Title:
Method and system for distributing game content
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An image of a game being played on a real game machine is captured, in a single frame, with an image of a screen displaying images currently broadcast by public and private television stations and generally viewable to the public. Accordingly, the captured image shows that the game is truly in progress at the present moment.



Inventors:
Tamimoto, Koji (Tokyo, JP)
Satou, Hiroshi (Tokyo, JP)
Application Number:
11/291966
Publication Date:
01/25/2007
Filing Date:
12/02/2005
Assignee:
NEC Communication Systems Ltd.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24; A63F5/00; A63F13/12; G06Q30/04; G06Q30/06; G06Q50/00; G06Q50/10
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
DEODHAR, OMKAR A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Sughrue Mion, Pllc (2100 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE, N.W., SUITE 800, WASHINGTON, DC, 20037, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for distributing game content, comprising: displaying a currently broadcast image; receiving betting content information from a terminal used by a game participant, the betting content information designating, as a betting target, a result of a game randomly determined by a game machine and including information of a betting money amount; concurrently capturing the displayed currently broadcast image and a process of the game on the game machine, and sending the terminal a game image including the displayed currently broadcast image and the process of the game; calculating a collected/refunded money amount on the basis of the result of the game determined by the game machine and the betting content information, the collected/refunded money amount indicating a money amount collected from or refunded to the game participant; and sending the terminal information of the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount.

2. The method for distributing game content according to claim 1, further comprising: displaying, on the terminal used by the game participant, the game image and the information of the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount sent to the terminal.

3. The method for distributing game content according to claim 1, further comprising: managing, for each individual game participant, a total amount of money collected from or refunded to the game participant; and receiving and relaying to the terminal used by the game participant the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount, and updating, upon receipt of the collected/refunded money amount, the total amount of money collected from or refunded to the game participant on the basis of the collected/refunded money amount.

4. The method for distributing game content according to claim 1, further comprising: determining, on the basis of an operation of setting a game available time during which the game participant can make a bet, whether or not a time of reception of the betting content information is within a game available time; and sending the terminal used by the game participant a notice that participation in the bet is accepted, when the time of reception of the betting content information is within the game available time.

5. A system for distributing game content, comprising: a betting content information receiving device for receiving betting content Information from a terminal used by a game participant via a communications network, the betting content information designating, as a betting target, a result of a game randomly determined by a game machine and including information of a betting money amount; a collected/refunded money amount calculating device for calculating a collected/refunded money amount on the basis of the result of the game determined by the game machine and the betting content information, the collected/refunded money amount indicating a money amount collected from or refunded to the game participant; a result sending device for sending information of the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount to the terminal via the communications network: a broadcast image displaying device for displaying a currently broadcast image; and a game image sending device for concurrently capturing the displayed currently broadcast image and a process of the game on the game machine, and for sending the terminal a game image including the displayed currently broadcast image and the process of the game.

6. The system for distributing game content according to claim 5, wherein the terminal displays the game image sent from the game image sending device and the information of the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount sent from the result sending device.

7. The system for distributing game content according to claim 5, further comprising: a managing device for managing, for each individual game participant, a total money amount collected from or refunded to the game participant, wherein the managing device receives and relays to the terminal used by the game participant the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount sent from the result sending device, and updates, upon receipt of the collected/refunded money amount, the total money amount collected from or refunded to the game participant on the basis of the collected/refunded money amount.

8. The system for distributing game content according to claim 5, further comprising: a game available time setting device for performing an operation of setting a game available time during which the game participant can make a bet; a game available time verifying device for determining, on the basis of the operation of setting the game available time, whether or not a time of reception of the betting content information is within the game available time; and a betting acceptance notice sending device for sending the terminal used by the game participant a notice that participation in the bet is accepted, when the time of reception of the betting content information is within the game available time.

Description:

This application claims priority to prior application JP 2004-350065, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a method and system for distributing game content, which allows a user at a remote location to participate in real-time in a game played on a real game machine, such as a roulette machine, via a communications network.

2. Description of the Related Art

Game machines, such as a roulette machine, can be divided into computer-controlled game machines, which have been widely used in recent years, and game machines not controlled by a computer. In case of the computer-controlled game machines, the progress and result of a game are determined according to an algorithm in a software installed on a computer. Thus, the software may arbitrarily output the result of a game. Accordingly, a game player can feel concern as to whether the algorithm is providing a fraudulent result. In some cases, therefore, a game player psychologically believes that they will finally lose the game. Further, in a game against a computer, an image of a dealer is a repeatedly replayed digital image. Therefore, a game player cannot sense the dealer's expressions and habits. This is one of the reasons for the monotony that game players feel toward the computer-controlled game machines.

Furthermore, in the case of a game played using a game software installed on a computer, the game is no more than a simulation and thus has a disadvantage in the lack of live aspects of a real game hall. On the other hand, in the case of a roulette machine not controlled by a computer, a dealer needs to be located near the roulette machine. To allow a multitude of game players to play roulette games, therefore, a relatively large space is required for arranging the roulette machines. Among existing remote roulette game systems, PCT Japanese Translation Patent Publication No. 2004-520089 (hereinafter referred to as a Related Art 1), for example, describes a system allowing a game player at a remote location to watch and participate in a real game played at a place such as a casino (see Paragraphs 0010 and 0011 of the Related Art 1). According to the system, the game player can watch, via a communications network, a live image of a casino where a betting game is being held, and also the game player can participate in the betting game using cash or a credit card.

According to the system described in the above Related Art 1, however, if a previously recorded image is deceptively distributed, a game player cannot check whether or not the image is truly a real-time image. Therefore, the game player can be concerned about the system being fraudulent.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a method and system for distributing game content, which allows a game player at a remote location to enjoy a game with the live aspects thereof without feeling concern about fraudulence, and which offers a game hall management an opportunity for increases in customer count and revenue.

The present invention describes a method for distributing game content. According to one aspect of the invention, a method for distributing game content includes: displaying a currently broadcast image; receiving betting content information from a terminal used by a game participant (the betting content information designates, as a betting target, a result of a game randomly determined by a game machine, and includes information of a betting money amount); concurrently capturing the displayed currently broadcast image and a process of the game on the game machine, and sending the terminal a game image including the displayed currently broadcast image and the process of the game; calculating a collected/refunded money amount on the basis of the result of the game determined by the game machine and the betting content information (the collected/refunded money amount indicates a money amount collected from or refunded to the game participant); and sending the terminal information of the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount. Accordingly, the method can confirm for the game participant that the captured image truly shows the game in progress at the present moment.

The method for distributing game content according to the one aspect of the invention may further include: displaying, on the terminal used by the game participant, the game image and the information of the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount sent to the terminal.

The method for distributing game content according to the one aspect of the invention may further include: managing, for each individual game participant, a total amount of money collected from or refunded to the game participant; and receiving and relaying to the terminal used by the game participant the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount, and updating, upon receipt of the collected/refunded money amount, the total amount of money collected from or refunded to the game participant on the basis of the collected/refunded money amount.

The method for distributing game content according to the one aspect of the invention may further include; determining, on the basis of an operation of setting a game available time during which the game participant can make a bet, whether or not a time of reception of the betting content information is within a game available time; and sending the terminal used by the game participant a notice that participation in the bet has been accepted, when the time of reception of the betting content information is within the game available time.

The present invention further describes a system for distributing game content. According to one aspect of the invention, a system for distributing game content includes a betting content information receiving device, a collected/refunded money amount calculating device, a result sending device, a broadcast image displaying device, and a game image sending device. The betting content information receiving device receives betting content information from a terminal used by a game participant via a communications network. The betting content information designates, as a betting target, a result of a game randomly determined by a game machine, and includes information of a betting money amount. The collected/refunded money amount calculating device calculates a collected/refunded money amount on the basis of the result of the game determined by the game machine and the betting content information. The collected/refunded money amount indicates a money amount collected from or refunded to the game participant. The result sending device sends information of the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount to the terminal via the communications network. The broadcast image displaying device displays a currently broadcast image. The game image sending device concurrently captures the displayed currently broadcast image and a process of the game on the game machine, and sends the terminal a game image including the displayed currently broadcast image and the process of the game.

In the system for distributing game content according to the one aspect of the invention, the terminal may display the game image sent from the game image sending device and the information of the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount sent from the result sending device.

The system for distributing game content according to the one aspect of the invention may further include a managing device. The managing device may manage, for each individual game participant, a total money amount collected from or refunded to the game participant. The managing device may receive and relay to the terminal used by the game participant the result of the game and the collected/refunded money amount sent from the result sending device, and may update, upon receipt of the collected/refunded money amount, the total money amount collected from or refunded to the game participant on the basis of the collected/refunded money amount.

The system for distributing game content according to the one aspect of the invention may further include a game available time setting device, a game available time verifying device, and a betting acceptance notice sending device. The game available time setting device may perform an operation of setting a game available time during which the game participant can make a bet. The game available time verifying device may determine, on the basis of the operation of setting the game available time, whether or not a time of reception of the betting content information is within the game available time. The betting acceptance notice sending device may send the terminal used by the game participant a notice that participation in the bet has been accepted, when the time of reception of the betting content, information is within the game available time.

According to the above aspects of the invention, a game player at a remote location can enjoy a game, such as a roulette game, in real-time via a network with the live aspects of the game, without feeling concern about fraudulence.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a configuration of a system for delivering game content according to a first embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating a configuration of a roulette machine according to the first embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is an explanatory diagram illustrating an example of money flow paths of data distribution fees according to the first embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a flowchart illustrating an operation of reception of a betting content by the roulette machine according to the first embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating an operation according to the first embodiment of the present invention, which is performed when a game available time ends and money is collected from or refunded to a game player.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating an example of configuration of a system for distributing game content according to a second embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is an explanatory diagram illustrating an example of money flow paths of data delivery fees according to the second embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is an explanatory diagram illustrating another example of money flow paths of data delivery fees according to the second embodiment of the present Invention.

FIG. 9 is a flowchart illustrating an operation of reception of a betting content by the roulette machine according to the second embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a flowchart illustrating an operation according to the second embodiment of the present invention, which is performed when a game available time ends and money is collected from or refunded to a game player.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

First Embodiment

With reference to the drawings, a first embodiment of the present invention is described.

A network distribution system illustrated in FIG. 1 includes a roulette machine 14, a router 15, a network camera 11, a television monitor 13, a television receiver 16, a game machine terminal 21, a terminal router 22, a game machine terminal 31, and a terminal router 32. The roulette machine 14 and the game machine terminals 21 and 31 are connected to a communications network 10 via the router 15 and the terminal routers 22 and 32, respectively. The communications network (hereinafter referred to simply as network) 10 is, but not limited to, the Internet, for example.

A company A is, for example, an organization running a real casino or the like and owns the roulette machine 14, the router 15, the network camera 11, the television monitor 13, and the television receiver 16, A dealer 12 is employed by the company A and operates the roulette machine 14 and a button 17 provided thereon.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, the roulette machine 14 includes the button 17, a roulette wheel 201, a CPU (Central Processing Unit) 202, a storage device 203, and an input/output interface (I/O) 204, which are communicably interconnected. The roulette wheel 201 is partitioned into a plurality of slots (not illustrated) each numbered and painted in either red or black. The dealer 12 spins the roulette wheel 201.

The roulette wheel 201 has a sensor (not illustrated) responsive to pressure of a roulette ball. The sensor is provided on each of the plurality of slots of the roulette wheel 201. When the roulette ball is thrown into one of the plurality of slots, the sensor responsive to the pressure of the roulette ball detects the slot in which the roulette ball is located, Then, the CPU 202 connected to the roulette wheel 201 automatically determines a game result (i.e., a roulette result) of the roulette machine 14 on the basis of the detection performed by the sensor. The CPU 202 outputs the roulette result to the router 15 via the input/output interface 204. The input/output interface 204 receives and sends information from/to the other apparatus via the router 15.

When the dealer 12 operates the button 17, the CPU 202 outputs a trigger signal to the router 15 via the input/output interface 204. The trigger signal indicates a game available time or a game unavailable time for a game player. The CPU 202 further has a function of determining whether a time of setting a betting content in the game machine terminal 21 or 31 by a game player 23 or 33 is within the game available time. The CPU 202 also has a function of calculating a money amount collected from or refunded to the game player 21 or 31 on the basis of the roulette result. The betting content refers to information of a betting target (i.e., a number or color of a slot on the roulette wheel 201 in the present example) and a betting money.

The television receiver 16 receives and displays on the television monitor 13 images broadcast by public and private television stations, which are generally viewable to the public. The network camera 11 concurrently captures images of the roulette machine 14 being operated by the dealer 12 and images being displayed on the television monitor 13, and outputs in real-time the captured images and sounds to the router 15.

Via the network 10, the router 15 sends in real-time the images and sounds output from the network camera 11 to the terminal routers 22 and 32 of respective game hall companies B and C which are contractants of the company A. The router 15 also sends roulette-related data output from the roulette machine 14 to the terminal routers 22 and 32 via the network 10. The roulette-related data indicates the roulette result, the game available time, and the game unavailable time. Further, the router 15 identifies a contractant by using an ID or a password previously assigned to the contractant. Accordingly, the router 15 communicates exclusively with contractants. For example, a game machine terminal sends the roulette machine 14 information including a previously assigned ID. If information sent to the roulette machine 14 does not include the ID, the router 15 blocks the information. If the information sent to the roulette machine 14 includes the ID, the router 15 passes the information.

The game hall companies B and C are, for example, organizations running game halls or the like, such as game arcades. The game hall company B has the game machine terminal 21 and the terminal router 22, while the game hall company C has the game machine terminal 31 and the terminal router 32. The game players 23 and 33 are customers visiting the game hall companies B and C, respectively, to play on the respective game machine terminals 21 and 31.

The game machine terminals 21 and 31 function as roulette game machines, as they display on respective display devices 24 and 34 game images and roulette results received by the respective terminal routers 22 and 32. Further, each of the game machine terminals 21 and 31 has a function of sending the betting content input by the game player to the roulette machine 14 via the network 10. Each of the game machine terminals 21 and 31 also has a function of displaying the money amount collected from or refunded to the game player, which is calculated on the basis of the roulette result and is sent by the roulette machine 14. Furthermore, the game machine terminals 21 and 31 each include an operation device (not illustrated) capable of inputting colors and numbers which are betting targets, and respectively include the display devices 24 and 34. In addition, each of the game machine terminals 21 and 31 includes a microprocessor (not illustrated) which operates according to a program, and also includes a storage device (not illustrated) which stores the program. The microprocessor controls the operation device such that the operation device is operable during the game available time and inoperable during the game unavailable time.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, the company A and the game hall companies B and C have their own accounts in their respective banks. The company A has a contract with each of the game hall companies B and C on a monthly or annual basis, for example. A data distribution fee or the like is sent to the account of the company A in its bank 301 from the accounts of the game hall companies B and C in their respective banks 302 and 303, according to respective forms of contract.

The television receiver 16 is an apparatus for replaying broadcast images. The television monitor 13 is an apparatus for displaying on a screen thereof the images replayed by the television receiver 16. Thereby, the television receiver 16 and the television monitor 13 form a broadcast image displaying device. The network camera 11 is a video camera for converting images into electrical signals and recording the images. The network camera 11 includes an output cable and outputs recorded images to a communication device connected to the network camera 11. Thus, the network camera 11 forms a game image sending device.

The roulette machine 14 is a game machine for randomly determining the game result, and includes the button 17 for performing an operation of setting the game available time during which a game participant can make a bet. In this manner, the button 17 forms a game available time setting device.

The roulette machine 14 stores in the storage device 203 a program for executing processing described below. As the CPU 202 included in the roulette machine 14 operates according to the program, the processing described below is executed. The roulette machine 14 further includes the input/output interface 204 for performing communication via the router 15 and the network 10. Thus, the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 operating according to the program forms a collected/refunded money calculating device and a game available time verifying device. Further, the CPU 202 operating according to the program and the input/output interface 204 form a betting content information receiving device, a result sending device, and a betting acceptance notice sending device.

The router 15 is connected to the roulette machine 14 and the network camera 11, and serves as an information processing apparatus having a communication function.

The game machine terminals 21 and 31 each have the operation device capable of inputting numbers and colors, and respectively have the display devices 24 and 34. Further, each of the game machine terminals 21 and 31 includes a program for executing processing described below. As the microprocessor included in each of the game machine terminals 21 and 31 operates according to the program, the processing described below is executed. In this manner, the microprocessor operating according to the program forms a device for displaying the information of the game result and the collected/refunded money amount and the game image sent from the game image sending device.

Operations according to the present embodiment are then described with reference to the drawings. FIG. 4 is a flowchart illustrating an operation of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14. When a game on the roulette machine 14 starts (i.e., at the start of the roulette machine 14), the dealer 12 sets the button 17 (Step S401). When the button 17 is set, the CPU 202 of the roulette machine 14 sends a notice of game availability to the game machine terminal 21 (Step S402). Thus, the game machine terminal 21 enters into a betting available state. In the present embodiment, a game machine terminal is operable during the betting available state and inoperable during a betting unavailable state. After setting the button 17, the dealer 12 waits for a lapse of a predetermined time period (Step S403), and advances to a Step S501 illustrated in FIG. 5. When the game player 23 inputs and determines a betting content, the microprocessor in the game machine terminal 21 sends the roulette machine 14 via the network 10 a notice of determination of betting content for indicating that the betting content has been determined (Step S404).

Upon receipt of the notice of determination of betting content sent by the game machine terminal 21, the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 determines whether or not the time of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14 is within the game unavailable time (Step S405). If the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 determines that the time of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14 is not within the game unavailable time (NO in Step S405), the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 sends the game machine terminal 21 via the network 10 a notice of betting acceptance for indicating that the betting has been accepted (Step S406). Upon receipt of the notice of betting acceptance, the microprocessor in the game machine terminal 21 confirms the betting for indicating that the betting has been confirmed (Step S407). In the Step S405, if the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 determines that the time of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14 is within the game unavailable time (YES in Step S405), the CPU 202 does not send the notice of betting acceptance. Thus, the microprocessor in the game machine terminal 21 does not confirm the betting. Whether or not the time of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14 is within the game unavailable time is determined with reference to a game-unavailable-time flag. The game-unavailable-time flag indicates whether or not a given time is within the game unavailable time. In the present embodiment, if the game-unavailable-time flag is set, the given time is determined to be within the game unavailable time. If the game-unavailable-time flag is not set, the given time is determined to be within the game available time. Setting of the game/unavailable-time flag is performed in Step S504 described later.

FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating an operation performed when the game available time ends and money is collected from or refunded to a game player. When the dealer 12 throws a roulette ball into the roulette wheel 201 (Step S501) and betting is closed, the dealer 12 cancels the setting of the button 17 (Step S502). Upon cancellation of the button 17, the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 sends the game machine terminal 21 a notice of game unavailability (Step S503). Then, the CPU 202 sets the game-unavailable-time flag (Step S504). When the roulette ball falls in any one of the plurality of slots and the roulette result is settled, the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 automatically determines the roulette result on the basis of the detection performed by the sensor (not illustrated). Then, the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 sends the roulette result to the game machine terminal 21, calculates the amount of money to be collected from or refunded to the game player 23 on the basis of the roulette result and the betting content, and sends the game machine terminal 21 a calculation result (Step S505). The amount of money collected from or refunded to a game player calculated on the basis of the roulette result is hereinafter referred to as a collected/refunded money amount.

The microprocessor in the game machine terminal 21 refers to data of the roulette result and the collected/refunded money amount sent from the roulette machine 14, and displays the collected/refunded money amount on the display device 24 (Step S506). After determination of the roulette result, the dealer 12 waits for a lapse of a predetermined time period (Step S507), and then returns to Step S401 illustrated in FIG. 4 for setting the button 17. In this manner, a sequence of the steps described above is repeated.

The examples shown in FIGS. 4 and 5 illustrate the operations performed by the dealer 12, the roulette machine 14, and the game machine terminal 21. Alternatively, the game machine terminal 31 may replace the game machine terminal 21.

During a time period from the start of the game on the roulette machine 14 until the end of business hours, the network camera 11 continues to capture the images of the roulette machine 14 being operated by the dealer 12 together with the broadcast images being displayed on the television monitor 13, and also continues to output in real-time the captured images and sounds to the game machine terminal 21 via the network 10. The television monitor 13 displaying a currently broadcast image is thus displayed together with the roulette machine 14 being operated by the dealer 12. This shows that the dealer 12 is truly operating the roulette machine 14 at the present moment.

As described above, according to the first embodiment of the present invention, the game player 23 can play a game in real-time with the live aspects of a real game by watching the image of the real roulette machine 14 displayed on the game machine terminal 21. Further, the image displayed on the game machine terminal 21 includes both the roulette machine 14 being operated by the dealer 12 and the television monitor 13 placed near the roulette machine 14. The television monitor 13 displays the images broadcast by the public and private television stations generally viewable to the public. Therefore, the game player can confirm that the Image displayed on the television monitor 13 is an image currently broadcast at the present moment. Accordingly, even at a remote location, the game player can experience in real-time the atmosphere of a real casino and confirm that the roulette machine 14 is being operated at the present moment. Consequently, the game player can play a roulette game, without having concern about fraudulence in a process and result of the game.

Meanwhile, the management of a game hall can expect, as potential customers, those people who are hesitant to play games because of concern about fraudulence. As a result, increase in revenue may be expected. Furthermore, the management of a game hall can be separate and Independent from the data distribution company. If the management of a game hall is separate and independent from the data distribution company, the data distribution company cannot improperly manipulate roulette results. Thereby, game players may feel increasingly safe. Further, the management of a game hall does not need to employ a dealer. Therefore, the management of a game hall can expect cost reduction by paying the company A a contract rate for a necessary number of game machine terminals. Moreover, a game hall can save a relatively large space required for installing roulette equipment. Therefore, the game hall can reduce necessary installation space and thus expect cost reduction. As a result, space for placing other game machines is increased, and therefore the management of the game hall can expect increased business chances.

Second Embodiment

Subsequently, a second embodiment of the present invention is described with reference to the drawings.

A network distribution system illustrated in FIG., 6 includes a roulette machine 14, a router 15, a network camera 11, a television monitor 13, a television receiver 16, a host computer 51, a host router 52, and a personal computer 41. The roulette machine 14 and the host computer 51 are connected to a communications network (hereinafter referred to simply as network) 10 such as the Internet, for example, via the router 15 and the host router 52, respectively.

A company A is, for example, a real casino or the like, and includes the roulette machine 14, the router 15, the network camera 11, the television monitor 13, and the television receiver 16. A dealer 12 is employed by the company A and operates the roulette machine 14 and a button 17 provided thereon. It is noted here that the roulette machine 14 used in the present embodiment is similar in configuration to the roulette machine 14 used in the first embodiment (refer to FIG. 2).

The television receiver 16 receives and displays on the television monitor 13 images broadcast by public and private television stations, which are generally viewable to the public. The network camera 11 concurrently captures images of the roulette machine 14 being operated by the dealer 12 and images being displayed on the television monitor 13, and outputs in real-time the captured images and sounds to the router 15.

The router 15 sends in real-time the images and sounds output from the network camera 11 via the network 10 to the personal computer 41 used by an individual contractant D. The router 15 further sends a roulette result output from the roulette machine 14 to the host router 52 via the network 10. The router 15 identifies a contractant by using an ID or a password previously assigned to the contractant. Accordingly, the router 15 communicates exclusively with contractants. For example, the personal computer 41 sends the roulette machine 14 information including a previously assigned ID. If the information sent to the roulette machine 14 does not include the ID, the router 15 blocks the information. If the information sent to the roulette machine 14 includes the ID, the router 15 passes the information.

An Internet game distribution company F has the host computer 51 and the host router 52. The host router 52 outputs the roulette result sent from the router 15 to the host computer 51.

The host computer 51 includes a program for executing processing described below. A microprocessor included in the host computer 51 operates according to the program so that the processing described below is executed. Thus, the microprocessor operating according to the program forms a managing device.

Via the host router 52 and the network 10, the host computer 51 sends the roulette result to the personal computer 41 used by the individual contractant D. The host computer 51 manages a betting process. Specifically, for each individual game player, the host computer 51 manages a total money amount that the company A collects from or refunds to the individual game player. In case where the total money amount is changed, the total money amount is updated. The host computer 51 includes a storage device (not illustrated) for storing information of the total money amount In the case of the change in the total money amount, the information of the total money amount is updated.

The personal computer 41 has a program previously installed therein for causing the personal computer 41 to function as a roulette game machine. The personal computer 41 displays, on a display device thereof, the roulette result sent from the host router 52. Thus, the personal computer 41 functions as a roulette game machine. Further, the personal computer 41 has a function of sending a betting content input by a game player 42 to the host router 52 via the network 10. The personal computer 41 also has a function of displaying the collected/refunded money amount sent from the host router 52. Furthermore, the personal computer 41 is controlled to be operable during a game available time and inoperable during a game unavailable time.

As illustrated in FIG. 7, the company A, the Internet game distribution company F, and the individual contractant D have their own accounts in their respective banks. Contracts are made between the company A and the Internet game distribution company F and between the Internet game distribution company F and the individual contractant D on a monthly basis, for example. A data distribution fee or the like is sent to the account of the internet game distribution company F in its bank 702 from the account of the individual contractant D in its bank 701 according to a form of contract. Further, a data distribution fee or the like is sent to the account of the company A in its bank 301 from the account of the Internet game distribution company F in its bank 702 according to a form of contract.

Alternatively, in an example illustrated in FIG. 8, a data distribution fee or the like is sent to the account of the Internet game distribution company F in its bank 702 and the account of the company A in its bank 301 from the account of the individual contractant D in its bank 701 according to a form of contract. Further, a data distribution fee or the like is sent to the account of the company A in its bank 301 from the account of the Internet game distribution company F in its bank 702 according to a form of contract.

Subsequently, operations according to the present embodiment are described with reference to the drawings. FIG. 9 is a flowchart illustrating an operation of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14. At the start of the roulette machine 14, the dealer 12 sets the button 17 (Step S901). When the button 17 is set, the CPU 202 of the roulette machine 14 sends a notice of game availability to the personal computer 41 (Step S902), and the personal computer 41 enters into a betting available state. In the present embodiment, the personal computer 41 (i.e., a game machine terminal) is operable during the betting available state and inoperable during a betting unavailable state. After setting the button 17, the dealer 12 waits for a lapse of a predetermined time period (Step S903), and advances to Step S1001 illustrated in FIG. 10. When the game player 42 inputs and determines a betting content, the personal computer 41 sends the host computer 51 via the network 10 a notice of determination of betting content for indicating that the betting content has been determined (Step S904). Upon receipt of the notice of determination of betting content sent by the personal computer 41, the host computer 51 sends the notice of determination of betting content to the roulette machine 14 via the network 10 (Step S905).

Upon receipt of the notice of determination of betting content sent by the host computer 51, the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 determines whether or not the time of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14 is within the game unavailable time (Step S906). If the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 determines that the time of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14 is not within the game unavailable time (NO in Step S906), the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 sends the host computer 51 via the network 10 a notice of betting acceptance for indicating that the betting has been accepted (Step S907). Upon receipt of the notice of betting acceptance from the roulette machine 14, the host computer 51 sends the personal computer 41 via the network 10 a notice that the betting has been confirmed (Step S908). Upon receipt of this notice, the personal computer 41 confirms the betting for indicating that the betting has been confirmed (Step S909). In Step S906, if the roulette machine 14 determines that the time of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14 is within the game unavailable time (YES in Step S906), the roulette machine 14 does not send the notice of betting acceptance. Thus, the host computer 51 and the personal computer 41 do not confirm the betting. Whether or not the time of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14 is within the game unavailable time is determined with reference to the game/unavailable-time flag in a similar way to the first embodiment.

FIG. 10 is a flowchart illustrating an operation performed when the game available time ends and money is collected from or refunded to a game player. When the dealer 12 throws a roulette ball into the roulette wheel 201 (Step S1001) and betting is closed, the dealer 12 cancels the setting of the button 17 (Step S1002). Upon cancellation of the button 17, the CPU 202 in the roulette machine 14 sends the host computer 51 a notice of game unavailability (Step S1003). Then, the CPU 202 sets the game-unavailable-time flag for indicating whether or not the time of reception of the betting content by the roulette machine 14 is within the game unavailable time (Step S1004). When the roulette ball falls in any one of the plurality of slots and the roulette result is settled, the roulette machine 14 automatically determines the roulette result and sends the roulette result to the host computer 51. Then, the roulette machine 14 calculates a money amount collected from or refunded to a game player (i.e., the collected/refunded money amount) on the basis of the roulette result and the betting content, and sends the host computer 51 the calculated collected/refunded money amount (Step S1005).

The host computer 51 sends the personal computer 41 data of the roulette result and the collected/refunded money amount sent from the roulette machine 14 (Step S1006). In Step S1006, the host computer 51 further updates a total money amount that the company A collects from or refunds to the individual contractant D on the basis of the data of the collected/refunded money amount. The personal computer 41 refers to the data of the roulette result and the collected/refunded money amount sent from the host computer 51, and displays the collected/refunded money amount on the display device thereof (Step S1007). After determination of the roulette result, the dealer 12 waits for a lapse of a predetermined time period (Step S1008), and then returns to the Step S901 illustrated in FIG. 9 for setting the button 17, i.e., the first action taken in the game. In this manner, a sequence of the steps described above is repeated.

During a time period from the start to the end of the operation of the roulette machine 14, the network camera 11 continues to capture images of the roulette machine 14 being operated by the dealer 12 together with the broadcast Images being displayed on the television monitor 13, and also continues to output in real-time the captured images and sounds to the personal computer 41 via the network 10, The television monitor 13 displaying currently broadcast images is thus displayed together with the images of the roulette machine 14 being operated by the dealer 12. This shows that the dealer 12 is truly operating the roulette machine 14 at the present moment.

As described above, according to the second embodiment of the present invention, in addition to the effects of the first embodiment, the Internet game distribution company F does not need to Install a game machine terminal. Thus, the Internet game distribution company F can run an Internet game hall with a relatively small initial investment.

In the above-described first and second embodiments of the present invention, a roulette machine is used as an example of a game machine. Alternatively, a game machine of another type may replace the roulette machine.

The above embodiments of the present invention are useful in distribution of game content by allowing a game player at a remote location to play a game in real-time with the live aspects of a real game, without feeling concern about fraudulence.

The present invention has been specifically described above with reference to the drawings, though the invention is not limited to the above embodiment. As a matter of course, various modifications are permitted within the scope of the invention.