Title:
Gaming machine having additional features for tracked players
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine for conducting a wagering game comprises a value input device for receiving a wager from a player and at least one processor for executing gameplay on the gaming machine. The gaming machine further comprises a player information reader and a player tracking device detector operative to detect and signal the processor regarding the presence of a player tracking device in communication with the player information reader. The processor is operative to execute a modified portion of gameplay in response to the signal received from the detector.



Inventors:
Anderson, Peter R. (Chicago, IL, US)
Hornik, Jeremy M. (Chicago, IL, US)
Jaffe, Joel R. (Glenview, IL, US)
Schwartz, Richard T. (Chicago, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/504359
Publication Date:
03/15/2007
Filing Date:
08/14/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
COBURN, CORBETT B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NIXON PEABODY LLP (70 West Madison, Suite 3500, CHICAGO, IL, 60602, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A gaming machine comprising: a value input device for receiving a wager from a player; a processor for executing a wagering game on the gaming machine; a player information reader; and a player tracking device detector operative to detect and signal the processor regarding the presence of a player tracking device in communication with the player information reader, the processor operative to customize at least one feature of the wagering game.

2. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the player tracking device is casino issued card bearing a magnetic stripe.

3. The gaming machine of claim 2, wherein the player information reader is a magnetic stripe card reader in communication with a casino player tracking system.

4. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the feature is an audio feature.

5. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the feature includes symbols, graphics, downloaded images, image sizes, font sizes, speed, colors, or combinations thereof.

6. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein the player tracking device is operative to detect and signal the processor regarding a class of the player.

7. The gaming machine of claim 6, wherein the at least one feature is associated with the class of the player.

8. A method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine, the method comprising: receiving a wager from a player of the gaming machine; providing a processor for executing a wagering game on the gaming machine; detecting and signaling the processor regarding the presence of a player tracking device in communication with a player information reader of the gaming machine; and in response to the detection, providing the player with at least one information improvement.

9. The method of claim 8, wherein the information improvement includes audio advice, video advice, an advisor, a help screen, an assistant, or combinations thereof.

10. The method of claim 8, wherein the information improvement includes a preview of an upcoming feature, a preview of an upcoming game, permitting the player to play unreleased games, or combinations thereof.

11. The method of claim 8, wherein the information improvement includes game history information, casino information, or a combination thereof.

12. The method of claim 8, further comprising detecting and signaling the processor regarding a class of the player.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein the information improvement is associated with the class of the player.

14. A computer readable storage medium encoded with instructions for directing a gaming device to perform the method of claim 8.

15. A method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine, the method comprising: receiving a wager from a player of the gaming machine; providing a processor for executing a wagering game on the gaming machine; receiving and detecting a player tracking card in a player information reader; identifying a class of the player; and modifying at least a portion of the wagering game based on the class of the player.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the player information reader is in communication with a casino player tracking system.

17. The method of claim 15, wherein the class of the player is based on criteria including wager amounts, frequency of visits, length of play, loyalty to operator, or combinations thereof.

18. The method claim 15, further comprising the acts of awarding the player casino sponsored complimentary services utilizing a casino player tracking system, and displaying such award on either the gaming machine or another display in communication with casino player tracking system.

19. The method of claim 15, wherein the act of modifying at least a portion of the wagering game comprises providing the player with at least one of a gameplay improvement, an information improvement, a customization improvement, an environmental improvement, or a gameplay variation.

20. A computer readable storage medium encoded with instructions for directing a gaming device to perform the method of claim 15.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/708,337, filed Aug. 15, 2005, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

COPYRIGHT

A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent files or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to gaming machines, and methods for playing wagering games, and more particularly, to a gaming machine having additional features available to players tracked by a casino player tracking system.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Gaming machines, such as slot machines, video poker machines and the like, have been a cornerstone of the gaming industry for several years. Generally, the popularity of such machines with players is dependent on the likelihood (or perceived likelihood) of winning money at the machine and the intrinsic entertainment value of the machine relative to other available gaming options. Where the available gaming options include a number of competing machines and the expectation of winning at each machine is roughly the same (or believed to be the same), players are likely to be attracted to the most entertaining and exciting machines. Shrewd operators consequently strive to employ the most entertaining and exciting machines, features, and enhancements available because such machines attract frequent play and hence increase profitability to the operator. Therefore, there is a continuing need for gaming machine manufacturers to continuously develop new games and improved gaming enhancements that will attract frequent play through enhanced entertainment value to the player.

One concept that has been successfully employed to enhance the entertainment value of a game is the concept of a “secondary” or “bonus” game that may be played in conjunction with a “basic” game. The bonus game may comprise any type of game, either similar to or completely different from the basic game, which is entered upon the occurrence of a selected event or outcome in the basic game. Generally, bonus games provide a greater expectation of winning than the basic game and may also be accompanied with more attractive or unusual video displays and/or audio. Bonus games may additionally award players with “progressive jackpot” awards that are funded, at least in part, by a percentage of coin-in from the gaming machine or a plurality of participating gaming machines. Because the bonus game concept offers tremendous advantages in player appeal and excitement relative to other known games, and because such games are attractive to both players and operators, there is a continuing need to develop gaming machines with new types of bonus games to satisfy the demands of players and operators.

Casinos and other gaming machine operators have established various player tracking systems for tracking the level and amount of play by gaming machine players. Such operators use information from the player tracking system to award players with operator-provided services such as meals, hotel rooms, entertainment, etc. Traditionally, player tracking systems utilize cards or other player tracking devices to identify a player when inserted into a player information reader located in the gaming machine and in communication with the operators player tracking network and system. One problem with traditional player tracking systems is that operators are limited to awarding players with awards such as the services described herein, rather than gameplay related awards, bonuses, or features. Some operators also provide progressive jackpot awards for players in their casinos that are independent of other progressive jackpot awards provided by gaming machine manufacturers. Due to regulations, communications between a gaming machine processor and an operator's player tracking system are limited. Thus, another problem exists in that the operators' progressive jackpot awards are independent from the game play of a gaming machine, causing the award of such operator progressives to be less entertaining to the player. Yet another problem exists in that operators have difficulty encouraging player loyalty based on operator rather than manufacturer. The present invention is directed to solving one or more of these and other problems.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to one aspect of the present invention, a gaming machine comprises a value input device for receiving a wager from a player and at least one processor for executing gameplay on the gaming machine. The gaming machine further comprises a player information reader and a player tracking device detector operative to detect and signal the processor regarding the presence of a player tracking device in communication with the player information reader. The processor is operative to execute a modified portion of gameplay in response to the signal received from the detector.

According to another aspect of the invention, a method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine comprises receiving a wager from a player of the gaming machine and providing at least one processor for executing gameplay on the gaming machine. The method further comprises detecting and signaling the processor regarding the presence of a player tracking device in communication with a player information reader of the gaming machine and in response to the detection, modifying at least a portion of the gameplay.

According to yet another aspect of the invention, a method of conducting a wagering game on a gaming machine comprises receiving a wager from a player of the gaming machine and providing at least one processor for executing gameplay on the gaming machine. The method further comprises receiving and detecting a player tracking card in a player information reader and in response to the detection, modifying at least a portion of the gameplay.

According to yet another aspect of the invention, a computer readable storage medium is encoded with instructions for directing a gaming device to perform the above method.

Additional aspects of the invention will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art in view of the detailed description of various embodiments, which is made with reference to the drawings, a brief description of which is provided below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a gaming machine embodying the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a control system suitable for operating the gaming machine; and

FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a gaming system including a player tracking device detector.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail preferred embodiments of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the broad aspect of the invention to the embodiments illustrated.

Referring to FIG. 1, a gaming machine 10 is used in gaming establishments such as casinos. With regard to the present invention, the gaming machine 10 may be any type of gaming machine and may have varying structures and methods of operation. For example, the gaming machine 10 may be an electromechanical gaming machine configured to play mechanical slots, or it may be an electronic gaming machine configured to play a video casino game, such as blackjack, slots, keno, poker, blackjack, roulette, etc.

The gaming machine 10 comprises a housing 12 and includes input devices, including a value input device 18 and a player input device 24. For output the gaming machine 10 includes a primary display 14 for displaying information about the basic wagering game. The primary display 14 can also display information about a bonus wagering game and a progressive wagering game. The gaming machine 10 may also include a secondary display 16 for displaying game events, game outcomes, and/or signage information. While these typical components found in the gaming machine 10 are described below, it should be understood that numerous other elements may exist and may be used in any number of combinations to create various forms of a gaming machine 10.

The value input device 18 may be provided in many forms, individually or in combination, and is preferably located on the front of the housing 12. The value input device 18 receives currency and/or credits that are inserted by a player. The value input device 18 may include a coin acceptor 20 for receiving coin currency (see FIG. 1). Alternatively, or in addition, the value input device 18 may include a bill acceptor 22 for receiving paper currency. Furthermore, the value input device 18 may include a ticket reader, or barcode scanner, for reading information stored on a credit ticket, a card, or other tangible portable credit storage device. The credit ticket or card may also authorize access to a central account, which can transfer money to the gaming machine 10.

The player input device 24 comprises a plurality of push buttons 26 on a button panel for operating the gaming machine 10. In addition, or alternatively, the player input device 24 may comprise a touch screen 28 mounted by adhesive, tape, or the like over the primary display 14 and/or secondary display 16. The touch screen 28 contains soft touch keys 30 denoted by graphics on the underlying primary display 14 and used to operate the gaming machine 10. The touch screen 28 provides players with an alternative method of input. A player enables a desired function either by touching the touch screen 28 at an appropriate touch key 30 or by pressing an appropriate push button 26 on the button panel. The touch keys 30 may be used to implement the same functions as push buttons 26. Alternatively, the push buttons 26 may provide inputs for one aspect of the operating the game, while the touch keys 30 may allow for input needed for another aspect of the game.

The various components of the gaming machine 10 may be connected directly to, or contained within, the housing 12, as seen in FIG. 1, or may be located outboard of the housing 12 and connected to the housing 12 via a variety of different wired or wireless connection methods. Thus, the gaming machine 10 comprises these components whether housed in the housing 12, or outboard of the housing 12 and connected remotely.

The operation of the basic wagering game is displayed to the player on the primary display 14. The primary display 14 can also display the bonus game associated with the basic wagering game. The primary display 14 may take the form of a cathode ray tube (CRT), a high resolution LCD, a plasma display, an LED, or any other type of display suitable for use in the gaming machine 10. As shown, the primary display 14 includes the touch screen 28 overlaying the entire monitor (or a portion thereof) to allow players to make game-related selections. Alternatively, the primary display 14 of the gaming machine 10 may include a number of mechanical reels to display the outcome in visual associated to at least one payline 32. In the illustrated embodiment, the gaming machine 10 is an “upright” version in which the primary display 14 is oriented vertically relative to the player. Alternatively, the gaming machine may be a “slant-top” version in which the primary display 14 is slanted at about a thirty-degree angle toward the player of the gaming machine 10.

A player begins play of the basic wagering game by making a wager via the value input device 18 of the gaming machine 10. A player can select play by using the player input device 24, via the buttons 26 or the touch screen keys 30. The basic game consists of a plurality of symbols arranged in an array, and includes at least one payline 32 that indicates one or more outcomes of the basic game. Such outcomes are randomly selected in response to the wagering input by the player. At least one of the plurality of randomly-selected outcomes may be a start-bonus outcome, which can include any variations of symbols or symbol combinations triggering a bonus game.

In some embodiments, the gaming machine 10 may also include a player information reader 52 that allows for identification of a player by reading a card with information indicating his or her true identity. The player information reader 52 is shown in FIG. 1 as a card reader, but may take on many forms including a ticket reader, bar code scanner, RFID transceiver or computer readable storage medium interface. Currently, identification is generally used by casinos for rewarding certain players with complimentary services or special offers. For example, a player may be enrolled in the gaming establishment's loyalty club and may be awarded certain complimentary services as that player collects points in his or her player-tracking account. The player inserts his or her card into the player information reader 52, which allows the casino's computers to register that player's wagering at the gaming machine 10. The gaming machine 10 may use the secondary display 16 or other dedicated player-tracking display for providing the player with information about his or her account or other player-specific information. Also, in some embodiments, the information reader 52 may be used to restore game assets that the player achieved and saved during a previous game session.

Turning now to FIG. 2, the various components of the gaming machine 10 are controlled by a central processing unit (CPU) 34, also referred to herein as a controller or processor (such as a microcontroller or microprocessor). To provide gaming functions, the controller 34 executes one or more game programs stored in a computer readable storage medium, in the form of memory 36. The controller 34 performs the random selection (using a random number generator (RNG)) of an outcome from the plurality of possible outcomes of the wagering game. Alternatively, the random event may be determined at a remote controller. The remote controller may use either an RNG or pooling scheme for its central determination of a game outcome. It should be appreciated that the controller 34 may include one or more microprocessors, including but not limited to a master processor, a slave processor, and a secondary or parallel processor.

The controller 34 is also coupled to the system memory 36 and a money/credit detector 38. The system memory 36 may comprise a volatile memory (e.g., a random-access memory (RAM)) and a non-volatile memory (e.g., an EEPROM). The system memory 36 may include multiple RAM and multiple program memories. The money/credit detector 38 signals the processor that money and/or credits have been input via the value input device 18. Preferably, these components are located within the housing 12 of the gaming machine 10. However, as explained above, these components may be located outboard of the housing 12 and connected to the remainder of the components of the gaming machine 10 via a variety of different wired or wireless connection methods.

As seen in FIG. 2, the controller 34 is also connected to, and controls, the primary display 14, the player input device 24, and a payoff mechanism 40. The payoff mechanism 40 is operable in response to instructions from the controller 34 to award a payoff to the player in response to certain winning outcomes that might occur in the basic game or the bonus game(s). The payoff may be provided in the form of points, bills, tickets, coupons, cards, etc. For example, in FIG. 1, the payoff mechanism 40 includes both a ticket printer 42 and a coin outlet 44. However, any of a variety of payoff mechanisms 40 well known in the art may be implemented, including cards, coins, tickets, smartcards, cash, etc. The payoff amounts distributed by the payoff mechanism 40 are determined by one or more pay tables stored in the system memory 36.

Communications between the controller 34 and both the peripheral components of the gaming machine 10 and external systems 50 occur through input/output (I/O) circuits 46, 48. More specifically, the controller 34 controls and receives inputs from the peripheral components of the gaming machine 10 through the input/output circuits 46. Further, the controller 34 communicates with the external systems 50 via the I/O circuits 48 and a communication path (e.g., serial, parallel, IR, RC, 10bT, etc.). The external systems 50 may include a gaming network, other gaming machines, a gaming server, communications hardware, or a variety of other interfaced systems or components. Although the I/O circuits 46, 48 may be shown as a single block, it should be appreciated that each of the I/O circuits 46, 48 may include a number of different types of I/O circuits.

Controller 34, as used herein, comprises any combination of hardware, software, and/or firmware that may be disposed or resident inside and/or outside of the gaming machine 10 that may communicate with and/or control the transfer of data between the gaming machine 10 and a bus, another computer, processor, or device and/or a service and/or a network. The controller 34 may comprise one or more controllers or processors. In FIG. 2, the controller 34 in the gaming machine 10 is depicted as comprising a CPU, but the controller 34 may alternatively comprise a CPU in combination with other components, such as the I/O circuits 46, 48 and the system memory 36.

Turning now to FIG. 3, a gaming system 60 according to the present invention is depicted. The gaming system 60 includes at least one gaming machine 10, the player information reader 52, a player tracking device 62, and a player tracking device detector 64. The system 60 further includes a casino player tracking system 66 in communication with a casino Wide Area Progressive (“WAP”) 68. The system 60 may optionally include a gaming machine network 70 in communication with a manufacturer operated WAP 72. The gaming machine 10 may be one of any type of gaming machine 10 executing a wagering game of chance, as described herein with reference to FIG. 1.

The player information reader 52, as described herein with reference to FIG. 1, is preferably located within the housing 12 of the gaming machine 10, and is made available to receive and communicate with the player tracking device 64. Preferably, the player tracking device 64 is a machine readable card, such as card having a magnetic strip, but the device 64 can take on many forms, including a ticket, an RFID transceiver, a SmartCard, a portable device having computer readable memory, a mobile device such as a cellular phone or PDA, or other such device. Furthermore, the player tracking device 64 may be a unique identifier, password, biometric data or other indicia input into the reader 52 via a corresponding keyboard, biometric reader, or other peripheral. The player tracking device 64 identifies the player or an account and other information associated with the player. As is understood, the player information reader 52 may also take on many forms, and is preferably configured to be complimentary to the form of the player tracking device 64 so as to be able to communicate with the device 64. Thus, preferably the player information reader 52 is a card reader capable of receiving and reading player tracking cards bearing magnetic strips.

The player information reader 52 is in communication with a casino player tracking system 66 which may include one or more computers, processors, servers, and computer storage devices linked together by a network. The casino player tracking system 66 generates, compiles, updates, alters, and gathers information related to play of gaming machines 10 operated by the casino, allowing such information to be used in provided players with services such as complimentary or reduced price meals, hotel rooms, entertainment or other intangible services. The casino player tracking system 66 may optionally include, or communicate with, a casino WAP 68. The casino WAP 68 may be configured to be funded by a portion of the wagers made in gaming machines 10 owned and/or operated by a particular casino, and award players in such a casino with progressive jackpots upon the occurrence of certain winning outcomes. It should be understood that a casino operator may own and operate casino facilities in more than one location, such that the terms “casino” and “operator” as used herein includes a stand alone gaming machine operator as well as an operator who collectively operates gaming machines 10 from more than one location.

The gaming system 60 includes a player tracking device detector 64 preferably located inside the housing 12 of the gaming machine 10, and in communication with the CPU 34. The detector 64 serves to detect the presence of a player tracking device 62 in the player information reader 52. Stated differently, the detector 64 detects when a player tracking device 62 such as a card is in communication with the player information reader 52, such as a card reader, and signals the CPU 34 that a tracked player is playing the gaming machine 10. The player tracking device detector 64 may be one of any variety of mechanical, magnetic, electrical, infra red, software or electromechanical sensors which detects the presence of the player tracking device 62 in the gaming machine 10. The player tracking device detector 64 may be configured to be relatively sophisticated so as to permit the exchange of player information between the CPU 34 and the casino player tracking system 66. However, due to regulations limiting such communications, preferably the player tracking device detector 64 is configured to only detect the presence of a valid player tracking device 62, without having access to any player information associated with such device 62. In this way, the detector 64 is “dumb”, serving only to signal the CPU 34 of the presence of a player tracked by the casino player tracking system 66 without divulging information from such system 66.

The gaming machine 10 may optionally be in communication with a network 70 and a manufacturer operated WAP 72, as seen in FIG. 3. The network 70 may include a plurality of linked gaming machines 10 which execute the same or different gameplay. The manufacturer operated WAP 72 may be configured to be funded by a portion of the wagers made in such manufacturers' gaming machines 10 included in the network 70, and award players with progressive jackpots upon the occurrence of certain winning outcomes. The gaming machines 10 in the network 70 may include a variety of base and bonus games and may utilize a variety of display and presentation techniques for awarding awards, WAP jackpots, and other prizes.

The gaming machine 10 of the present invention may be configured to award players based upon whether or not the players are tracked by the casino player tracking system 66. In this way, the player tracking device detector 64 signals the processor 34 after detecting the presence of a player tracking device 62 in the player information reader 52. Based upon the detection of the player tracking device 62, the processor 34 may alter one or more components of the game execution in an effort to provide more favorable results, more entertainment, customization, or other benefits to the tracked player. Furthermore, it should be understood that the gaming machine 10 may be configured so that the default gameplay assumes the presence of a player tracking device 62 in the reader 52, and only modifies the gameplay to a less improved version of gameplay if when the device 62 is not detected. In this way, the gaming machine 10 may be configured to expect receipt of a tracking device 62 and downgrade features on the machine 10 if the device 62 is not inserted.

In one embodiment, detection of the player tracking device 62 provides the player with one or more gameplay improvements which increase the likelihood of occurrence of winning outcomes. For example, gameplay improvements include extra wild symbols, expanding wilds, multipliers, free spins, free credits or additional bonus pick selections, above and beyond what is provided to a untracked player of the gaming machine 10. Additional gameplay improvements which may be implemented in the gaming machine 10 include extra cards in a poker game, extra chances to win, free side-bets for side-betting options, a smart wild (wild symbol lands in best position), multiplies paylines, eligibility for a new or alternate bonus, terminator protection (protection against the selection of a terminator symbol), holding some reels while respinning others, nudging reels, increased paytable, replay of certain bonus games, an offer of a credit amount in lieu of playing the bonus game, additional winning combinations in the paytable, and enhanced free spins within a free spin bonus. Many other gameplay improvements are possible. For example, gameplay improvements may also include eligibility for progressives, WAPs (either casino WAP, manufacturer WAP, or other WAP), or bonus features not provided to untracked players. Moreover, gameplay improvements may include persistent state features, the ability to cancel and replay a bonus game yielding undesirable results, and extra paylines. The player may also be allowed to designate a favorite game which is associated with his player tracking device 62, and when detected by the detector 64 at such favorite game, the player may be awarded gameplay improvements in the way of higher payouts, extra bonuses, etc. Furthermore, a tracked player may be awarded higher expected value payout on a gaming machine 10 as compared to a non-tracked player, which may or may not be also dependent on a certain betting threshold, such as a Max Bet requirement, coin in, or speed of gameplay.

In another embodiment, detection of the player tracking device 62 provides the player with one or more customization improvements which increase the enjoyment of playing the gaming machine 10. For example, customization may include permitting the tracked player to select from various sets of symbols, graphics and corresponding sounds with which to play the game. Moreover, the tracked player may be permitted to download images and sounds from external sources (such as the internet, or computer readable storage medium) and incorporate such images and/or sounds into the play of the game. This feature would allow tracked players to include pictures and voice recordings of family, friends, etc. in the play of the game on the gaming machine 10. Further customization of audio and visual components of the game may include the speed of the game, size of images and fonts, selection of colors, etc. In this embodiment, such customization improvements are only made available to tracked players, while untracked players are not provided with the same customization options.

In yet another embodiment, one or more information improvements may be provided to a tracked player upon detection by the detector 64 of the presence of a player tracking device 62. Such information improvements may include enablement of audio and/or visual advice, advisors, help screens, and/or assistants which provide information to the player of the gaming machine 10 relating to optimizing selections and play of the game. Other information improvements may include previews of upcoming features or games in development by certain manufacturers. Further information improvements may include information relating to casino features such as service related information, entertainment, shows, meals, etc. Other information improvements may provide the player with game history information or machine history information, thereby permitting the tracked player to be informed as to how often the machine 10 has paid awards, and in what amounts. The information improvements may also permit tracked player to play games not yet released to the general public during a VIP preview playing session (e.g. 30 days). This permits a tracked player to play games prior to their general availability for play by the public and untracked players.

In yet another embodiment, the presence of a player tracking device 62 entitles the player to one or more environmental improvement features. Such environmental improvements may include gameplay featurettes not available to untracked players. A gameplay featurette is a portion of gameplay which is the same or similar in more than one gaming machine 10, including gaming machines of the same, similar, related, or unrelated themes. Such featurettes may include linked gameplay features such as group, shared, competitive, or collaborative bonuses or other aspects of gameplay. Improved sound, lighting, and effects may also be included as environmental improvements. For example, a tracked player may be permitted to experience improved stereo or surround sound, tactile vibrations, and improved video and effects as compare to the untracked player. In one embodiment, an improved gaming machine chair may be activated only upon detection of the player tracking device 62. Such an improved gaming chair is described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 60/592,894 filed Jul. 30, 2004, entitled “Gaming Machine Chair,” which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety as if full set forth herein. In another embodiment, a transmissive L.C.D. display may be activated only upon detection of the player tracking device 62. Such a display is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,517,433 to Loose et. al, entitled “Reel Spinning Slot Machine with Superimposed Video Image,” which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety as if full set forth herein.

In yet another embodiment, the player tracking device 62 detected by the detector 64 permits the tracked player to experience one or more gameplay variations. For example, a gaming machine 10 having a series or a plurality of rounds of bonus games may permit a tracked player to experience improved chances of winning outcomes in subsequent bonus rounds, as compared to an untracked player who's chances of winning may remain constant or even decrease in subsequent rounds. Alternatively, a tracked player may be permitted to see prior plays or selections from prior bonus rounds so as to be able to “learn” from such plays during subsequent rounds of the game. While an untracked player may play the same bonus game as a tracked player, the tracked player may be given an enhanced scripted bonus display. For example, a casino WAP may award mystery awards to various players in the casino at random or partially random times. A non tracked player may be notified as to the occurrence of such an award by a simple display such as: “Mystery Bonus: 500 Credits Awarded.” On the other hand, a tracked player may be given an entertaining animation or other video display presentation of the 500 credit mystery award. Moreover, a tracked player may be permitted to gamble winnings on a gaming machine 10 via a “double up” feature or other gambling feature in which the player may either win even more credits, or lose the credits already won. The untracked player would not experience such gambling options.

Additionally, the gaming machine 10 may be programmed such that the manufacturer matches any casino WAP awards on the machine, so that a tracked player is paid double (or other increased) amount of the WAP award received by an untracked player. To accomplish this, the gaming machine 10 may be configured to lower the expected value of the machine 10 payout on other bonuses or features of the machine such that the overall expected value of the machine 10 remains constant. In this way, the manufacturer's machine 10 which “matches” all or a portion of the casino WAP award benefits the manufacturer by making such machine 10 more appealing to players in the casino, as compared to other manufacturer's machines which do not offer the match. It should be understood that the manufacturer's “match” may be a portion of the casino WAP award, equal to the casino WAP award, or any multiple of the casino WAP award.

In yet another gameplay variation offered to tracked players, the casino may offer traditional complimentary services (hotel rooms, meals, entertainment etc.) through gameplay on the gaming machine 10. Thus, for example, rather than simply giving the tracked player one or two free meals based on his play, the casino may award the player an opportunity to play a bonus game on the machine 10 to receive a number of free meals (e.g. 1 to 5) based on his or her selection of selectable elements. Moreover, the bonus game for awarding complimentary services may be played on another gaming machine 10 at a later time, or on a dedicated gaming machine 10 utilized only for awarding complimentary services. In this way, the tracked player receives traditional casino provided complimentary services (“comps”) in an entertaining and exciting manner through gameplay on the gaming machine 10. The untracked player does not receive comps, and as such, does not receive the opportunity to play such extra bonus features. Alternatively, a tracked player who also plays table games in a casino may transfer comps earned at the table games to free plays of gaming machines 10 in the casino.

The present invention is described herein through a multitude of examples, but a myriad of other possibilities exist. It is preferred, however, that the player tracking device detector 64 monitor the existence of communications between a player tracking device 62 and the player information reader 52, so as to signal the processor 34 of the gaming machine 10 that a tracked player is playing the machine 10. Upon knowing that a tracked player is wagering at the machine 10, the machine 10 alters certain behaviors, programs, and processes to provide the player with special awards or variations for being a tracked player.

It should be understood that the gaming machine 10 may also include one or more indicators regarding the presence of a player tracking device 62 in the machine 10. For example, a visual or audio indicator may be mounted to the housing 12 of the machine 10 to indicate the presence of a player tracking device 62 in the machine 10, and hence the presence of a tracked player. This audio/visual indication may be used by the operator to monitor the status of the gaming machines 10 and tracked players in the operator's establishment.

Furthermore, the player tracking devices 62 may be used to identify a plurality of classes of tracked players. For example, players may be categorized by the player tracking system 66 into Silver, Gold, and Platinum players based on various criteria including wager amounts, frequency of visits, length of play, loyalty to operator, etc. The above described gaming machine 10 improvements may not be made available to all classes of tracked players, but rather only to certain classes based upon various criteria. Thus, the player information reader 52 may be configured not only to detect the presence of a player tracking device 62, but also to identify the class of tracked player associated with the device 62. By passing on the class of the player to the CPU 34, the gaming machine 10 may execute gameplay with one or more improvements associated with the class of the tracked player at the machine 10.

The gaming system 60 of the present invention offers a number of benefits over traditional gaming systems. Because casinos and other operators are in the business of operating establishments and not in the business of developing game content for gaming machines 10, casino operated WAP systems are frequently lacking in display, entertainment, and presentation. Thus, casino WAP awards are frequently simply displayed and awarded through the use of a simple meter or other device. Conversely, gaming machine manufacturers are experts at producing game content with high entertainment value, interesting displays, and dazzling presentation. Thus, the gaming system 60 of the present invention provides a casino or operator the benefit of maintaining a casino WAP system while coupling it with the improved presentation techniques of gaming machines 10 provided by a gaming machine manufacturer.

Each of these embodiments and obvious variations thereof is contemplated as falling within the spirit and scope of the claimed invention, which is set forth in the following claims.