Title:
AUTOMATIC FUNDING OF PARAGAMES ON ELECTRONIC GAMING PLATFORM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The provision of a paragaming event on an electronic gaming machine is provided by intercepting a cashout event, identifying the account balance and presenting an offer to participate in the paragaming event. If the customer agrees, the account balance is appropriately reduced and a voucher in followed by a cashout event is initiated to maintain a record of the transaction. A cash voucher and a transaction receipt are then printed for the customer.



Inventors:
Johnson, Sam (Las Vegas, NV, US)
Application Number:
11/686755
Publication Date:
07/05/2007
Filing Date:
03/15/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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20080070699NETWORKED ELECTRONIC GAME TRACKINGMarch, 2008Park



Primary Examiner:
LIDDLE, JAY TRENT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SMITH FROHWEIN TEMPEL GREENLEE BLAHA, LLC (Two Ravinia Drive, Suite 700, ATLANTA, GA, 30346, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for providing paragaming activity on an electronic gaming machine, the method comprising the steps of: detecting a triggering event on the electronic gaming machine; in response to the triggering event, presenting a paragaming event on the screen of the electronic gaming machine; funding the paragaming event from the available funds in the electronic gaming machine; and reconciling the payment of the paragaming event with the accounting system for the electronic gaming machine.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the trigger is a cashout event and the step of detecting the triggering event comprises the step of detecting a slot accounting system command for a cashout and detecting printer commands associated with a cashout process.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the trigger is a cashout event and the step of detecting the triggering event comprises the step of detecting a slot accounting system command for a cashout.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the trigger is a cashout event and the step of detecting the triggering event comprises the step of detecting printer commands associated with a cashout process.

5. The method of claim 4, further comprising the step of parsing the printer commands to obtain information about the cashout transaction.

6. The method of claim 4, further comprising the step of parsing the printer commands to obtain an asset number, a validation number, a date and a time.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of funding the paragaming event further comprises the step of deducting the cost of the paragaming event from the current electronic gaming machine balance.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein the step of reconciling the payment of the paragaming event further comprises the step of sending a voucher in command to the slot accounting system with the new balance, and then sending a slot accounting system cashout command to the accounting system.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of reconciling the payment of the paragaming event further comprises the step of sending a slot accouting system cashout command to the accounting system.

10. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of interfacing to the paragaming server as if a writer station to the paragaming server.

11. An apparatus for providing paragaming activity on an electronic gaming machine, the apparatus comprising: a control unit having a first input communicatively coupled to an SAS output of the electronic gaming machine, a second input communicatively coupled to a printer output of the electronic gaming machine, an output communicatively coupled to the electronic gaming machine printer and a network interface; a validation system communicatively coupled to the control unit over the network interface and communicatively coupled to a host accounting system for the electronic gaming machine over an SAS connection to a slot machine interface board; the control unit being operable to detect the occurrence of a cashout event and in response, presenting a screen to access a paragaming event, receive an election to participate in the paragaming event and notifying the validation system of such election; the validation system being operable to redeem the funds associated with the electronic gaming machine from the host accounting system, deduct a fee associated with the paragaming event and notifying the control unit; and the control unit being operable to perform a cashout event with the new funds balance.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the control unit is operable to detect the occurrence of a cashout event by detecting a cashout command on the SAS output of the electronic gaming machine and detecting printer commands associated with a cashout event on the printer output of the electronic gaming machine.

13. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the control unit is operable to detect the occurrence of a cashout event by detecting a cashout command on the SAS output of the electronic gaming machine.

14. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the control unit is operable to detect the occurrence of a cashout event by detecting printer commands associated with a cashout event on the printer output of the electronic gaming machine.

15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the validation system being operable to redeem the funds associated with the electronic gaming machine from the host accounting system and deduct a fee associated with the paragaming event by reducing an account balance by the fee amount, sending a voucher in command with the new balance to the host accounting system and sending a cashout command to the host accounting system.

16. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the control unit is further operative to parse the printer commands to identify a current balance for the electronic gaming machine.

17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein the validation system is operable to redeem the funds associated with the electronic gaming machine from the host accounting system and deduct a fee associated with the paragaming event by reducing the account balance detected by the control unit by the fee amount, sending a voucher in command with the new balance to the host accounting system and sending a cashout command to the host accounting system.

18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein the control unit is operable to print out a voucher ticket and a transaction receipt associated with the paragaming event.

19. An apparatus for providing paragaming activity on an electronic gaming machine, the apparatus comprising: a control unit having a first input communicatively coupled to an SAS output of the electronic gaming machine, a second input communicatively coupled to a printer output of the electronic gaming machine, an output communicatively coupled to the electronic gaming machine printer and a network interface; a validation system communicatively coupled to the control unit over the network interface and communicatively coupled to a host accounting system for the electronic gaming machine over an SAS connection to a slot machine interface board; the control unit being operable to detect printer commands associated with a cashout event on the printer output of the electronic gaming machine and in response, presenting a screen to access a paragaming event, receive an election to participate in the paragaming event and notifying the validation system of such election; the validation system being operable to redeem the funds associated with the electronic gaming machine from the host accounting system, deduct a fee associated with the paragaming event and notifying the control unit; and the control unit being operable to perform a cashout event with the new funds balance.

20. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the validation system is operable to redeem the funds associated with the electronic gaming machine from the host accounting system and deduct a fee associated with the paragaming event by reducing the account balance detected by the control unit by the fee amount, sending a voucher in command with the new balance to the host accounting system and sending a cashout command to the host accounting system; and the control unit is further operable to print out a voucher and a transaction receipt associated with the paragaming transaction.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of United States patent application filed on Aug. 31, 2006 with a title of CLOSED-LOOP SYSTEM FOR PROVIDING ADDITIONAL EVENT PARTICIPATION TO ELECTRONIC VIDEO GAME CUSTOMER and assigned Ser. No. 11/468,946, which is a continuation-in-part of United States patent application filed on Oct. 20, 2003 with a title of CLOSED-LOOP SYSTEM FOR DISPLAYING PROMOTIONAL EVENTS AND GRANTING AWARDS FOR ELECTRONIC VIDEO GAMES and assigned Ser. No. 10/689,407.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The video gaming industry continues to advance by exploiting the relatively recent technology advancements, such as networking and communication technology advancements. However, as in most industries, some of the technological advances are introduced by specific companies for specific purposes. As a result, these technological advancements are functionally ideal for the purpose to which they were intended. However, when these technological advances are viewed with a creative eye, they may also result in opening the door for other potential uses. An example of this phenomenon is clearly shown by examining a NASA invention that was designed for use with space suits. During the Apollo program, a super-absorbent fabric was developed to absorb excreted body fluids within a space suit. The fabric was able to hold up to 400 times its own weight. This fabric was developed in an effort to enable Apollo astronauts to conduct spacewalks for six or more hours. Ultimately, the technology advancement has greatly influenced the present disposable diaper industry. However, considerable engineering was required to go from an absorbent fabric to a usable disposable diaper.

Similarly, application of some of the advancements introduced into the electronic gaming industry, when examined under the scrutiny of a creative and curious mind, give rise to uses that were not intended when the technology was introduced. Often times, when implementing such new uses, the implementers are met with obstacles such as incompatibilities, partial functionality, and needs for tweaks or modifications. In some situations, these obstacles can be easily overcome. However, in other situations, overcoming the obstacles may be quite costly, commercially infeasible, or technologically impractical.

One of the technological advancements in the electronic gaming machine industry has been the development and deployment of the Slot Accounting Standard (SAS) protocol. This protocol enables a uniform interface to various slot machines or electronic gaming machines so that accounting operations can be performed. In many casinos, the SAS protocol is exploited by the use of a Slot Machine Interface Board (SMIB). In this configuration, the SMIB operates to interface to the gaming machines using the SAS protocol and then to the casino's accounting software, typically running on a server, to perform accounting operations. Thus, the use of SAS and SMIBs enables any electronic gaming machine manufacture to develop a machine that includes an SAS port that can be compatible with the casinos slot accounting system—essentially enabling the casino to have machines from multiple vendors while the SMIB normalizes the slot floor.

This technological advancement has been instrumental in the electronic gaming machine industry. However, as described above, this technology has given rise to other uses by the creative minds that have developed the inventions described herein or at a minimum, has been viewed as a component in resolving novel configurations that are used to enhance the use of electronic gaming machines.

Las Vegas Gaming, Inc. is in the business of creating new and useful improvements and advancements in the electronic gaming industry. Some of the aspects of these advancements have been described in U.S. patent applications Ser. Nos. (1) 10/689,407 filed on Oct. 20, 2003 and having a title of CLOSED-LOOP SYSTEM FOR DISPLAYING PROMOTIONAL EVENTS AND GRANTING AWARDS FOR ELECTRONIC VIDEO GAMES; (2) 10/113,882 filed on Apr. 1, 2002 and having a title of INTERACTIVE VIDEO SYSTEM; (3) 11/468,946 filed on Aug. 31, 2006 and having a title of CLOSED-LOOP SYSTEM FOR PROVIDING ADDITIONAL EVENT PARTICIPATION TO ELECTRONIC VIDEO GAME CUSTOMER; and (4) 11/470,253 filed on Sep. 6, 2006 and having a title of MOBILE OPERATION OF VIDEO GAMING MACHINES, all of which are incorporated herein by reference. One of the inventive aspects disclosed in these references include the provision of paragaming activities, such as viewing sporting events, participating in other games, participating in promotional events, etc. Paragaming, as used herein, can be construed to mean a game, event, activity, advertisement, entertainment, or the like that can be made available to a user of an electronic gaming machine but which is parasitically added to or implemented on an electronic gaming machine by software of devices that are added to the electronic gaming machine and/or that operates, at least in part, independently from the underlying game of the game machine. For instance, paragaming may include payout tables or winning criteria that is different than the payout table of the underlying game, may include a different theme, and/or may even have no correlation whatsoever with the underlying game. Thus, paragaming can take on a variety of characteristics such as simply providing additional payout options that are based on the operation of the underlying game or, could be the display of entertainment content.

As described in the above-referenced documents, Las Vegas Gaming, Inc. provides paragaming by utilizing a controller unit, coined as the PortalVision Controller Unit (PCU), that interfaces to the electronic gaming machine. One aspect of the PCU is to provide and monitor the paragaming activity. One of the hurdles that are encountered when providing this capability is associated with collecting funds or providing monetary winnings associated with the paragaming activity. Upon visiting a modern day casino, the growing popularity of paragaming activity is clearly evident. Much of the push for the paragaming activity is to provide incentives for customers to stay and play. The obvious goal of a casino is to minimize the down time, or idle time for each electronic gaming machine. And as the troubadour Neil Diamond sang so poetically “money talks”. Thus, although providing grandiose entertainment to the casino patrons can help to increase playtime, there is nothing like the added excitement of a potential cash windfall. However, to provide monetary winnings, as well as charging patrons for certain paragaming activity, it is necessary to interface to the casino accounting system, as well as meet any required regulations. Thus, there is a need in the art for a technique to providing paragaming activity that can charge funds and provide monetary winnings. Further, such a technique needs to cooperatively interface with the casino's accounting system.

As one could easily imagine, running a floor full of electronic gaming machines, most of which have moving parts and are subject to drink spillage and the occasional kick or punch from a not so fortunate patron, can be quite costly. As such, casino operators are much more receptive to new ideas, such as paragaming, as long as it adds to the bottom line rather than simply raising costs. Customizing PCU's to provide paragaming activity and to interface to the casino's accounting system can easily be cost prohibitive. Thus, there is a need in the art for a technique to provide paragaming on existing electronic gaming machine platforms in a manner that does not require the costly activity of customizing the system to interface to the casino's accounting system.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention advantageously provides the ability for paragaming activity to be parasitically provided on an electronic gaming machine. In one embodiment of the invention, a cashout event is detected by a control unit. The control unit may detect the cashout event by receiving a cashout command over an SAS port or by detecting printer commands commensurate with a cashout event over a printer port, or both. The control unit effectively operates to prevent the cashout event from printing a cash voucher and instead, offers to the customer the opportunity to participate in a paragaming activity. If the customer declines, the cashout event is concluded and a voucher is printed. However, if the customer accepts the offer, the control unit parses the printer commands to identify a current balance, and if the balance is sufficient it deducts the fee associated with the paragaming event from the balance. In addition, certain paragaming events may also include payout tables and provide winnings. If the paragaming activity results in a winning event similar actions can be taken to add the winnings to the existing balance. Alternatively, other SAS or standard commands may be used to implement the payout aspect of the paragaming event. The control unit then causes a “voucher in” event to occur, followed by another cashout event. This allows the accounting system to keep a record of the event. A unique ID is associated with the transaction to facilitate tracking and reporting. The control unit then prints a transaction receipt and a cash voucher.

Another aspect of the present invention is to move funds from the control unit onto the EGM instead of printing out a cash voucher. This aspect of the invention is realized by placing the control unit between the EGM and the bill acceptor and communicating to the bill acceptor through its interface—typically a serial port. Advantageously, this aspect of the present invention not only enables the transfer of funds from the control unit to the EGM, but it also enables a variety of other features to the bill acceptor. For instance, the control unit can temporarily turn the EGM into an ATM, allow the customer to extract funds through the ATM to be loaded into the control unit, and then transfer these funds via ATM transfer using the card reader interface. The card reader is also connected to control unit so that the control unit can read cards and can do further actions for cards that the EGM would normally reject.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a typical interface of a PCU to an existing gaming machine platform.

FIG. 2 is a system block diagram illustrating a typical environment that includes an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrating the steps involved in an exemplary embodiment of the present invention wherein a paragame is provided via a standard electronic gaming machine.

FIG. 4 is a screen/presentation flow of a specific embodiment of the invention as generally described in conjunction with FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is a block diagram showing the components involved in implementing an embodiment of the present invention to detect a cashout event for a typical gaming machine.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary embodiment of the invention for providing enhanced capabilities through card reader access.

FIG. 7 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary embodiment of the invention for providing enhanced funds transfer capabilities through controlling the bill acceptor.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention, as well as features and aspects thereof, is directed towards providing paragaming activities on existing electronic gaming machine platforms in a manner that allows for the collection of funds to engage the paragaming activity and/or providing monetary winnings to customers through controlling the bill acceptor and/or the card reader elements of the EGM. One aspect of the present invention is a novel way to interface to the casino's accounting system without requiring customization of the paragaming system or altering of the existing accounting system. It should be understood that the various casinos may use different accounting systems to operate the electronic gaming machines. To build a paragaming device that interacts with the accounting systems would require the cooperation of the slot accounting software vendor to develop a software interface for the paragaming device. In general, a PortalVision Controller Unit (PCU) is connected to a single slot machine interface board (SMIB) that is used to communicate with and interface to the casino's accounting software. More specifically, this aspect of the present invention includes connecting the PCU to one of the SAS ports available on a typical electronic gaming machine (most machines includes at least two), to interrogate and obtain certain information and/or to control certain aspects of the electronic gaming machine. The other SAS port of the electronic gaming machine interfaces to an SMIB to enable communication with the casino accounting system. Similarly, in this aspect of the present invention, the PCUs interface to a server over a network, such as an Ethernet connection. The server then interfaces to a single SMIB using the SAS protocol and as such, provides an interface to the slot accounting system. Turning now to the figures, various aspects, features and embodiments of the present invention are described in more detail.

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a typical interface of a PCU to an existing gaming machine platform. Such an environment is suitable for various embodiments of the present invention although, it should be understood that the illustrated embodiment is only an example of a suitable environment and the present invention is not limited to operation within the illustrated environment. The environment includes an electronic gaming machine (EGM) 100 which is typically an approved and regulated machine. The EGM 100 includes a Host System 110, an SAS controller 115, a Ticket-In/Ticket-Out (TITO) printer 120, an LCD Monitor 125; a Bill Validater 130 and a Game Board Controller 135, all interconnected through a motherboard or backplane 140. A PCU 150 interfaces to the EGM 100 and to an application server 160. The PCU 150 interfaces to the SAS Controller 115 using an SAS interface or protocol. The PCU 150 also interfaces to mother board 140, the TITO printer 120 and the Touchscreen/LCD Monitor 125. The PCU 150 interfaces with the existing video and the TITO printer 120 of the EGM 100 (such as a slot machine), and adds an application suite of additional functionalities to the existing EGM 100. PortalVision is designed to enhance the functionality, entertainment value and revenue per machine beyond the machines current capabilities.

The PCU 150 in cooperation with the Application Servers 160 effectively converts existing slot machines into dual purpose slot machines/kiosks. One of the products that incorporate this invention, or aspects of this invention is referred to by the applicant as PortalVision. The suite of applications, and the PCU 150 do not rely-on, or modify the EGM's 100 current functionality. Thus, the suite of applications is an extension and enhancement of the existing resources and video “real-estate” within the EGM 100.

For example, in one embodiment of the present invention, casino operators may be provided with the ability to:

1. Promote and sell a linked progressive Keno style game such as NEVADA NUMBERS and MILLION DOLLAR TICKET directly via an EGM 100 that is connected to an on-premise, application server 160 housing an game management system for the offered games. The EGM 100 functions as a ticket kiosk in this particular application.

2. Display a customized marketing loop of video content when the EGM 100 is idle enabling the casino operator to more effectively promote and communicate to their customers on an EGM 100 that otherwise was not being fully utilized. Such a function can be turned on and/or off as defined by the casino operator (i.e., auto “on” after “X” minutes of game idle-time, and “off” with a screen-touch or after a specific number of minutes).

3. Present TV programming (audio and video) on the EGM 100 LCD Monitor 125 (or portion thereof) with user selectable channels.

Other non-limiting examples of capabilities/features that could be providing in various embodiments of the present invention include:

1. Providing the ability to accept other wagers and transactions that otherwise would not have been possible through the EGM 100. An example of this additional wager is a race and sports wager. To implement such a feature or functionality, the EGM 100 acts as a kiosk terminal interfacing into existing, approved, gaming systems in operation at the casino.

2. Providing the ability to perform direct one-to-one marketing or direct paragaming marketing. For instance, offers are based on the knowledge of a player's profile. An embodiment of the present invention captures the correlation of the player identification number with the player identity as obtained through the PTM (player tracking module). Using the player identification number, the control unit can fake out player tracking module to obtain information about his player and then, using this information can go to a proprietary player system to obtain additional information about the player.

3. Providing the purchase of a live Keno game and commerce/couponing capabilities.

The PCU 150 is connected to the video display or LCD monitor 125, the TITO printer 120 and the SAS controller 115 of the EGM 100, as well as the Application Servers 160 to provide the above-described functionality. In an exemplary embodiment, the Application Servers may include a Game Management system, a Media Management System, and/or a feed of media content, such as the game provider's local television network (i.e CATV). In one embodiment, the television or other video presentation is delivered to the EGM 110 via a coaxial cable; however, it will be appreciated that other delivery mechanisms are also anticipated including various wired, optical, networked, and wireless delivery techniques, as well as streaming server to PCU and other techniques.

To further give an appreciation of the application of the present invention, three distinct capabilities, features or aspects of an environment in which various embodiments of the present invention can operate are described. By understanding these capabilities/features, the advantages associated with embodiments of the present invention can be more appreciated.

As a non-limiting example of the operation of the present invention, the provision of a paragame referred to by the applicant as SLOTTOVISION, is described as being provided through an embodiment of the present invention. In providing this paragame, the PCU 150 makes use of the input mechanism of the EGM 100, such as the video touch screen of the EGM 100 if applicable, to serve as the interface to merchandise the paragame to the customer. Activity on the user interface is presented to the Game Management System residing in the Application Server 160. The Game Management System then performs standard procedures associated with writing a ticket. For example, a ticket for NEVADA NUMBERS or a MILLION DOLLAR TICKET can be provided as though written by an approved writer station connected to a Game Management System. Additionally the PCU 150 makes use of the existing printer attached to the EGM 100 to produce a valid ticket receipt that contains all information required by Minimum Internal Control Standards. Beyond the normal approved validation and logging process typically provided by a writing station for a NEVADA NUMBERS and MILLION DOLLAR TICKET transaction, the PCU 150 also connects to the game provider's existing Slot Accounting System with its own unique asset number to properly account for transactions.

As another non-limiting example, embodiments of the present invention may provide a paragaming function referred to by the applicants as ADVISION. An example of ADVISION is the provision of advertising or other content to an otherwise utilized display device (such as a television in a restaurant or a video gaming machine, etc.) In providing this feature, the PCU 150 interfaces to the EGM 100 display to present advertisements, information, messaging, and promotions to viewers in either a player-selected, or “screensaver” mode. This presentation can be completely “client-specific”, or in other words, can be controlled by the display device operator (i.e., casino operator). The content can be still-frames, animations, full-motion videos or a combination of two or more of these. This feature can permit complete control over the content as to display times, campaign start/stop dates, display schedules, and background media management functionality. Both player-selected and screensaver modes are interrupted by a screen-touch, game initiation (game buttons), or cash-in events to restore the EGM100 to the appropriate state. For example, the PCU could used to provide the home page for an EGM. Players then would have a choice of going to paragames or base game versus blending of the two up front.

Yet another non-limiting example of the operation of the present invention is the provision of what the applicant refers to as PORTALVISION TV on an EGM incorporating the present invention. When this paragaming feature is enabled (i.e. when selected by the player or otherwise enabled) this embodiment of the invention presents audio and/or video from a tuned TV station or from some other video source. The player or viewer is able to control the content being viewed by changing or selecting a channel, adjusting the volume and/or disabling the viewing. The display can be positioned and/or re-sized by the player so that it doesn't interfere with underlying game they are playing. With coax feed, the full range of “in-house”, client site channels are available. Other delivery feeds may restrict the viewable content to a client-selected “band” of channels.

More specifically, the PCU can be an advanced multi-media device and in a general embodiment, can interconnect with multiple video sources, such as a CATV network, through a variety of video inputs and formats, multiple data sources through a variety of data lines and multiple application servers typically attached to a LAN via an Ethernet connection or wireless encrypted 802.11b/g standards. The sources, media types and channel choices available can be based on the players profile. For some anticipated embodiments, although not necessarily required for all embodiments, the PCU connects to the EGM through one or more functional connections including:

(a) the video monitor or display

(b) the printer, such as the ticket-in/ticket-out printer

(c) the SAS port

(d) the touch screen

(e) the bill acceptor and

(f) the card reader

The application servers provide the management of the specific application being performed on the EGM through the PCU. The application server 160 illustrated in FIG. 1 may include a Game Management System and/or a Media Management System. It should be appreciated that other applications may also be included. Video content, such as TV programming can be delivered to the PCU through a coax connection or through other interfaces, such as through a LAN or wireless network. Although the present invention can incorporate a variety of embodiments and interface to a variety of application servers, some of the typically anticipated applications are further described as a non-limiting example of the operation of the present invention.

In general, games such as keno games, lotteries, race and sports and progressive games have a Game Management System that can be interfaced to through a writer station to order and pay for participation tickets. In embodiments of the present invention, the Game Management Server enables the PCU to connect to a Game Management system as if it were a standard writer station on the network. As such, the PCU enables slot machines to deliver self-service transactions for a variety of games, such as NEVADA NUMBERS, MILLION DOLLAR TICKET or other such games. In one embodiment, the PCU interface uses a custom socket-based protocol over a TCP/IP network to send, receive and acknowledge messages regarding NEVADA NUMBERS, MILLION DOLLAR TICKET or other game receipts. For security, all messages can be encrypted and authenticated using AES 256. The PCU, through the Game Management System, connects to a central system at each location the Game Management System for the NEVADA NUMBERS, MILLION DOLLAR TICKET or other game of interest that serve the games and that are housed at a physically secure location, and operates to validate and manage all transactions. The system utilized real-time authentication and authorization and precludes tickets from being issued if there is no connectivity.

The Media Management (also referred to as the Media Management and Entertainment Server Application) enables the PCU to provide media and marketing content to the electronic gaming machines. Utilizing this aspect of the present invention, the owner or operator of the electronic gaming machines can more effectively market and promote to their customers. The Media Management application enables operators to schedule unique loops of content, whereby the content can be programmed to play for a specific duration of time (e.g. 30 seconds), during a specific period of time (e.g., from start date to end date), or for specific times, days and weeks (e.g., M, T and Th from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. In one embodiment, the PCU interface uses a custom socket-based protocol over a TCP/IP network to send, receive and acknowledge media content and playlist instructions.

FIG. 2 is a system block diagram illustrating a typical environment that includes an embodiment of the present invention. The illustrated embodiment of the present invention includes a PortalVision Server 210 that communicates with other subsystems or components over a network connection 212. The other components may include, but are not limited to, a Game Management System 214, a Media Management System 216, a Slot Accounting System (SAS) 218, a Validation/Redemption Server 220 and a Race/Sports Book Server 222. Each of these components is interconnected with the PortalVision Server 210 over the network 212. In addition, a bank of electronic gaming machines 100a-f is communicably coupled to the network 212 with one or more of the electronic gaming machines 100a-f being connected to a network through a PortalVision Controller 150a-f respectively. Each electronic gaming machine and PortalVision Controller pair typical resembles the configuration illustrated in FIG. 1.

The bank of electronic gaming machines is shown as being connected to the network through a CAT-5, CAT-6, a secure wireless connection or some other technique. The PortalVision Controller 210 is protected from external communication through a firewall 224 connected to a router 226. The PortalVision Controller 210, or more specifically the Game Management System 214 connects to one or more game servers (two game servers 252 and 254 are illustrated in this exemplary embodiment) through a VPN 260 or other private network. In general, within a casino environment, servers are protected by industry-standard hardware or host-based firewalls to prevent unauthorized network traffic from affecting system components. In addition, in the illustrated embodiment, a firewall 258 is also placed between the frame relay and or VPN/dial-up connection that connects to the game servers. Communication with the game servers is routed through router 256 and can be conducted by HTTP/SSL over a VPN connection. Data may be encrypted and authenticated using industry-standard SSL communications over a VPN connection.

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrating the steps involved in an exemplary embodiment of the present invention wherein a paragame is provided via a standard electronic gaming machine. In general, a PCU associated with an EGM detects the occurrence of a triggering event, such as a cashout event, and then proceeds to offer participation in a paragaming event to the customer. More specifically, in the illustrated embodiment, the PCU detects the occurrence of a cashout event 302. It should be noted that other events could be used to trigger the offer of paragaming participation and the cashout event is simply one, non-limiting example of an event. Other non-limiting examples may include adding additional money to the EGM, a threshold increase in the EGM balance due to one or more wins, a threshold period of time for playing, a threshold period of idle time, a random time-out, a periodic time-out, etc. Once a trigger event is detected, normal operation of the EGM is suspended 304. In the illustrated embodiment, the cashout process would be interrupted. The player or customer is then prompted or provided an offer to participate in a paragaming event 306. The offer and/or the available paragame(s) can be selected based on the user profile upon cash out. If the customer declines to participate in the paragaming event 308, the normal EGM activity is resumed. In the illustrated example, the normal operation would then proceed with a cashout of the current balance in the EGM by printing a cash voucher or other cashout vehicle 310.

However, if the player elects to participate in the paragaming event 308, the customer is presented with options pertaining to the paragaming event 312. This step can vary greatly depending on the particular embodiment of the invention. For instance, if the paragaming activity is a progressive lottery, the customer may select the number of desired tickets and select the particular numbers for each ticket or have the Game Management System 214 select a quick pick option through the appropriate game server. In an advertising or couponing paragaming scenario, the customer may be presented with the option to purchase a meal voucher, purchase a product, etc. If the paragaming event is the provision of media content, the customer may be presented with the option to view the media for a select period of time or otherwise. In any event, the selected options are received 314 and the option selection process either ends automatically upon the last selection or proactively by the customer selecting a purchase button. At this point, the transaction is validated 316 and transaction receipt is printed 318. The cash balance in the EGM is reduced by the purchase or participation price 320. Normal operation of the EGM then resumes and, in the illustrated example, a cashout of the current balance in the EGM is performed by printing a cash voucher or other cashout vehicle 310.

In a more specific example, this embodiment of the invention may be utilized to provide a slot machine customer with the opportunity to participate in a paragame, such as NEVADA NUMBERS upon the occurrence of a cashout event. When the cashout process is initiated, instead of the slot machine immediately producing a cash voucher, the PortalVision platform temporarily suspends the slot machine, and prompts the player if they would like to purchase a chance at the upcoming NEVADA NUMBERS drawing. If the player is not interested in making such a wager, then the normal cashout process takes place where a cash voucher for the funds is validated through the slot accounting system. If the player is interested in purchasing a NEVADA NUMBERS ticket, then the customer is presented with the option to select their own numbers or have the Game Management System generate a quick pick ticket. Once the numbers are selected or the quick pick option is selected, the customer can proceed with the transaction by pressing the “Proceed With Purchase” button. Once the system receives the customer's acknowledgement the transaction is validated via LVGI's Optima Game Management System a receipt is printed from the standard printer attached to the slot machine. The PortalVision system then deducts the appropriate amount from the slot machine's account balance to cover the cost of the Nevada Numbers transaction. Lastly, the customer receives a cash voucher for the remaining balance.

FIG. 4 is a screen/presentation flow of a specific embodiment of the invention as generally described in conjunction with FIG. 3. Screen 402 is presented to the customer upon the detection or occurrence of the triggering event 302 (i.e., a request to cashout). Screen 402 provides current jackpot status information for the Nevada Numbers lottery game, presents the rules and cost to participate 304 and then invites the customer to play 306. Screen 404 presents a user interface to entering options pertaining to the paragaming event 312. In this example, the options allow the customer to select five numbers from the available 80 numbers or to request a quick pick. Once the customer is completed 314, the customer can select the “proceed with purchase” button to continue or may cancel out of the transaction. If the customer selects to proceed with the purchase, screen 406 is presented to notify the customer that the transaction has been validated 316 and that the receipt/ticket 408 is being printed 318. Finally, the cash voucher 410, with a balance reduced by any fees associated with the purchase of the NEVADA NUMBERS ticket 408, is also printed out for the customer as the normal operation of the EGM resumes 310.

FIG. 5 is a block diagram showing the components involved in implementing an embodiment of the present invention to detect a cashout event for a typical gaming machine. One aspect of the present invention is to non-invasively provide the paragaming functionality in a parasitic manner by detecting the occurrence of a cashout event, temporarily taking over operation of the user interface of the EGM, providing the paragaming event to the customer and then conducting all accounting functions necessary to extract payment for the paragaming event participation. Each PCU connects to the Game Management System with a unique station ID. All transactions that occur, via the PortalVision implementation, are tracked via the Game Management system in an identical manner in which regular Keno and NEVADA NUMBERS tickets are written via a writer station. Additionally, each PCU connects to the casino's slot accounting system and is recognized/enrolled as a unique asset number in order to properly record validation and redemption requests made by the PCU.

The process is initiated by the EGM 502 upon notifying the host slot accounting system 520 via the SMIB 525 that a cashout ticket is being requested. The PCU 510 operates to detect this event in one or both of two ways. First of all, the EGM 502 may send a cashout ticket printing command (command 0x3D) on the primary SAS 504 and secondary SAS 506 ports. This command can be detected by the PCU 510. Secondly, the EGM 502 will initiate printer activity by sending printer commands over the printer port 508. The PCU 510 can detect and intercept these commands as it sits between the EGM 502 and the printer 530. Upon detection of the printer activity and or the cashout command, the provision of the paragaming activity is initiated.

In operation, the PCU 150 captures the printer message on the printer port 508 before the ticket begins to print. If the customer elects to pass on participation in the paragame, the PCU 150 then passes the printer message on to the printer. However, if the customer elects to participate in the paragame (i.e., to make a purchase) the data intended to be printed onto the ticket is then parsed to identify an asset number, a validation number, a date and a time. This information is then sent via the Ethernet connection to the Validation Redemption Server (VRED) 220. If the captured ticket is not a cashout ticket, or if the VRED 220 is not connected or otherwise not able to process redemptions, the PCU 150 continues to pass the ticket printing information directly to the printer for a normal cashout process.

Using the information extracted from the ticket printing commands, the VRED 220 acts as a Electronic Gaming Machine (EGM) and redeems the full value of the ticket from the Host Accounting System 520 through a second SMIB board 526 connected between the VRED 220 and the Host Accounting System 520. The VRED 220 is considered another EGM to the Host Accounting System 520. The second SMIB 526 associated with the VRED 220 is enrolled to the Host Accounting System 520 with an asset number like any other EGM. As such, the VRED 220 is tracked monetarily like any other EGM.

It should be appreciated that the system configuration described herein may also be employed to provide a variety of other capabilities. In fact, applications can be provided to the EGM by assigning a unique transaction ID for the application and then using one unique SMIB for each unique transaction ID. For instance, a transaction ID could be assigned for Races, and one for Sports and then an SMIB would be used to provide access for these applications into the system. Further, this can be broken down more granularly by assigning a unique ID and using a dedicated SMIB for individual sports (i.e., football, baseball, boxing, etc) and aggregate based on EGM fakes.

It should be appreciated that in an exemplary embodiment, the PCU 150 does not present the paragaming interface until the VRED 220 has successfully redeemed the original cashout ticket or an equivalent event has been completed. For instance, the PCU 150 could obtain the necessary information from the SAS, or some other network accounting protocol, to poll the EGM to identify or verify the money that presently exists on the meter. Thus, the PCU 150 needs to know how much money is available for waging on the paragame. After the PCU 150 receives the placement of a wager, the PCU 150 then instructs the VRED 220 regarding the remaining balance. After the VRED 220 has redeemed the full value of the ticket issued by the EGM, the VRED 220 subtracts the amount required to make a purchase and validates a ticket with the Host Accounting System for the remaining amount of money. The VRED 220 then performs the cashout function by sending modified printer commands to the PCU 150 for delivery to the printer and for printing a cashout ticket.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary embodiment of the invention for providing enhanced capabilities through card reader access. This aspect of the present invention allows the PCU to provide additional functions not normally available to the EGM. For instance, if a card is entered into the card reader 610, the EGM 110 would examine the card to determine if it is valid. If the card is not valid, the PCU 150 may then examine the card to determine if a special feature is to be provided. An example of one such feature would be for the PCU 150 to detect that the card is a credit card and then invoke the proper clearing house systems to extract funds on behalf of the player. Similarly, the card may be identified as an ATM card and the PCU 150 could then operate as an ATM machine. In essence, embodiments of the present invention could be configured to provide any service desired related to the reading of a card in the card reader 610. This aspect of the present invention enables the PCU to ID players and then associate game play etc. with that player to be able to direct CASHOUT propositions, advertisements, games, screen format, etc. based on additional user profile information stored in the Other Player Tracking System 640. In operation, the PTM obtains the identification being used by the player and accesses the player tracking system 630 through an EGM fake through the SMIB to obtain the identification of the player. Next, the PTM can use this information to access the other player tracking system 640 to obtain more information and then direct the operation based on this information. For example, the following steps may be included in such a process:

Player inserts card

SMIB Sends inquiry for player data

System responds with Current player Data

Session play tracked locally

Player record updated with session data by SMIB by card removal

It should also be noted that if the paragaming event includes payout capabilities, that the balance in the Host Accounting System may also be increased by any winnings earned in the paragaming event. FIG. 7 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary system that would enable the transfer of funds obtained or won through a paragaming application to the customer via various means. The connection between the EGM 100 and the bill acceptor 710 is broken and the PCU 150 interfaces to the billing acceptor 710 instead. In operation, if a paragame results in a monetary win for the customer, the PCU 150 can execute the bill acceptor 710 to fake a cash-in event and thus, increase the credit in the machine. Thus, this aspect of the present invention enables the PCU to move funds on to the EGM by “virtually” inserting a cash voucher into the Bill Acceptor (BA) path. In addition, it enables the PCU to read and validate vouchers from other game management systems (e.g. Optima, Race and Sports, etc.) and move funds onto the EGM.

As a non-limiting example, the application of one or more of the above-described embodiments of the present invention is described using a particular configuration. In this configuration, a slot machine is used to parasitically provide a customer with a NEVADA NUMBERS interface. As such, the following process takes place during a typical NEVADA NUMBERS transaction via a PortalVision system embodying aspects of the present invention. Once a cash-out is initiated, the game unit will log the value of the funds in the gaming machines Coin-Out meter as it normally would do (e.g. $20). The PCU then steps the customer through the selling proposition for NEVADA NUMBERS as described above. If the customer proceeds with the purchase of a NEVADA NUMBERS ticket (via the PortalVision system), then the PCU will redeem the value of this cashout onto the PCU and it is properly recorded on the casinos slot accounting software with a unique associated asset number and the ID number of the utilized EGM. The PCU will then validate with the Game Management System the transactions and return to the PCU the appropriate information in order to print a valid ticket. The PCU then deducts the cost of the NEVADA NUMBERS transaction (e.g. $2) and then validates the balance with the casino's slot accounting system using the asset ID from the SMIB connected to the VRED in order to properly print a cash-voucher equal to the remaining balance (e.g. $18). For further auditing and reporting purposes, reports are provided, in addition to standard transaction reporting, so a transaction can be identified and traced to a specific EGM and time. It should be noted that in a typical embodiment, the PCU will not allow the selling process to take place if the gaming machine returns a value upon a cash-out event that is less than the minimum transaction amount. Additionally the PCU will limit the number of NEVADA NUMBERS tickets to be purchased such that it does not exceed the amount returned from the gaming machine upon a cash-out event and/or the maximum number of multi-race tickets allowed. However, in other embodiments, it will be appreciated that the customers credit card can be used to pay the remaining balance of any request tickets or, the customer could be prompted to enter additional money into the machine.

Thus, advantageously, the present invention allows the provision of paragaming activity by connecting to a single SMIB, or multiple SMIBs in some embodiments for each desired level of control and accounting, in the back office to interact with the Host Accounting System without the need for cooperation from the slot accounting software vendor to develop a software interface to the Host Accounting System software. The Host Accounting System interprets the PCU as just another electronic gaming machine on the network. On most electronic gaming machines there are at least two SAS ports. The PCU in various embodiments of the present invention connects to one of the SAS ports to interrogate and obtain certain information and control certain aspects of gaming machine as described above. The other SAS port connects to the SMIB in the slot machine. These connections are typically IEEE 485. All of the PCUs connect to a single SMIB, typically located in the back office, via Ethernet to the VRED 220. Then a serial port on the VRED 220 is connected to the Host Accounting System. Another advantage of the present invention is that if the full command set of the SAS is not available or the implemented version is not compatible, the present invention can still operate to conduct Electronic Funds Transfers and Advanced Funds Transfer without having to rely on the specific SAS commands designed to provide these functions. Rather, as long as the SAS provides the Ticket In Ticket Out (TITO) function, the present invention can accomplish the funds transfer. However, for systems that actually do implement the applicable SAS functions, embodiments of the present invention may utilize those command sets to provide the paragaming activity.

The VRED looks like another electronic gaming machine (EGM) to the Host Accounting System. The VRED reports metered coin in, metered voucher dropped, and total drop to the Host Accouting System. The PortalVision system does not need to accept money directly from a bill acceptor; however, in some embodiments the system may be enabled to accept such payments. All money transferred can come from vouchers captured from the EGM printer, therefore the EGM soft count is not affected. In a voucher based embodiment, at the time of cash out, the customer receives a receipt. This receipt can then go to cashier or back into machine. At the end of day, the casino knows the number of vouchers given out, so all money-in matches data received. When a paragame is offered and participation funds are extracted from the EGM, this would result in a disparity in accounting at the end of the day. Thus, embodiments of the present invention may employ the use of a printer in server room that is tied to the VRED. When a customer pays for a paragame, the VRED causes a voucher for the cost of the paragame to be printed out on behalf of player. As a specific example, suppose a player puts $10 into a machine and plays for a few minutes. The player loses $2 in the machine and then requests a cash out. Normally, this would result in printing out of an $8 voucher. However, in the present invention, this cash out request is capture and the system offers a $2 entry fee for a paragame. If this offer is accepted, the system prints out a $2 voucher in server room. In the Host Accounting System, the VRED will show up as an EGM reporting coin in, voucher in, and voucher out. The VRED will only show profit, since it is accepting money for another entity, such as the Race and Sport Book or Keno Lounge.

Thus, embodiments of the present invention allow funds to be moved off and onto the electronic gaming machine without having to deal with different versions of the slot accounting software. In addition, because a system employing the present invention is viewed by the slot accounting system as a unique slot machine with a unique asset id, the accounting department is able to determine what the transactions were by the PCU sending up to the slot accounting system unique asset numbers for each unique transaction. As such, when a report is generated, all the results for a particular asset number can be compiled. Thus, different asset numbers can also be used to identify transactions for different paragaming activity (i.e., sports bets, keno tickets, lottery tickets, etc.).

Thus, embodiments of the present invention provide paragaming activity on an electronic gaming machine by detecting a triggering event on the electronic gaming machine. In one embodiment the triggering event may be a cashout event, however, other events are also anticipated by the present invention. In response to the triggering event, a paragaming event is presented on the screen of the electronic gaming machine and the customer is invited to participate. If the customer elects to participate, the funding of the paragaming event is subtracted from the available funds in the electronic gaming machine. The payment for the paragaming event is then reconciled with the accounting system for the electronic gaming machine. This can simply be accomplished by performing a voucher in command followed by a cashout command. As such, the activity is recorded in the accounting system for report purposes.