Title:
FUNDS TRANSFER SYSTEM AND METHOD OF USE IN GAMING ENVIRONMENT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and method for electronically transferring funds in a gaming environment is disclosed. The system includes a memory device operable to store a game value and memory device interface operable to retrieve data from, and transfer data to, said memory device. The memory device interface may be integrated into an electronic gaming machine or proximate a live table game or in a retail outlet. Monetary value may be added to the memory device by casino personnel or a kiosk. A player may then use the memory device to download credits to a gaming machine or in exchange for game chips at a live table game or to purchase goods and/or services at a retail outlet. The memory device maintains multiple accounts including a gaming account and retail account. The separate accounts have associated keys or secrets that permit the gaming machines and retail outlets to automatically select the correct account to transfer funds from and to.



Inventors:
Netley, Neil J. (Las Vegas, NV, US)
Hesskamp, Don (North Las Vegas, NV, US)
Application Number:
12/015048
Publication Date:
01/01/2009
Filing Date:
01/16/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
BUMGARNER, MELBA N
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Greenberg, Traurig (3773 HOWARD HUGHES PARKWAY, SUITE 500 NORTH, LAS VEGAS, NV, 89169, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A electronic funds transfer system comprising: a memory device configured for use with a gaming machine and memory device readers located in retail outlets, said memory device including a microchip therein for storing and tracking multiple funds accounts wherein at least a first account is dedicated to funds for gaming activities and a second account is dedicated to funds for retail activities; means for automatically selecting one of said multiple accounts from which to transfer funds based on the activity for which the memory device is being used; and means for transferring funds from the selected account to a gaming machine or a retail outlet based on the activity for which the memory device is being used.

2. The system of claim 1 further comprising one or more kiosks operable to transfer funds form one of said multiple accounts to another one of said multiple accounts.

3. The system of claim 2 wherein the one or more kiosks are further operable to add funds to said multiple accounts.

4. The system of claim 2 wherein the one or more kiosks are further operable to dispense funds from said multiple accounts.

5. The system of claim 1 wherein the memory device is configured to operate across multiple distinct casino and retail properties.

6. The system of claim 1 wherein the funds from the gaming and retail accounts may be transferred to one or more other accounts.

7. The system of claim 1 wherein said gaming and retail accounts each has a unique key associated therewith.

8. The system of claim 7 wherein said gaming account key and retail account key are identifiable to said gaming machine and retail outlet, respectively.

9. An electronic funds transfer system comprising: a memory device configured to maintain at least two separate funds accounts, wherein a first funds account corresponds to gaming activities and a second funds account corresponds to retail activities; a plurality of gaming machines configured to communicate with said memory device such that funds from said first funds account are used only relative to said gaming machines; one or more retail outlets including memory device readers configured to communicate with said memory device such that funds from said second funds account are used only relative to said retail outlets.

10. The system of claim 9 further comprising means for automatically selecting the first or second funds account based on the activity for which the memory device is being used.

11. The system of claim 9 further comprising means for transferring funds from the first or second funds account based on the activity for which the memory device is being used.

12. The system of claim 9 further comprising one or more kiosks operable to transfer funds between multiple accounts.

13. The system of claim 12 wherein the one or more kiosks are further operable to add funds to said multiple accounts.

14. The system of claim 12 wherein the one or more kiosks are further operable to dispense funds from said multiple accounts.

15. The system of claim 9 wherein the memory device is configured to operate across multiple distinct casino and retail properties.

16. The system of claim 9 wherein the funds from the first and second funds accounts may be transferred to one or more other accounts.

17. The system of claim 9 wherein said first and second funds accounts each has a unique key associated therewith.

18. The system of claim 17 wherein said keys are individually identifiable to said gaming machines and retail outlets.

19. A method of configuring an electronic funds transfer system comprising: configuring a memory device for use with a gaming machine and memory device readers located in retail outlets such that said memory device: stores and tracks multiple funds accounts wherein at least a first account is dedicated to funds for gaming activities and a second account is dedicated to funds for retail activities; automatically selects one of said multiple accounts from which to transfer funds based on the activity for which the memory device is being used; and transfers funds from the selected account to a gaming machine or a retail outlet based on the activity for which the memory device is being used.

20. The method of claim 19 further comprising configuring utilizing one or more kiosks to transfer funds form one of said multiple accounts to another one of said multiple accounts.

21. The method of claim 20 further comprising configuring the one or more kiosks to add funds to said multiple accounts.

22. The method of claim 20 further comprising configuring the one or more kiosks to dispense funds from said multiple accounts.

23. The method of claim 19 further comprising configuring the memory device to operate across multiple distinct casino and retail properties.

24. The method of claim 19 further comprising configuring the memory device to permit the funds from the gaming and retail accounts to be transferred to one or more other accounts.

25. The method of claim 19 further comprising associating a unique key with each of said gaming and retail accounts.

26. The method of claim 19 further comprising configuring said memory device such that said gaming account key and retail account key are identifiable to said gaming machine and retail outlet, respectively.

27. A method of operating an electronic funds transfer system in a casino environment comprising: issuing memory devices configured for use with a gaming machine and memory device readers located in retail outlets wherein said memory devices include microchips programmed to store and track multiple funds accounts wherein at least a first account is dedicated to funds for gaming activities and a second account is dedicated to funds for retail activities; and configuring gaming machines and retail outlet readers to accept said memory devices as means of payment wherein said gaming machines and retail outlet readers are operable to automatically select one of said multiple accounts from which to transfer funds based on the activity for which the memory device is being used.

28. A gaming machine comprising: a processor; display; user interface; and means for attachment of a memory device configured to transfer funds to the gaming machine.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 11/824,337 filed Jun. 28, 2007.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The embodiments of the present invention relate to an electronic transfer of funds system implemented in a gaming environment. With such a system and method, casino customers are able to purchase credits from a casino cashier or kiosk and then proceed to play the purchased credits at electronic gaming machines (e.g., slot machines) or live table games within the casino or other commonly owned casinos.

BACKGROUND

In today's casino market the most popular means of transferring funds between electronic gaming machines is via the use of paper tickets. Such tickets have turned gaming into a generally cashless endeavor. In one exemplary situation, a player approaches an electronic gaming machine (or device), inserts cash and proceeds to play the game. When the player is ready to leave the machine, the player simply presses the ‘cash out’ button and the machine prints a ticket for the remaining credit on the game. The ticket may then be cashed in at a cashier or kiosk, or inserted into another machine, read and redeemed as machine credits.

The current ticket system suffers from several problems including 1) the requirement for a significant background accounting system to authenticate the transactions and maintain security; and 2) the system is expensive to use. Casinos in Nevada have disclosed that the cost of such a system runs as much as $3.00 per ticket. In addition, the ticket printers (one per machine) cost about $600.00 each and frequently break down.

Thus, there is a need for a cost-effective system that eliminates tickets and ticket printers in the gaming environment.

SUMMARY

Accordingly, a first embodiment of the present invention is a gaming system comprising: a plurality of electronic gaming machines; a memory device including a microchip therein for storing a value amount; a memory device interface integrated into each of the gaming machines wherein said interface is positioned to contact the memory device upon engagement with the memory device; and means for crediting said gaming machines an amount equivalent to a memory device value amount in response to the memory device being engaged with said memory device interface, and crediting the memory device with a credit amount on said gaming machine in response to a game session being terminated by a player.

A first method of the present invention comprises: providing a plurality of electronic gaming machines in communication with a central computer system wherein each gaming machine has a memory device interface integrated therein such that said memory device interface is positioned to receive and engage a memory device having a microchip; crediting said gaming machines an amount equivalent to a memory device value amount in response to the memory device being engaged with said memory device interface; and crediting the memory device with a credit amount on said gaming machine in response to a player terminating a game session.

An alternative system embodiment of the present invention comprises: configuring a memory device for use with a gaming machine and memory device readers located in retail outlets such that said memory device: stores and tracks multiple funds accounts wherein at least a first account is dedicated to funds for gaming activities and a second account is dedicated to funds for retail activities; automatically selects one of said multiple accounts from which to transfer funds based on the activity for which the memory device is being used; and transfers funds from the selected account to a gaming machine or a retail outlet based on the activity for which the memory device is being used.

An alternative method embodiment of configuring an electronic funds transfer system comprises: configuring a memory device for use with a gaming machine and memory device readers located in retail outlets such that a microchip integrated in said memory device stores and tracks multiple funds accounts wherein at least a first account is dedicated to funds for gaming activities and a second account is dedicated to funds for retail activities; automatically selecting one of said multiple accounts from which to transfer funds based on the activity for which the memory device is being used; and transferring funds from the selected account to a gaming machine or a retail outlet based on the activity for which the memory device is being used.

The system and method of use described herein allows a player to electronically transfer funds to and from a gaming machine or live table game via a small memory device (e.g., iButton®). A corresponding memory device interface (i.e., reader) integrated on the machine or proximate the live table game location facilitates the electronic transfer of funds.

Other variations, embodiments and features of the present invention will become evident from the following detailed description, drawings and claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a block diagram of one system embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 2a and 2b illustrate an exemplary memory device in a closed and open position, respectively, for facilitating the embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 3a and 3b illustrate a memory device contained within a carrying unit;

FIG. 4 illustrates a memory device interface integrated on an electronic gaming machine;

FIG. 5 illustrates a memory device interface separated from the electronic gaming machine;

FIG. 6 illustrates a memory device engaged with a memory device interface;

FIG. 7 illustrates a flow chart detailing one method of using the memory device to facilitate an electronic funds transfer system according to the embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 8 illustrates a block diagram of an alternative system embodiment of the present invention with multiple accounts; and

FIG. 9 illustrates a flow chart detailing one operation of the alternative embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

For the purposes of promoting an understanding of the principles in accordance with the embodiments of the present invention, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated in the drawings and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Any alterations and further modifications of the inventive feature illustrated herein, and any additional applications of the principles of the invention as illustrated herein, which would normally occur to one skilled in the relevant art and having possession of this disclosure, are to be considered within the scope of the invention claimed.

The operation of electronic gaming machines (e.g., slot machines) is controlled by microprocessors which communicate with internal memory devices and the external features of the machines. The microprocessors also incorporate, or communicate with, a random number generator which ensures the randomness of the machines' outcomes. Since the technology for operating and controlling electronic gaming machines is well-known to those skilled in the art, the subtle details are not described herein.

Like electronic gaming machines, player tracking systems are well-known in the art. Such systems track the play of registered players. Players identify themselves to the casino using player or slot cards which can be inserted into, and read by, electronic gaming machines. Upon being read, a player database is accessed such that new information from the current play session can be used to update the player's database. Player cards may also be used at live table games where casino personnel swipe the card to access the player's database. Gaming information may then be entered manually or via the use of RFID systems now finding there way into casinos. Since the technology for operating and controlling player tracking systems is well-known to those skilled in the art, the subtle details are not described herein.

Reference is now made to the figures wherein like parts are referred to by like numerals throughout. FIG. 1 shows a block diagram of a gaming system generally denoted by reference numeral 100. The system 100 includes a plurality of electronic gaming machines 110-1 through 110-N and a central computer system (e.g., a server) 120. The server 120 may be running player tracking system software 121 and accounting system software 122 among other conventional casino software. Each gaming machine 110-1 through 110-N includes a memory device interface 130 integrated on the machine 110-1 through 110-N for engagement with a memory device as explained in more detail below.

FIG. 2 shows a memory device 150 in the form of a silicon microchip 151 housed in a button or similar container. Dallas Semiconductor (a subsidiary of Maxim Integrated Products located in SunnyVale, Calif.), located in Dallas, Tex., manufacturers an iButton® of the type that can be used to facilitate the embodiments of the present invention. The memory device 150 may be fabricated of stainless steel or other durable material. In this instance, the contained microchip 151 stores at least a game value associated with the memory device 150. However, as set forth below, the memory device 150 may also include personal information (e.g., name, ID number, etc.) associated with a purchaser or holder of the memory device 150. The memory devices 150 may also include unique and unalterable addresses laser etched onto the microchip. The addresses may be used as an identifier for each memory device 150. FIGS. 3a and 3b show the memory device 150 contained within a carrying case 155. An opening 156 in the carrying case 155 allows the memory device 150 to be attached to a lanyard or similar item so that it may be conveniently carried throughout a casino with minimal risk of loss.

FIG. 4 shows a memory device interface 160 integrated on an electronic gaming machine 110. The memory device interface 160 may be integrated anywhere on the gaming machine 110. The memory device interface 160 is adapted to read output from the memory device 150 and relay input to the memory device 150. The memory device interface 160 may be DS2460 and DS1963S data carriers also manufactured by Dallas Semiconductor. Associated software is also utilized to analyze data and authenticate memory devices 150. The memory device interface 160 includes a protruding pin 165 having a flat end surface 170. As shown in FIG. 6, the memory device interface 160 is sized to receive and engage the memory device 150 so that the flat end surface 170 of the memory device interface 160 contacts a data contact surface of the memory device 150. Through this contact, the memory device interface 160 is able to read output from the memory device 150 and relay input to the memory device 150 in a preprogrammed manner as described below. Power is supplied to the memory device 150 via the memory device interface 160. In one embodiment, a magnet 157 on said memory device 150 and/or memory interface device 160 maintains engagement between the memory device 150 and/or memory interface device 160. FIG. 5 shows a memory interface device 160 separated from the electronic gaming machine 110. A cable 165 connects the memory interface device 160 to one or more backend programs, like the player tracking software 121, accounting software 122 or related software. Alternatively, the cable 165 connects to a local processor at the machine level. Dedicated and/or proprietary software may also be used to manage the electronic funds transfer (EFT) system embodiments of the present invention. In one embodiment, a wireless mesh network and backend database may facilitate the EFT system.

FIG. 7 shows a flow chart 200 detailing one method embodiment of the present invention. At 205, a player acquires and loads a memory device 150 with value loaded thereon from casino personnel. A player may load the memory device 150 with any dollar amount (e.g., $25 to $1000) permitted by the casino. At 210, the player next locates an electronic gaming device 110 he or she desires to play. At 215, the player attaches the memory device 150 to a memory device interface 160 integrated in the electronic gaming device 110. At 220, the authenticity of the memory device 150 is verified by backend software in communication with the memory device interface 160 and/or machine processor and/or central server 120. At 225, upon verification of the authenticity of the memory device 150, the dollar amount stored on the memory device 150 is transferred to the electronic gaming machine 110 and displayed in the form of game credits on a machine credit meter. Optionally, in addition, a player database is accessed. Alternatively, the player database is only accessed in response to a player of slot card or similar device being read by the gaming machine 110. Authenticating and/or verifying the memory device 150 may comprise a correspondence of the memory device's unique identifier number mentioned above. For example, the authentication may involve a 64-bit Authentication Secret known to the memory device 150. The 64-bit Authentication Secret may be derived from the unique identifier and a master secret. Authentication may also involve a 24-bit Challenge value sent to the memory device 150 prior to the authentication of the data in the memory device 150. The 24-bit Challenge value is randomly generated at the start of each transaction and changes for each transaction. Other authentication and verification schemes and/or systems may be used as well. A game session then transpires at 230. In response to the player electing to cash out (e.g., pressing the machine's cash out button or cash out icon on a touch screen), it is determined, at 235, whether the memory device 150 remains engaged to the memory interface device 160. If so, at 240, existing machine credits are transferred or downloaded to the memory device 150. If not, at 245 a visual and/or audio message instructing the player to re-engage or re-attach the memory device 150 is sent to the gaming machine 110. At 240, in response to the reattachment of the memory device 150, the existing machine credits are transferred to the memory device 150. Optionally, at 250, simultaneously with the transfer or download of the existing credits, information regarding the gaming session is downloaded into the players database accessed at 225. A player may then move to another gaming machine 110 and attach the memory device 150 to begin play or may proceed to a cashier or kiosk to collect any monies stored on the memory device 150.

While the description herein focuses on electronic gaming machines 110, the EFT system according to the embodiments of the present invention may also be utilized at live table games. In such an embodiment, each gaming table has a memory device interface 160 linked to a dealer monitor proximate the table. The monitor may be a dummy or smart device. As a dummy device, the processing power may be supplied by a central server or similar device. In one embodiment, there maybe 7 or 8 memory device interfaces 160 corresponding to each player location at the table. Dealer monitors are commonly used with player card readers to track play at live table games based on pit boss input or RFID chip input. With the embodiments of the present invention, as a player approaches a live table game he or she takes a seat and hands the memory device 160 to the dealer who attaches it to the single memory device interface 160 (or the one memory device interface 160 corresponding to the player's seat location) to obtain a game value associated therewith. Once the game value is determined, the dealer provides the player with a desired value of game chips. If the value of the game chips is less than the full value stored on the memory device 150, the dealer uses a monitor interface to deduct only a portion of the value thereby leaving the remaining value balance on the memory device 160. If only one memory device interface 160 is used, the memory device 150 is then returned to the player until the game session ends. If memory device interfaces 160 are available for each player location, the dealer maintains the memory device 150 attached to the corresponding memory device interface 160. Once the player is ready to leave, the player may simply leave with any remaining chips and the memory device 150 or “cash in” whereby the dealer adds the player's chip value to the player's memory device 150 in exchange for the player's chips.

In another embodiment, player credits are stored on the system 100. For example, player credits may be stored on the server 120 in a player account. The player account may be the player tracking account or another designated account. In this embodiment, the memory device 150 is used as an identifier at a machine 110 or gaming table. In such an embodiment, the player first deposits cash or similar value with the casino. The casino then causes the player account, maintained by the server 120, to be credited the amount of the deposit. Then, when the player desires to play a machine 110 or a live game of chance, the player uses the memory device as an identification tool for access to the stored credits. In a machine example, once the identification of the player is verified and authenticated, the stored credits or a portion of the stored credits are transferred to the machine for play. Once the gaming session ends, any machine credits are either stored on the system 100 for later use or may be cashed out by the player. In a live game of chance example, once the identification of the player is verified and authenticated by the dealer, the player may request a desired amount of gaming chips based on the stored credit amount. The dealer then causes the stored credit amount to be adjusted based on the gaming chips provided. After the game session ends, the player may either turn in the chips for credit to the system 100 or may retain the chips for use at another table or cash them in.

Now referring to FIG. 8, a block diagram 300 illustrates an alternative system embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, a memory device includes memory means comprising at least two separate storage areas, accounts or purses. In one embodiment, a microchip is configured with the two separate storage areas but in other embodiments, multiple microchips or similar devices may each include one or more separate storage areas. In one embodiment, the first storage area is dedicated to a gaming account and the second storage area is dedicated to a retail account. Although not limited thereto, such a separation of the accounts is ideal for the casino resort industry where casinos are now integrated in, and surrounded by, retail outlets, including shops, restaurants, movie theatres and the like.

With respect to the first storage area, the memory device works as disclosed above relative to the gaming machines 110. The difference is the memory device further manages the separate storage area directed to a retail account. The memory device is then capable of being used in the casino for transferring funds between gaming machines 110 and also retail outlets 305 for purchasing goods and services. A separate server 310 is shown linking the various retail outlets 305. It will be understood by those skilled in the art that multiple servers may be used or each retail outlet 305 may be a standalone location with no server per se but other means suitable for such a configuration. Advantageously, the separateness of the gaming and retail accounts is required in many gaming jurisdictions. In other words, in many jurisdictions gaming funds cannot be commingled with non-gaming funds in a single account for gaming purposes. Moreover, the memory device can be used across multiple participating casinos and retail properties.

Keys or secrets (as described above) are associated with the memory device, gaming machines 110 and retail outlets 305. In one embodiment, the memory device is programmed with a first key associated with the gaming account and the second key associated with the retail account. The first key and second key are unique and serve to identify the two accounts. The gaming machines 110 are configured to recognize the first key and retail outlet readers 315 are configured to recognize the second key. Alternatively, central server 120 in communication with the gaming machines 110 and server 310 in communication with the retail outlets 305 are configured to recognize the first key and second key, respectively. Based on the recognition of the correct key, funds are transferred from the correct account.

FIG. 9 shows a flow chart 400 detailing one method of utilizing the multiple account memory device 305. At 405, the memory device 305 is issued to a user. The memory device 305 includes, for example, a gaming account and retail account which may or may not be funded. If not funded, either account may be funded subsequently as set forth above. At 410, the memory device is used in conjunction with a gaming machine 110. At 415, the gaming machine 110 or central server 120 polls the memory device and, at 420, based on recognition of the key associated with the gaming account selects the gaming account. At 425, funds from the gaming account are transferred to the gaming machine. Once the funds are transferred from the gaming account, the following steps are analogous to those set forth in FIG. 7 relative to the gaming account. At 430, the memory device is used in conjunction with a retail outlet 305. At 435, a retail outlet reader 315 polls the memory device and, at 440, based on recognition of the retail account key, selects the retail account. At 445, funds from the retail account are transferred to the retail outlet 305 for payment of the desired goods and/or services.

In one embodiment, kiosks are configured to fund the memory device, transfer funds between the gaming account and the retail account and collect funds from the accounts in the form of cash in a manner similar to an ATM. Use of the multiple account memory device allows users to seamlessly move about the casino resort environment with a single memory device useful for gaming and purchasing of goods and/or services.

In any of the embodiments disclosed herein, players may also be issued passwords or other unique codes which must be provided prior to funds being transferred from the memory devices 150 or stored player accounts. In one example, players use a touchpad or touch screen on the gaming machines 110 to enter the code to verify their identity. Thus, once the memory device 150 and player identification are verified, the funds can be moved. A dealer may enter the code at the live table games. In another embodiment, players must insert their player card along with the memory device 150 so that the two can be authenticated and verified. Other means of protecting funds stored on the memory devices 150 or player accounts may also be implemented as desired by casinos and required by regulatory bodies.

Although the invention has been described in detail with reference to several embodiments, additional variations and modifications exist within the scope and spirit of the invention as described and defined in the following claims.