Title:
Casino game having a bonus game and method therefor
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine having a suspended bonus game. When the bonus game occurs having casino personnel suspend play of the bonus game for a promotional period Promotional activities are undertaken by the casino during the promotional period to publicize the play of the second bonus game by the player. When the promotional period ends, casino personnel re-activate play of the bonus game At least one response is received from the player. The player is provided a bonus award based on the received response.



Inventors:
Vancura, Olaf (Las Vegas, NV, US)
Application Number:
11/050153
Publication Date:
08/03/2006
Filing Date:
02/02/2005
Assignee:
Mikohn Gaming Corporation
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
MACDONALD, JASON P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DORR, CARSON & BIRNEY, P.C.;ONE CHERRY CENTER (501 SOUTH CHERRY STREET, SUITE 800, DENVER, CO, 80246, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A method for awarding a player of a casino game comprising: providing a first bonus game in the casino game to the player at a first random predetermined probability; providing a second bonus game in the casino game at a second random predetermined probability; when the second bonus game is provided, issuing a signal so as to notify casino personnel; suspending play of the second bonus game in the casino game for a promotional period when a switch is activated in an area, secured from the player, of the casino game; after the promotional period, resuming play of the second bonus game in the casino game by the player when the switch in the secured area of the casino game is re-activated; delivering at least one question in the casino game to the player in the play of the second bonus game; receiving a response in the casino game from the player after delivering the at least one question; providing a bonus award in the second bonus game in the casino game to the player based on the response.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein the second random predetermined probability is smaller than the first random predetermined probability by at least three orders of magnitude.

3. The method of claim 1 further comprising: wherein the switch is activated and deactivated by a casino employee at the casino game after having access to the secured area by the casino employee.

4. The method of claim 1 further comprising: promoting the play of the second bonus game during the promotional period and wherein the promoting comprises disseminating information about the play of the second bonus game over a communication network.

5. The method of claim 1 wherein providing the second bonus game occurs when a bonus condition for the second bonus game occurs during play of the casino game.

6. The method of claim 1 wherein providing the second bonus game occurs when a bonus condition for the second bonus game occurs during play of the first bonus game.

7. The method of claim 1 further comprising: imposing a time limit for receiving a response to the at least one question.

8. The method of claim 1 wherein providing a bonus award comprises: providing all of the bonus award to the player if a correct response to the at least one question is received.

9. The method of claim 1 wherein providing a bonus award comprises: providing a portion of the bonus award to the player if an incorrect response to the at least one question is received.

10. The method of claim 1 wherein the value of the bonus award is set during the promotional period.

11. The method of claim 1 wherein the value of the bonus award progressively grows during the promotional period.

12. A method for awarding a player of a casino game having a gaming machine comprising: providing a bonus game in the gaming machine at a predetermined random probability; activating a switch located in a secured area of the gaming machine that the player does not have access to when the provided bonus game occurs; suspending play of the bonus game for a promotional period in response to activating the switch to suspend play; promoting play of the bonus game during the promotional period; after the promotional period, re-activating the switch to resume play; resuming play of the bonus game in the gaming machine in response to re-activating the switch; delivering at least one question in the gaming machine to the player in the resumed play of the bonus game; receiving at least one response from the player in the gaming machine after delivering the at least one question; providing at least one bonus award in the bonus game of the gaming machine to the player based on the least one response to each at least one question.

13. The method of claim 12 wherein the switch is a software switch activated and re-activated from a location outside the gaming machine.

14. The method of claim 12 further comprising: broadcasting the play of the bonus game over a communication network.

15. The method of claim 12 further comprising: imposing a time limit for receiving a response from the player to that at least one question.

16. The method of claim 12 wherein the bonus award is set during the promotional period.

17. The method of claim 12 wherein the bonus award progressively grows during the promotional period.

18. A method for awarding a player of a base game in a gaming machine comprising: providing a first bonus game in the gaming machine to the player at a first predetermined random probability; providing a second bonus at a second predetermined random probability, wherein said first predetermined probability is at least three orders of magnitude greater than said first predetermined probability; activating a switch in an area of the gaming machine, secured from access by the player, to suspend the second bonus game for a promotional period of time; promoting the play of the second bonus game during the promotional period, over a communication network; after the promotional period, re-activating the switch in the secured area of the gaming machine to resume play of the second bonus game; broadcasting the resumed play of the second bonus game over the communication network; receiving at least one response from the player during resumed play of the second bonus game; providing a bonus award in the second bonus game to the player when the at least one response is a winning response.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein the resumed play of the second bonus game comprises delivering at least one question to the player.

20. The method of claim 18 further comprising: continuing play of the base game in the gaming machine during the promotional period; continuing to provide the first bonus game during continued play of the base game.

21. The method of claim 20 further comprising: continuing to provide a bonus condition for the second bonus game during continued play of the base game.

22. A method for awarding a player of a casino game in a wide area progressive gaming system having a plurality of casino games, the method comprising: providing a progressive bonus game at a predetermined random probability in the progressive gaming system; suspending play of the progressive bonus game at the casino game of the player for a promotional period of time when the progressive bonus game occurs in the casino game of the player; promoting the play of the progressive bonus game at least in the progressive gaming system during the promotional period; after the promotional period, resuming play of the progressive bonus game in casino game of the player of the player; receiving at least one response from the player during the resumed play of the progressive bonus game in the casino game of the player; providing at least one bonus award in the resumed play of the progressive bonus game based on the received at least one response from the player.

23. The method of claim 22 further comprising: continuing play of the casino game having the suspended play during the promotional period.

24. The method of claim 20 further comprising: continuing to provide for the occurrence of a next progressive bonus game during the aforesaid continued play of the casino game.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates in general to a casino game and in particular to a casino game having a suspended bonus feature.

2. Discussion of the Background

Existing casino games of chance commonly include a base game and a randomly occurring bonus game. Typically a player plays the base game in a gaming machine and obtains a random base game outcome such as a reel slot game played in the gaming machine. If the base game outcome corresponds to a predetermined random outcome associated with qualification for play of the bonus game, the player qualifies to play the bonus game. The player then plays the bonus game and is awarded value depending on the degree of success obtained during bonus game play.

Since a qualifying player plays the bonus game immediately upon qualifying for play thereof, there is a limited ability to generate anticipation and excitement in connection with play of the bonus game. There is also little opportunity to generate exposure of the bonus game play and any winnings generated thereby to other gaming clients in the casino in which the bonus game occurred and/or other people. Some conventional bonus games are played in a top-box with accompanying audio and visual effects to attract others near the casino game to watch bonus game play. Yet, the exposure of bonus game play referred to above is desirable for promotion of the casino game to other potential players. Thus, a need exists to provide better public exposure of, and excitement for, bonus game play than existing casino games provide.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention solves the aforesaid problem by providing in a casino game a first bonus game and a second bonus game. The first bonus game is provided randomly at a first predetermined frequency during play of the casino game. The second bonus game is provided randomly at a second predetermined frequency. The second predetermined frequency is less (usually much less) than the first predetermined frequency, so that the second bonus game rarely occurs. The second bonus game provides a bonus award that is significant and, therefore, increases interest in and excitement about play of the casino game.

Play of the second bonus game is suspended. When the second bonus game is provided, casino employees are notified. The casino employee suspends play of the second bonus game for a promotional period. Alternatively, play of the casino game is suspended. Promotional activities, for example but not limited to, disseminating information about the play of the second bonus game, are undertaken by the casino during the promotional period to generate excitement about, and public exposure for, the player's ensuing play of the second bonus game. Arrangements are made to record and/or provide live coverage of the player's play of the second bonus game once play of the casino game and/or bonus game resumes at the conclusion of the promotional period. The live coverage is provided by broadcasting play of the second bonus game over a communication network including but not limited to radio, broadcast television, cable television, and Internet communication. The recording process includes audio, visual, and/or audiovisual storage of the play of the second bonus game, and the camera view of the game is provided from many different vantage points.

After the promotional period, play of the second bonus game resumes (or, alternatively, the casino game) and at least one question is delivered to the player in the play of the second bonus game. The question is delivered in one embodiment by the second bonus game. In another embodiment, the question is delivered by a host character, which may be either computer generated or a live person. The player provides a response to the at least one question, and the player is then provided with a bonus game award, the award is dependent on whether the provided response is correct or incorrect.

In another embodiment, a plurality of questions is delivered to the player in the resumed play of the second bonus game. As each of the plurality of questions is responded to correctly, the amount of the bonus award increases. For example, upon each correct response, the amount of the bonus award can double. This provides further excitement to those viewing the play of the casino game.

In another embodiment, a time limit is imposed on the player for responding to the at least one question or to each of the plurality of questions. Should the player fail to provide a response during the time limit, the second bonus game ends, and a reduced bonus award is provided to the player.

In one embodiment, the amount of the bonus award is fixed during the promotional period. In another embodiment, the amount of the bonus award increases, for example, progressively, during the promotional period. In this embodiment, the casino game is part of, for example, a wide area progressive (WAP) in which a plurality of casino games is linked together with a progressively growing bonus award. While the second bonus game or the casino game in which the second bonus game occurred is suspended during the promotional period, the other casino games linked to the WAP are not suspended, and continued play on these casino games causes the bonus award to increase progressively during the promotion period.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 sets forth the hardware configuration of a casino game incorporating the bonus game of the present invention.

FIGS. 2(a) and 2(b) sets forth one embodiment for the method of the present invention showing the various method steps for implementing the first and second bonus games of the present invention into a casino game.

FIG. 3 sets forth method details, in one embodiment, of playing the first bonus game of the present invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates the opening of the casino game of the present invention to obtain access to the switch for suspending and resuming play of the second bonus game of the present invention.

FIG. 5 sets forth an illustration of the display of the casino game of the present invention accessing a communication network.

FIG. 6 is an illustration of a displayed message during play of the gaming machine.

FIG. 7 is an illustration of a message to the player when the player qualifies for play of the second bonus game.

FIG. 8 is an illustration of a displayed message to the player during the promotional period of a game of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is an illustration of a question delivered to the player during play of the second bonus game.

FIG. 10 is an illustration of a message displayed to the player as to whether the player is correct or incorrect in play of the second bonus game.

FIG. 11 sets forth a database in the memory of the gaming machine of the present invention.

FIG. 12 sets forth the system arrangement of the present invention in a wide area progressive system.

FIG. 13 sets forth the method steps for implementing the method of the present invention into the wide area progressive of FIG. 12.

FIG. 14 sets forth examples of wagering in the wide area progressive system of the present invention of FIG. 12.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

1. Overview. In FIG. 1 is shown an embodiment of a casino game 1 having a gaming machine 10 implementing a base game 15 such as a standard reel slot game modified to incorporate the bonus games of the present invention. The bonus games of the present invention can be used with many different types of casino base games.

The gaming machine 10 of the casino game 1 is conventional and is shown implementing a standard reel slot base game 15 (see payline 90, reels 94a, 94b, and 94c, symbols 92a and 92b in display 70). The block diagram hardware components of such a gaming machine 10, as shown in FIG. 1, are illustrative only and include any conventional microprocessor, computer, or controller (hereafter “computer 20”).

A wager device 30 interconnected 26 to computer 20 receives bets or wagers from players. The wager device 30 can be of any suitable design or construction and can be, for example, but not limited to, a bill reader, coin acceptor, credit device, credit card reader, ticket reader, smart card reader, debit card reader, existing credit in the gaming machine or any combination thereof. How a wager is received in the wager device 30 is conventional and immaterial to the teachings of the present invention. Many conventional wager devices 30 are available.

The computer 20 is also connected 41 to an award feature 40 that can be, for example, but not limited to, displays showing current available player credits, payoffs obtained, and the associated separate device(s) for delivering payouts to the player such as a coin or ticket dispenser, a device for delivering payout data to a smart card, etc. The payouts may be made to the player in a variety of conventional ways. Furthermore, the payout can be any type of a payout, such as, but not limited to, a monetary value, a free game play, a comp, a physical item such as a car, etc. How a payout is made is conventional and immaterial to the teachings of the present invention.

The computer 20 is usually connected 28 to a conventional random number generator (RNG) 50, which may be a separate hardware component and/or a software module within the memory 60. The computer 20 is interconnected 24 to conventional memory 60 and interconnected 72 to a conventional display 70 showing, in the case of, when the gaming machine 10 implements a reel slot base game 15 in slot reels 94a, 94b, and 94c as a video game. The gaming machine 10 is shown in functional block diagrams in FIG. 1, and other conventional devices, ports, busses, buffers, etc. are not shown.

In FIG. 1, symbols 92a and 92b (collectively referred to as “92”), are shown that are also conventional in play of conventional reel slot base games. Three reels 94a, 94b, and 94c (collectively referred to as “94”) are illustrated in display 70 showing symbols 92. Any number of reels 94 could be utilized and any number of symbols 92 can also be utilized. While one pay line 90 is shown, it is to be expressly understood that conventional reel slot base games may have a plurality of pay lines 90, and such pay lines 90 do not need to be linear but could zigzag over the face of the reels 94. The two bonus games 200, 210 of the present invention are independent of the type of the gaming machine 10 and the type of base game 15. The base game 15 illustrated is a video reel slot base game. Other base games 15 include Keno, video poker, video blackjack, etc.

In FIG. 1, the computer 20, in one embodiment, is interconnected 22 over a two-way bus to a display processor 120 contained in a top box 100b. The display processor 120 is interconnected over a two-way communication channel 124 with a display 110 and is also interconnected over a memory bus 122 with a display memory 130. The display 110, display processor 120, and the display memory 130 can contain game-enhancing video, graphics, etc. with the bonus games 200, 210.

It is to be expressly understood that in other embodiments of the present invention, the computer 20 can drive over connection 22 the top box display 110 without using a separate display processor 120 and a separate display memory 130. In another embodiment, the display 70 could also display play of the bonus games 200, 210 so as to use the same display 70 under control of the computer 20. In the aforesaid embodiment, a top box 100b is not used. The method of the present invention as set forth in the following works with a gaming machine 10 comprising a single display such as only display 70 in FIG. 1 or with a separate display 110. The present invention can be implemented in the display of a conventional computer of a player interconnected over the Internet to a website containing the base game 15.

In FIG. 1 when a first bonus game 200 is provided (whether in a separate video display 110 or in the video display 70), occasionally a second bonus game 210 is provided. The first bonus game 200 is conventionally triggered by a bonus condition 80 such as (but not limited to) the bonus symbol “BONUS” on pay line 90. The provision of a bonus symbol 80 on the pay line 90 is also conventional, and it is well known that gaming machines 10 can have a bonus condition(s) randomly occur, which results in a player having the opportunity to play the first bonus game 200.

The bonus condition 80 can be any suitable bonus condition and is not limited to one or more bonus symbol appearing on the pay line 90. Whatever causes a bonus condition to occur either in the play of the base game 15 or use of the gaming machine 10 of the casino game 1 causes play of the first bonus game 200 (either in a separate display 110 or in the same display 70 as the gaming machine 10). As the player enters play of the first bonus game 200 in display 110, the second bonus game 210 of the present invention, in one embodiment, can occur with its own bonus condition. Again the computer 20 can directly operate the display 110 without using a separate display processor 120 or display memory 130 in a more simplified embodiment. In the second bonus game 210, as will be explained later, the computer 20 sends 221 a signal 220 to casino employees such as by activating a conventional light on the exterior of the gaming machine 10 and/or sends a signal through port 140 over bus 520 to network 180. Alternately, the screen 70 (or 110) may indicate the gaming machine 10 is in the second bonus game 210 and prompt the player to alert casino employees. A casino employee then, in one embodiment, suspends the further play of the gaming machine 10 and/or the second bonus game 210. In this specification, “suspend/suspending the game” is defined herein to include suspending play of the gaming machine 10 or suspending play of the second bonus game 210. In either embodiment, it is to be understood that play of the second bonus game 210 is suspended.

In one embodiment, casino employee(s) go to the physical location of the gaming machine 10 on which the second bonus game 210 was provided, open a secured access of the gaming machine (such as a door 402 as shown in FIG. 4), and activate a switch (SW) 230 to suspend play of the gaming machine 10 play of the second bonus game 210. The switch 230 is interconnected 21 to the computer 20. Other methods of suspending play will be evident to those skilled in the art and include, for example, but not limited to: a computer software program in the memory 60, a software switch distant from the gaming machine 10 in communication 141 with port 140 over network 180; a portable, hand-held device used by a casino employee, keying the game at the gaming machine 10, touch-screen inputs on displays 70 or 110, etc.

The term “casino game” is defined herein to include any gaming machine 10 having bonus games 200, 210 implemented with a computer 20 in a gaming machine 10 such as illustrated in FIG. 1. The bonus games 200, 210 can be implemented in display 70 or in a separate display 110 (whether or not controlled by a separate display processor), etc. As will be pointed out later, the casino game 1 can be part of a wide area progressive, as shown in FIG. 12, but connected over the network 180 in a conventional fashion to other casino games 1. Casino games are regulated by appropriate legal jurisdictions to ensure fairness to both players and casinos.

2. Method. The method of implementing the two bonus games 200, 210 of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 2(a) and 2(b) and can be implemented in suitable software in the computer 20 and memory 60 of casino game 1 of FIG. 1, in the gaming machine 10 and casino bonus game 100b of FIG. 1, or in casino game 1 having a single video display 70 for both the gaming machine 10 and the bonus game 100b. The method is independent of the hardware configuration for the gaming machine 10.

In FIG. 2(a), the player in step 230 places a wager into wager device 30 (e.g., by using existing credits) to start play 232 of the casino game 1 which, in the example of FIG. 1, is play of a reel slot base game 15 in display 70 of the gaming machine 10. The base game 15 plays to a game outcome 233. Conventionally when a bonus condition 80 in step 236 does not occur in the game outcome 233 any winning payouts are made in step 240 to the player in a suitable credit meter (usually in display 70) found in feature 40. When a bonus condition 80 conventionally occurs in the gaming machine 10 during play of such a base game 15 such as slots, then, in one embodiment, either step 244 or step 248 is entered. As earlier mentioned, the first random probability (i.e., entering step 244 to play the first bonus game 200) occurs much more frequently than the second random probability (i.e., playing the second bonus game 210 in step 248) in the occurrence of the bonus condition in step 236. For example, the first random probability might be 0.9999 and the second random probability 0.0001. The present invention uses a probability of occurrence for the first probability at least three orders of magnitude greater than the second probability.

At this point, several embodiments are possible under the teachings of the present invention. First the bonus condition 80 can use the same symbol “BONUS” or different symbols identifying play of the first or second bonus games 200, 210. In another embodiment, the appearance of the bonus condition 80 always goes into step 244 and play of the first bonus game 200 appears to occur. However, the computer 20, programmed under the teachings of the present invention, can then use a second random number to determine whether play of the second bonus game 210 occurs. This is shown by dotted line 246. In the aforesaid embodiment, step 248 is only entered from step 244 over dotted line 246 and the entry point shown in FIG. 2(a), from step 236 to step 248 is not utilized. This later embodiment adds further excitement to the game in that the player is not given a clue when the bonus condition occurs in step 236 as to whether the first or second bonus game 200, 210 is being played.

When the first bonus game 200 is played in step 244, it may or may not result in bonus payouts in step 250. After step 250 the bonus play ends 260. The first bonus game 200 can be any suitable conventional or yet to be authored or discovered bonus game having a single level of play or multiple levels of play, etc. Indeed, in another embodiment of the present invention, whether or not play of the second bonus game 210 occurs in step 248 depends on a level or an event occurring during the play of the first bonus game 200 in step 244.

This embodiment is shown in FIG. 3 wherein step 244 and during play 300 of the first bonus game 200 a determination is made in step 310 as to whether the second bonus game 210 should be played. This determination can be an event that occurs during play 300 such as, for example, achieving a certain level during play of the first bonus game 200 and then, at the second probability, based upon a random number from the random number generator 50 whether the second bonus game 210 should be played. An illustration of this example would be achieving a level in the first bonus game 200 such as climbing a staircase in a building based upon correct answers to a series of knowledge base questions. Upon reaching the level having the event, then a multimedia presentation illustrating the event such as rolling graphically the three reels of FIG. 1 to see if the special bonus symbol for the second bonus game 210 occurs (at the second random probability). This is an illustration only but illustrates the excitement that can be generated to the player of the game. If the bonus condition for the second bonus game 210 play does not occur, during play of the first bonus game, then play of the first bonus game 200 continues in step 320 to the completion of play of the first bonus game 200. If the bonus condition for play of the second bonus game 210 occurs in play of the first bonus game (such as randomly, reaching a level, obtaining a value, etc.), then over arrow 246 step 248 is entered to play the second bonus game 210.

In an alternate embodiment, if a specific outcome is achieved in the first bonus game 200, then the second bonus game 210 occurs automatically. As an illustration of this, the first bonus game might consist of a game of YAHTZEE, wherein if the player achieves a hand of 5 Sixes (a YAHTZEE of Sixes), the second bonus game automatically occurs. The second bonus game may be another YAHTZEE game or may be entirely different such as trivia or, for example, the BATTLESHIP game. Any suitable level, goal, condition, result, etc. obtained (or occurring) in play 300 could be used to trigger entry 246 to play the second bonus game 210.

Alternately, a single bonus game with multiple tiers could be utilized under the teachings herein. In this case, the bonus game would comprise at least two parts (corresponding to the first 200 and second 210 bonus games herein). If the player successfully completes a first required part of the bonus game, then the casino game 1 suspends (as fully discussed herein) prior to the player attempting the second required part of the bonus game. In this case, the probability of completing the first required part is preferably approximately 1 in 1,000 or less. The attempt at the second part (and the corresponding large potential awards) continues once the suspension ends.

The bonus condition 80 of the first bonus game 200 can be, in another embodiment, based on an event. For example, such an event may occur when the player wins 100 credits or more in play of the base game 15 in the gaming machine 10. Or, the event may occur when a game symbol 92 or combination of symbols 92 appears in play of the casino game 1. In another embodiment, the first bonus game 200 is provided at a first predetermined probability 320 set in the memory 60. Any event that invokes the occurrence of the bonus condition 80 of the first bonus game 200 can be used. As additional examples, but not meant to limit the invention, the event can be triggered on a given or randomly selected number of coin-ins to the underlying gaming machine 10; on a given or randomly selected number of bonus game 200 plays; on a given or randomly selected number of credits won in the underlying gaming machine 10 (whether or not it is the same player); on the occurrence of a given timed period, given time of the day, or randomly selected time period or time of day, etc. The bonus condition 80 for the first bonus game 200 is vigorous and is not limited to the above embodiments.

When the first bonus game 200 is provided, the player is given an opportunity to respond through a player input. The player input can be any number of conventionally available input devices. For example, player input can occur with the player touching a touch screen display 70, 110. Or, it could be located on the casino game 1 or the underlying gaming machine 100a as a separate input device (not shown) connected to computer 20 in FIG. 1. Again, player input devices are well known in the gaming industry and any suitable player input device could be utilized under the teachings of the present invention.

It will be understood that in the present invention any combination of random statistical frequency for the first predetermined probability and second predetermined probability and/or event can provide the first bonus game 200 and the second bonus game 210. In this case, however, the combination always provides the second bonus game 210 less frequently than the first bonus game 200. There are multiple methods to initiating the second bonus game 210. It may be initiated from the base game 10 or initiated from the use of the gaming machine 10 by the player (such as a given number of coins in), preferably at a frequency much less than the first bonus game 200. It may be initiated from the first bonus game 200, based only outcome of the first bonus game, based in part on outcome of the first bonus game 200, based on random probability from first bonus game, etc.

The low frequency with which the second bonus game 210 is provided generates additional excitement among players when the second bonus game 210 is provided. The bonus award 390 in the second bonus game 210 is large enough to provide great interest among players. The low frequency also allows, in one embodiment, a progressive bonus award, if such is provided as described later, to grow larger during play of the base game 15 and the first bonus game 200, further increasing the excitement of playing the casino game 1.

If the second bonus game 210 is to be played 248 as shown in FIG. 2(a), the computer 20 notifies casino personnel in step 270 in addition to notifying the player in display 70 and/or display 110. Casino personnel are notified 270 by any conventional method, for example, but not limited to, a signal 220 as shown in FIG. 1 on the casino game 1 such as noises, flashing lights, or the like, and/or a communication to a separate location such as through port 140 over line 520 into network 180 (for example, the control room of the casino).

After casino personnel are notified 270 such as by the signal 220 a casino employee suspends 272 play of the second bonus game as previously discussed, or the casino game 1 automatically suspends, and a promotional period starts at step 280.

The status of casino game 1 during the promotional period 280 may be different in different embodiments. In one embodiment, the operation of the entire casino game 1 is suspended 272 and both displays 70 and 110 display promotional material. In another embodiment, the gaming machine 10 continues to operate so the player winning play of the second bonus game can continue to play or allowing other players to play while play of the second bonus game 210 on which the second bonus game 210 occurred is suspended 272. In another embodiment in which the casino game 1 is a part of a wide-area progressive WAP game, the casino game 1 on which the second bonus game 210 occurred is suspended but play continues on the other casino games 1 comprising the WAP configuration. In all embodiments, it is to be understood that play of the second bonus game 210 is suspended in step 272.

A casino employee suspends play 272, in one embodiment, by activating a switch 230 in a secured area inside the gaming machine 10. A player does not have access or authority to the secured area. The casino employee goes to the physical location of casino game 1, and, as shown in FIG. 4, opens a door (or panel or any suitable access) 402 on the gaming machine 10, and activate the internal switch 230 in the secured area 410 a first state to suspend play 272. In another embodiment, when the second bonus game 210 is played 248, a program in the memory 60 of the casino game 1 automatically notifies 270 casino personnel and causes the computer 20 to suspend play 272 by activating a software switch in a program in the casino game 1. In this embodiment, casino personnel do not separately activate the switch, but still come to the gaming machine to advise the player. To resume play, the software switch would have to be re-activated. In another embodiment, when the second bonus game 210 is to be played 248, a program in the memory 60 of the gaming machine 10 uses port 140 through a communication line 520 as shown in FIG. 1 to network 180 to notify 270 (by sending a signal) casino personnel, an employee of the casino then suspends the game 340 by sending a message through network 180 from a remote location back to the computer 20 to activate either a hardware switch of a software switch to the first state of suspending play. Other methods of suspending play 272 will be evident to those skilled in the art and are meant to be included in the present invention. For example, a portable RF handheld unit, not shown, could be used by a casino employee to wirelessly transmit a signal into an RF receiver (a form of switch 230) located inside the casino game 1 to suspend play 272. The switch 230 is illustrated in the secured area 410 of FIG. 4 to embrace all of the above embodiments.

The casino game does not necessarily need to be put into suspended mode by action of casino operator either at the casino game or remotely over a network. The casino game, through software programming, can automatically “place itself” into a suspended mode of operation until the desired time of bonus game play. The desired time can be programmed into the machine or determined in advance by the casino operator and delivered over the network into the casino game. Indeed, after the casino game goes into automatic suspension, the play time for the second bonus game can be input into the casino game at the gaming machine, over the network, or by opening the secure access door. This time might be set by the casino or this time might be negotiated with the winning player based on the player's availability, flight schedules, etc.

After the casino employee suspends play 272, a promotional period 280 occurs. The duration of the promotional period 280 is flexible and is any duration considered appropriate for promoting play of the second bonus game 210. For example, the promotional period can end one hour after suspending play 272, 24 hours after suspending play 272, or on any day after suspending play 272. The purpose of the promotional period is provide time to build anticipation, perhaps attracting a large audience for concluding play of the second bonus game 210. Too, if a celebrity host is desired for the conclusion of play, this will need to be arranged and so sufficient time must be allotted. For example, if a larger audience is available at night on a weekend, the casino could elect to activate the second bonus game 210 during the succeeding weekend after suspending play 272, or even later than that, if desired.

During the promotional period 280, the casino promotes the second bonus game 210 to generate excitement regarding the continued play of the second bonus game 210 for the player and for spectators, whether the spectators are located live at the casino in which the second bonus game 210 will be played or are observing play of the second bonus game 210 from a remote location over a communication network as defined below.

The casino promotes the play of the second bonus game 210 on the casino game 1 itself, throughout the casino in which the casino game 1 is located, and/or over a communication network 222 that includes audio, visual, and/or audiovisual communication and may be selected from the group consisting of proprietary networks, broadcast radio, broadcast television, cable television, Internet, or other communication means as shown in FIG. 5. In one embodiment, the communication network 222 is selected from the group consisting of television (broadcast and cable), radio, the Internet, and/or proprietary networks (such as to other casinos and other gambling venues).

The promotion of the play of the second bonus game 210 occurs in method step 280, and it is understood that this promotion is conventional and can occur in any or all of a number of conventional ways such as by loudspeaker in the casino, closed-circuit television or radio in the casino or many casinos or other venues (for example, but not limited to, off-track betting parlors), a television or radio show, whether broadcast or cable, advertising in any medium, press releases, press coverage, pop-up ads on Internet websites, emailing, etc. Again, this is all part of the promotional period step 280 of FIG. 2(a).

After the expiration of the promotion period 280 as shown in FIG. 2(b), play resumes in step 282. In one embodiment, a casino employee resumes play 282 in the same manner as described above for suspending the game 272 such as by re-activating switch 230.

In step 282, in one embodiment, a host character (not shown) is used to deliver a question 284. The host character can be a live person or an animated character. In the latter embodiment, the audio and video characteristics of the host character are controlled by the computer 20 (or in display processor 120), which preferably employs data stored in the memory 60 (or in display memory 130). Alternatively, separate computer processing and computer data storage equipment (not shown) are used to control the host character. The animated host character appears on the display(s) 70, 110 of the casino game 1.

The host character can have other functions. For example, but not limited to, the host character can interview the player, provide instructions for playing the second bonus game 210, and provide guidance should the player have any questions. The host character can deliver 284 at least one question to the player and receive an input 286 from the player to the delivery 284 of the at least one question. The host character can present information by providing text, by speaking, gesturing, using video animations, or a combination of the foregoing. The host character can receive information through player input 286 by buttons or touch-screen data input.

To generate excitement about the casino game 1, play of the second bonus game 210, as mentioned, may be broadcast live over one or more communication networks 222 and/or recorded for later viewing. In one embodiment, the transmission of the second bonus game play 282, 284, 286, 288, etc. can present the audience with the same view that the player experiences. In other embodiments, other views of the play of the second bonus game 210 could be provided either in place of or in addition to the player's point of view. For example, a view of the player's person could be provided, for those interested in seeing the player's manner and facial expressions in response to various stages of bonus game play. In addition, other views including scenes of both the player and casino game 1, scenes of the interior of the casino including a live audience, among various other scenes, could be provided.

A response to the at least one question is then received and determined to be correct or incorrect in step 288.

The determination made 288 as to whether the player correctly responded to the at least one question may be made by the casino game 1, by casino personnel, by a neutral arbiter, or by any combination of the foregoing.

In another embodiment, a plurality 290 of questions is delivered 284 to the player. When a correct response is received 288 to the first of the plurality of questions, the second bonus game 210 returns to the previous step 284 and delivers a second question. This cycle is repeated in step 290 as many times as desired or until an incorrect response 288 is received. Each correct answer may, in one embodiment, accumulate payouts 294. In another embodiment, only successfully answering all questions delivered 284 results in a payout 294.

In any of the foregoing embodiments, a time limit in step 288 may be imposed for the player to provide an answer to each question, whether one or a plurality of questions is asked. For example, the player is given one minute to answer each question. However, time limits having durations longer or shorter than one minute may be employed. Imposition of a reasonable time limit prevents a player from conducting research into the answer and generates a high level of excitement for play of the second bonus game 210 exceeding the time limit results in an incorrect answer.

While the preferred embodiment employs a question and answer format for the second bonus game 210, in principle any type of bonus game may be utilized, including choosing an object, playing a game, spinning additional reels, etc.

When play of the second bonus game 210 concludes, the player is awarded in step 292 a consolation payout and in step 294 winning payout(s). Play of the casino game 1 then ends 260.

When a plurality of questions is delivered in steps 284 and 290, in one embodiment, the bonus payout 294 increases by a predetermined amount after each correct 390 response is received 380. For example, but not limited to, the bonus payout 294 is doubled after each correct 390 response is received 380 until a final predetermined amount is reached. This greatly increases the excitement of the second bonus game 210 as the bonus award can increase rapidly and to large amounts.

In one embodiment, every player completing play of the second bonus game 210 will be awarded 292 some value from the bonus award, even if no correct responses are received 288. However, in other embodiments, a player may be awarded nothing 292 after completing play of the second bonus game 210 in which no correct responses are received.

The bonus award available in bonus game play 324 can be set by the casino game 1. In another embodiment, the bonus award can vary based on predetermined factors but be set when the second bonus game 210 is provided.

In another embodiment, the bonus award 294 can be a progressive bonus award that grows in value as a function of the wagering activities of a plurality of players at one or a plurality of casino games 1-N in a WAP. In one embodiment of the progressive bonus award, the value of the progressive bonus award is fixed when the second bonus game 210 is provided. In other embodiments, the value of the progressive bonus award may continue to grow progressively during the promotional period.

In FIG. 4, the gaming machine 10 of FIG. 1 has a conventional door 402 which opens and closes in the direction of arrow 403. The door 402 is normally secured by means of a key access (not shown). A player does not have access to the secured area 410 behind the door. This door 402 is conventional and currently exists on gaming machines 10. In the secured area 410 of the gaming machine 10 is the switch 230 which can be selectively activated by a casino employee to a first state that suspends play in step 272 and to a second state that resumes play in step 282. Switch 230, as mentioned, could also be a software switch that is operated by the computer 20 based upon commands delivered through port 140 from the network 180 as previously discussed. Switch 230 could also be a wireless receiver that can receive wireless commands such as from a handheld device used by casino personnel and using conventional RF transmissions, Bluetooth, etc.

In another embodiment, the gaming machine 10 of the player (while in suspended mode for play of the second bonus game 210) allows additional wagers to be made by the same or different players for continued play of the base game 15 in the gaming machine 10 of casino game 1 until the promotional period ends and the time comes to resume play of the second bonus game that was suspended. It is statistically possible for the same player or another player of “the gaming machine 10 of the winning player” to have the second bonus game 210 condition occur again, in which case, the method of the present invention repeats (i.e., suspending the second play of the bonus game for a second promotional period). In the event, it is the same player who is in the first promotional period, the second promotional period can end at the same time as the first so that the player can play both bonus games, one after the other). In another embodiment where the players are different, each player would have their own separate promotional periods.

In FIG. 5, the display 110 (or in another embodiment display 70) displays during the promotional period 280 a host character 500 and an information message 510. The casino game 1 is interconnected to network 180 over communication lines 520. The network 180 which could be the casino's internal network computer system in turn could be interconnected to a general communications network 222, as discussed. In FIG. 5, a clock 540 is also shown counting down in time towards when the promotional period ends and play resumes in stage 282.

FIGS. 6-10 are plan views of the information message 510 in the casino game 1 showing a sequence of five messages 510 representing five successive stages of play of the bonus game 210.

In FIG. 6, bonus game screen 510 includes situation-specific text 600 “awaiting base game outcome.” In this embodiment, text 600 is displayed during play of the base game. Any suitable message whether text, graphic and/or sound describing this situation could be used.

FIG. 7 presents a situation where a player has received a bonus-game 210 qualification outcome in the play of the base game. The situation-specific message 700 congratulates the player and provides instructions to the player tailored to the game situation the player is currently in. As with FIG. 6, audio/visual messages 510 describing this bonus-game situation could employ alternate wording.

FIG. 8 shows gaming device 10 in the promotional mode 280. In this embodiment, the situation-specific audio/visual message 800 identifies the mode that gaming device 10 is in and identifies the scheduled date and time for resuming play 282 of the bonus game 210. In alternative embodiments, other messages could be employed to reflect the promotional status of gaming device 10.

FIG. 9 shows gaming device 10 during play 284 of the bonus game 210 at a stage where a question is delivered to the player. A situation-specific message 900 for bonus game play shows the word “question” followed by the text of the question. Possible answers may be displayed under the question. For the sake of simplicity, the text of the question (and answers) is represented by a series of dashes in FIG. 9. As with the preceding figures, messages describing this bonus-game situation could employ audio/visual features other than that shown in FIG. 9.

FIG. 10 shows gaming device 10 during play of the bonus game 210 at a stage 288 where gaming device 10 identifies a player's answer as being correct or incorrect 1000. Situation-specific text 802 shows words identifying the two possibilities for the status of the player's answer. In this embodiment, the word accurately identifying the status of the player's answer will be suitably highlighted (or displayed) to announce the result. For example, the applicable word (“correct” or “incorrect”) could be underlined, flashing, and/or displayed in alternating colors, among other possible visual enhancements and variations.

All of the above messages 510 are examples only. Some or all could be used in the present invention and some or all could be accompanied by other messages such as recorded audio messages.

FIG. 11 is a block diagram of database 1100 shown as part of display memory 130 in FIG. 1. In one embodiment, database 1110 has two components. In this embodiment, the first component 1110 is a traditional database 1110 used for play of bonus game 200. A second component 1120 of knowledge database 1100 is “bonus game 210 questions database” 904.

The implementation of database 220 may take one of several forms. The database 1110 would contain questions for play of the first bonus game 200. The questions for the first bonus game in database 1110 are separate and independent of the bonus game 210 questions database 1120 (as the bonus game 210 questions are more difficult).

In general, casino personnel will arrange for the player to arrive some amount of time prior to the scheduled start of bonus game play to ensure that certain procedural matters are completed prior to resuming 282 bonus game 210 play. Prior to resuming the bonus game 210, casino personnel ensure that the player is present at the casino and verify the player's identity. The verification is accomplished by, for example, receiving from the player a coupon previously issued to the player by the casino, by reviewing the player's identifying documentation, and/or recognition of the player by casino personnel, etc.

Once the player's identity is verified, casino personnel activate 282 the bonus game 210 in gaming device 100 by opening the door 402 and resetting the switch 230. In this example, a casino employee or a celebrity host provide an introduction to the bonus game play both for people physically present in the casino and for people viewing the bonus game over communication network 222, whether via a television broadcast or over the Internet. Coverage of the bonus game 210 is such that people viewing the bonus game over communication network 222 can see both the player and gaming machine 10.

In this example, the bonus game question is presented as a message 900 to the player as shown in FIG. 9. The typed question recites “What was the name of the play being shown in the theatre in which President Abraham Lincoln was shot?” The question may also repeat out loud for the audience through speakers, not shown, on the gaming machine 10. The question may also be stated by the celebrity host, casino personnel, or another person without utilizing the machine. The player answers with the phrase “Our American Cousin” which is the winning (or correct) response.

Casino personnel may confer with each other and then declare that the player has answered the question correctly. Or, the player may select the answer from a list of possible answers, in which case the gaming machine software determines correctness. Accordingly, the player is entitled to entire bonus-game jackpot in stage 294. Arrangements are then made to provide the player with a check or money order for the appropriate amount. The bonus game 210 ends 260 at this point.

While the present invention has been illustrated the second bonus game being a knowledge-based game, it is to be understood that any time of bonus game could be utilized including a pure random outcome (e.g., spin of a wheel), a strategy bonus game (e.g., a bonus game based on the BATTLESHIP game, a skill game (e.g., shooting at a target), etc.

The gaming machine 10 returns to normal operation. Selected media (television stations, etc.) may continue coverage of the event through further promotional activities and/or through interviews with the victorious player.

In summary, a method is set forth above for awarding a player of a casino game/ The method includes: providing a bonus game at a predetermined random probability; activating a switch located in a secured area of the casino game that the player does not have access to; suspending play of the bonus game for a promotional period in response to activating the switch to suspend play; promoting play of the bonus game during the promotional period; after the promotional period, re-activating the switch to resume play; resuming play of the bonus game in response to re-activating the switch; delivering at least one question to the player in the resumed play of the bonus game; receiving at least one response from the player in the casino game after delivering the at least one question; providing at least one bonus award in the bonus game to the player based on the least one response to each at least one question. Again any type of bonus game (random, skill, knowledge, strategy) could be utilized. In the case of a random bonus game, the player response could be pressing a button to spin the wheel or any other suitable response such as saying “I'm ready, SPIN THE WHEEL.”

3. Wide Area Progressive. In FIG. 12, an example of the present invention implemented in the wide area progressive gaming system is shown to include a plurality of casino games 1-N interconnected 502 to the network 180 which in turn, as earlier discussed, communicates with the communication network 222. Progressive gaming systems are implemented with a remote controller 1200 which operates the wide area progressive system as shown in FIG. 12. Many conventional controllers 1200 are available as progressive gaming systems of a number of different types are well known and conventional. In this example and embodiment, the first bonus game 200 may or may not be used. In the preferred embodiment, the second bonus game 200 (i.e., the only bonus game in this embodiment) occurs when a progressive qualification event occurs in any one of the casino games in the progressive system.

In FIG. 12, the overall progressive jackpot prize is in two stages. The first stage is aligning of traditional symbols on the base game 15 (i.e., to qualify for the progressive event) and the second stage is the play of the bonus game for the progressive jackpot prize. In FIG. 13, the controller 1200 continuously monitors each casino game 1-N being played for the occurrence of a progressive bonus game qualification event in stage 1310. Hence, casino players play 1300 these casino games in the wide area progressive. For purposes of this example, each casino game 1-N could be a gaming machine 10, as previously discussed, implementing a base game 15 of reel slots. When a qualification bonus event occurs such as, in this example, aligning five trigger symbols left to right on any eligible pay line. When this occurs, the progressive bonus game stage 1320 is entered which corresponds to entering stage 248 of FIG. 2(a) and continuing through the various ensuing stages of playing the second bonus game in FIG. 2(b). That discussion is incorporated by reference.

As earlier discussed, the casino game at which the player is qualified goes into a suspense mode until a fixed time such as, in this example, of 6:00 P.M. the next day. Such a time is picked to maximize exposure, for example, in local broadcast television news. During the suspense mode the media is alerted, the casino otherwise promotes the event, etc.

At the end of the promotional period 280, a trivia question is posed on screen 70, 110 to the player and if the player is correct, the player wins the progressive jackpot amount. In this example if the player is wrong the player wins a consolation award of 25% of the jackpot (or any suitable percentage or other value). The award of the progressive jackpot under the teachings of the present invention is different from conventional progressive awards which occur immediately surprising the player and those around the player. Under the present invention, suspense is allowed to build up for the player and spectators due to the suspense period and the promotion that occurs in the meantime.

Several embodiments are used for qualification in stage 1310 and the five trigger symbol set forth above is only an example. Furthermore, the qualification symbol occurs on an eligible pay line which, in one embodiment, requires max bets to be wagered on the pay line. In another embodiment, only one wagered pay line need have the max bet and the other pay lines can be less than the max bet. In this embodiment, even though the max bet wager occurred on one pay line, if the five trigger qualification symbols to play the bonus game occurs on another wagered pay line (of less than max bet), the player still qualifies. A number of different embodiments could be utilized to qualify the player. In yet another embodiment, players of the casino gaming games 1-N of FIG. 12 are eligible to win the progressive jackpot with line wagers of less than max bet.

Examples of permutations available are set forth in FIG. 14. In FIG. 14, six examples are set forth. The “type of wager required” is the requirement for each example. For example, in example 5, a player may make any bet on all pay lines and all pay lines are then eligible. If the bonus qualification appears on any wagered pay line in this example, the player is eligible for a fraction or top award in progressive bonus play. Hence, if the player made a max bet on all pay lines the appearance of the qualification symbols on any one pay line would entitle the player to play for the top progressive jackpot award. Assume the max bet is five coins and the player only wagers two coins. In the case of example 5, a wager of two coins on all pay lines with the appearance of the qualification symbols on one pay line would entitle the player to play for two/fifths or 40% of the overall jackpot award.

In the wide area progressive embodiment of FIGS. 12-14, in one embodiment, it is desirable to only use questions that are stored locally in the casino game 1 being played by the player wherein the database is in the memory 60. In other embodiments, the controller 1200 can have the questions stored in its database (i.e., in its memory). The preferred embodiment is to select the question locally from the database located in memory 60 of the casino game 1 being played by the player. In this embodiment, it is preferred that each database in each casino game 1 is identical. The controller 1200 verifies that the question has not been previously used and if unused, the controller 1200 allows the question to be asked in stage 1320 and if the question had been earlier used, it instructs the casino game to select a new question from its database. Alternately, the game queries the controller for the numeric number of the question to be used in the database (i.e., first 1, then 2, then 3, etc.) with the controller always tracking the next question to be used on all machines. In this manner, the question is always unique. This uniqueness approach can also be implemented into the stand alone first and second bonus games of FIG. 1.

In another embodiment to assure delivery of a unique question in stage 1320, each individual casino game in the wide area progressive database 1120 contains time-stamped questions so that when a question is delivered from the database and presented to a player, the question is then updated with a new time-stamp so that it does not become available for use until a predetermined amount of time (such as two weeks, two months, etc.) has transpired. Again, this embodiment could be utilized with respect to the embodiment of FIG. 1.

When the play of the bonus game is suspended in a winning player's gaming machine 10, all other players in the progressive gaming system continue to play their gaming machines and it is statistically possible for any such player to have the bonus game randomly occur during play.

The aforesaid progressive embodiment of the present invention also operates over the Internet wherein the players play the casino games in their individual home computers.

In summary, a method is set forth for awarding a player of a casino game 1 in the wide area progressive gaming system of FIG. 12 having a plurality of casino games (1-N). The method includes: providing a progressive bonus game (such as the second bonus game 210) at a predetermined random probability (such as at a probability of 1 in 100,000 or 1 in 1,000,000) in the progressive gaming system; suspending play of the progressive bonus game at the casino game of the player for a promotional period of time when the progressive bonus game occurs in the casino game of the winning player; promoting the upcoming play of the progressive bonus game during the promotional period; after the promotional period, resuming play of the progressive bonus game in casino game of the player of the player; receiving at least one response from the player during the resumed play of the progressive bonus game in the casino game of the player; providing at least one bonus award in the resumed play of the progressive bonus game based on the received at least one response from the player (e.g., a correct or winning response to a question is a high award, an incorrect or losing award is a lower award or the spin of a wheel is the award that the wheel lands on). Again any type of bonus game (random, skill, knowledge, strategy) could be utilized. In the case of a random bonus game, the player response could be pressing a button to spin the wheel or any other suitable response such as saying “I'm ready, SPIN THE WHEEL.” As mentioned awards can be anything of value such as a tangible item (e.g., a car), a service (e.g., a fully paid for vacation), money, etc.

When in the wide area progressive (WAP) mode while in suspension, and in one embodiment, the present invention queues qualifiers such that the first player plays the second bonus game and any progressive amount left over (or the new seed progressive amount if the first player wins everything) carries over to the second player. In this embodiment, the present invention organizes the downstream play of winners in the progressive environment.

The above disclosure sets forth a number of embodiments of the present invention described in detail with respect to the accompanying drawings. Those skilled in this art will appreciate that various changes, modifications, other structural arrangements, and other embodiments could be practiced under the teachings of the present invention without departing from the scope of this invention as set forth in the following claims.