to the gaming equipment. This allows the store to announce the start of the game to all patrons present, not just to those who happen to be in close proximity to the gaming system at the time of game play. Additionally, an audible sound effect is produced in synchronization with the rotations of the spinning wheel that is heard through the P.A. system as well, so that those participants who are not in visual range of the gaming system can tell if the game is in active play.

As discussed above, the wheel has a discrete number of numbered sectors, each numbered sector having a unique identifier on the display, the number preferably being indicated adjacent the periphery of the wheel. In the example of FIG. 1, forty numbered sectors are individually numbered randomly (one through forty) or sequentially (one through forty) in the clockwise direction, with no two sectors having the same number. Each numbered sector, one through forty, may be associated with a unique prize, which is indicated on the prize board, except that, preferably, at least one sector is not associated with a prize in order to establish that when the game is played, there is a chance that the participant may not be awarded a prize. For example, the prize board 80 may be arranged such that some of the randomly chosen sectors are non-winning sectors, meaning that no prize is awarded for the number associated with those sectors. Additionally, a number of sectors, for example eight or ten sectors, may award prizes such as “scratch-off”-type lottery tickets, and the remainder of the sectors, are associated with a combination of participating sponsors from the community, store vendors, and/or the retailers of the merchandise.

It will be appreciated that, as described above, outside sponsors may be solicited to purchase sponsorship items and provide the prizes to be awarded, thereby defraying some or all of the cost of the retail establishment in presenting the game, so that the retail establishment is not saddled with the entire cost of prizes and associated displays. Although it is anticipated that a retail establishment, such as a supermarket, may feature a number of its own products as prizes to be awarded, local merchants will appreciate the opportunity to reach a target audience, such as consumers who frequent the local shopping area and who may be interested in their wares or services. For example, an adjacent restaurant may welcome the opportunity to attract the patrons of the adjacent retail establishment by awarding a free dinner in order to introduce one or more of the patrons to it's restaurant services in the hopes of securing return business from the winning individual. To the restaurateur, the cost of one dinner is a relatively inexpensive promotional cost. The restaurateur also obtains the exposure to all of the store participants who are interested in the particular outcome of the game. Moreover, the retail establishment in which the game is played may charge a fee for placing advertising on the board, the wheel, the placards or the media panel for a specified period of time, thereby creating an advertising medium for manufacturers and other sponsors. Thus, the method of the present invention allows the retailer to sell advertising spree, which creates an income-generating opportunity should the retailer elect to exploit the game in such a manner.

Included in the present invention are the rules of play for the game itself. In the first instance, at the randomly selected time as aforementioned, the retailer broadcasts or otherwise communicates an announcement to patrons present within the establishment that the game is commencing. The announcer instructs patrons to locate a nearby game placard and associate themselves with one by either standing on it, under it, or near it, depending on the type of placard they locate. The announcer then initiates the spinning wheel mechanically by activating the control device.

If the electronic wheel is being used, the control device is initiated, which sends a signal to the circuitry. The circuitry actuates a signal to the board that causes the numbered sectors to illuminate in a sequence that simulates a spinning wheel rotation. The rotation is done on a random basis at different intervals to ensure there is no predictability at what the winning number will be. When the operator wants the wheel to stop spinning, the control device is initiated again and the circuitry signals the board to simulate a slower spinning of the wheel until the lights eventually stop illuminating around the wheel. Resultantly, one numbered sector remains illuminated, which indicates the winning number.

If the mechanical wheel is being used, the control device is initiated to activate the spinning wheel. The control lever sends a signal to the motor, which turns the wheel in a clockwise motion. When the motor is up to speed, a clutch mechanism couples the motor shaft to a shaft on the rear of the wheel disposed at the center axis of the wheel of necessity for balancing purposes. The motor may include a speed-reducing means in order to avoid a hazardous, high-speed rotation of the wheel. The announcer or other employee then actuates the control device again, which releases the clutch mechanism of the motor, allowing the spinning wheel to come to a gradual stop.

Regardless of which spinning wheel is used, the electronic or the mechanical version, the first spin produces a participant. The number that results from the first spin is matched to a game placard in the store. The participant that was associated with that placard during the first spin is the ‘winning’ participant who has a chance to spin the wheel for a prize. That participant then takes the control lever for the game and spins the wheel himself or herself. The resulting winning number of this spin is matched to a prize on the prize panel that is associated with the same number. This is the prize that the participant wins.

While the invention has been described with reference to a preferred embodiment, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiment disclosed as the best mode contemplated for carrying out this invention, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.





 
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