Title:
PLAYING CARD VAULT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A card vault for attachment to an automatic card shuffling machine, card shoe, card verifying machine and card discard rack is disclosed. The card vault facilitates a system of reducing human handling of cards thereby reducing human error and cheating. Cards may be transferred in a card vault directly from the card verifying machine to an automatic card shuffling machine. After being dealt during one or more table games, the cards are placed in a discard rack and transferred to the card vault for transport to a card verifying machine where the deck is verified. The card vault and contained cards are tracked in substantially real-time using wireless technology such as a RFID transmitter and receiver.



Inventors:
Dickinson, Kenneth R. (Las Vegas, NV, US)
Crabbe, James B. (Portland, OR, US)
Application Number:
12/131287
Publication Date:
05/28/2009
Filing Date:
06/02/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F1/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GALKA, LAWRENCE STEFAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Mark A Litman and Associates, P.A. (7001 Cahill Road, Ste. 15A, Edina, MN, 55439, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A card vault comprising: four sides and a bottom defining a space adapted to receive a plurality of playing cards; an adjustable door configured to cover and expose an opening opposite the bottom; and one or more locking mechanisms adjacent to said defined space wherein said one or more locking mechanisms are configured to removably attach said card vault to at least one of the following: an automatic card shuffling machine; a card shoe; a card verifying machine; and a card discard rack.

2. The card vault of claim 1 further comprising a tracking device on said card vault operable to allow the location and movement of the card vault to be tracked in substantially real-time.

3. The card vault of claim 1 wherein said tracking device is a RFID transmitter.

4. The card vault of claim 1 wherein the adjustable door is slidably joined to the card vault.

5. The card vault of claim 1 wherein said one or more locking mechanisms are selected from the group consisting of clips, snaps, ribs, clamps, latches, fasteners, hooks and grips.

6. The card vault of claim 1 further comprising a processor, storage device, power supply, user interface and display.

7. The card vault of claim 1 further comprising a retention and release mechanism.

8. A card vault comprising: a housing defining a space adapted to retain playing cards; closure means for accessing and closing an opening in said housing; and locking means operable to removably attach said card vault to at least one of the following: an automatic card shuffling machine; a card shoe; a card verifying machine; and a card discard rack.

9. The card vault of claim 8 further comprising a tracking device on said card vault operable to allow the location and movement of the card vault to be tracked in substantially real-time.

10. The card vault of claim 9 wherein said tracking device is a RFID transmitter.

11. The card vault of claim 8 wherein said closure means is an adjustable door slidably joined to the card vault.

12. The card vault of claim 8 wherein said locking means includes clips, snaps, ribs, clamps, latches, fasteners, hooks and grips.

13. The card vault of claim 8 further comprising a processor, storage device, power supply, user interface and display.

14. The card vault of claim 8 further comprising a retention and release mechanism.

15. A card tracking system comprising: a card vault adapted to attach to at least one of the following: an automatic card shuffling machine; a card shoe; a card verifying machine; and a card discard rack; and means for tracking a location of said card vault.

16. The system of claim 15 wherein said means for tracking a location of said card vault comprises a transmitter on said card vault and a remote receiver.

17. The system of claim 16 wherein said transmitter is a RFID transmitter.

18. The system of claim 15 further comprising means for transmitting said data to a casino management system.

19. The card vault of claim 15 further comprising a retention and release mechanism.

20. A card tracking system comprising: a card vault adapted to attach to at least one of the following: an automatic card shuffling machine; a card shoe; a card verifying machine; and a card discard rack; and means for recording data associated with said card vault.

21. The system of claim 20 wherein said means for recording data associated with said card vault comprises a processor, storage device, power supply, user interface and display.

22. The system of claim 20 further comprising means for transmitting said data to a casino management system.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/941,488 filed Jun. 1, 2007.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The embodiments of the present invention relate to a playing card vault for use in casino environments.

BACKGROUND

Card shuffling machines are well-known in the art and have been used for decades to randomly and automatically arrange playing cards. Card shoes and discard trays or racks are also well-known in the art and have been used for decades to hold cards proximate a dealer so that the cards may be dealt to players and used cards may be stored out of the way, respectively. There are also card verifying machines which are used to verify decks of cards including the rank and suit of cards forming one or more decks.

Despite the numerous electronic devices now involved with card shuffling and dealing, there are times when cards are being needlessly handled by casino personnel. Such card handling opens up opportunity for collusion between dealers and players and inadvertent mishandling of the cards.

Therefore, it would be advantageous to utilize a card holding device or vault for maintaining cards at all critical times except during the dealing process. In addition, the card vault should be universal in its ability to attach to various of the currently available card handling devices.

SUMMARY

Accordingly, a first embodiment of the present invention is a card vault comprising: four sides and a bottom defining a space adapted to receive a plurality of playing cards; an adjustable door configured to cover and expose an opening opposite the bottom; and one or more locking mechanisms adjacent to said defined space wherein said one or more locking mechanisms are configured to removably attach said card vault to at least one of the following: an automatic card shuffling machine; a card shoe; a card verifying machine; and a card discard rack. In another embodiment, the card vault includes an identification tag such as a RFID tag for tracking the location and movements of the card vault and contained cards at all times.

A card tracking system of the present invention comprises: a card vault adapted to attach to at least one of the following: an automatic card shuffling machine; a card shoe; a card verifying machine; and a card discard rack; and means for tracking a location of said card vault. Another card tracking system of the present invention comprises: a card vault adapted to attach to at least one of the following: an automatic card shuffling machine; a card shoe; a card verifying machine; and a card discard rack; and means for recording data associated with said card vault.

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 perspective view of one embodiment of a card vault of the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a side view of one embodiment of the card vault of the present invention attached to an automatic card shuffling machine;

FIG. 3 illustrates a side view of one embodiment of the card vault of the present invention attached to a card shoe;

FIG. 4 illustrates a front view of one embodiment of the card vault of the present invention attached to a card verifier;

FIG. 5 illustrates a side view of one embodiment of the card vault of the present invention attached to a discard rack; and

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.

Reference is now made to the figures wherein like parts are referred to by like numerals throughout. FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a card vault generally referred to by reference numeral 100. The rectangular card vault 100 includes two long walls 110, two short walls 120 and a bottom 130 (collectively a housing) defining a card storage space 140. An adjustable door 150 conceals the card storage space 140 and any cards therein. In one embodiment, the door 150 is slidably joined to the card vault 100 via grooves 155 along inner surfaces of the long walls 110. Universal locking mechanisms 160 are integrated on the card vault 100 adjacent to the card storage space 140. The locking mechanisms 160 may be integrated on any or all walls of the card vault 100 and may number one or more. The locking mechanisms 160 may be magnets, clips, snaps, ribs, clamps, latches, fasteners, hooks, grips or any other suitable means for attaching the card vault 100 to one or more card handling devices. As detailed below, the universal locking mechanisms 160 are used to removably attach the card vault 100 to multiple card devices, including electronic card devices. Optionally, a tracking device 170, like a RFID transmitter or tag, may be connected to the card vault 100 to allow the location of the card vault 100 to be tracked by a RFID receiver.

FIG. 2 shows the card vault 100 attached to a card shuffler 180. The locking mechanisms 160 of the card vault 100 engage a side edge 190 of the automatic card shuffling machine 180. Alternatively, locking mechanisms (not shown) adjacent to the side edge 190 of the automatic card shuffling machine 200 mate with the locking mechanisms 160 of the card vault 100. As cards are shuffled they are ejected into the attached card vault 100. The card vault is then sealed and transported to a card shoe 210 (shown in FIG. 3). The tracking device 170 can then be activated to allow the location of the card vault 100, and importantly the cards therewithin, to be tracked within a casino environment via one or more terminals, hand-held devices or similar means incorporating receivers or transceivers configured to receive signals from said tracking device 170. The received signals are then interpreted to determine a substantially real-time location of the card vault 100. Alternatively, the tracking device 170 may be activated at all times such that it intermittently sends a tracking signal to allow the location and movements of the card vault 100 and contained cards to be tracked via one or more terminals, hand-held devices or similar means.

Now referring to FIG. 3, the card vault 100 is shown attached to a card shoe 210. The universal locking mechanisms 160 of the card vault 100 engage an upper surface or edge 220 of the card shoe 210. Alternatively, locking mechanisms (not shown) adjacent to the upper surface of edge 220 of the card shoe 210 mate with the locking mechanisms 160 of the card vault 100. Cards 230 in the card vault 100 fall into the card shoe 210 as the door 150 to the card vault 100 is slid open.

FIG. 4 shows the card vault 100 attached to a card discard rack 240. The card discard rack 240 is positioned on a card table and used to deposit cards which have been played in a hand by players and a dealer. The universal locking mechanisms 160 of the card vault 100 attach to the discard rack 240 so that as cards are placed therein the cards fall directly into the card vault 100. In one embodiment, the discard rack or tray 240 rests flush on the gaming table and the card vault 100 hangs thereover. Supports (not shown) on the subject gaming table provide a place for the card vault 100 to rest. Optionally, the discards can be placed directly into the card vault 100 that is positioned on the card table. Thereafter, the card vault 100 is sealed for transport to the casino's backroom where the process is repeated or the cards are destroyed or prepared for sale. During the transport to the casino's backroom, the tracking device 170 can be activated to allow the location of the card vault 100 to be tracked. Alternatively, the tracking device 170 may be activated at all times such that it intermittently sends a tracking signal to allow the location and movements of the card vault 100 and contained cards to be tracked.

FIG. 5 shows the card vault 100 attached to a card verifying device 250 like the Deckchecker manufactured and sold by the present applicant. The Deckchecker verifies the integrity of card decks. More particularly, the Deckchecker counts the number of cards and determines the rank and suit of each card it receives. As shown, the card vault 100 is attached to a side, output portion of the card verifying device 250. So, as the cards are verified, the cards are output into the card vault 100. The card vault 100 may be attached to the card verifying device 250 after the shuffling process or after the cards have been used in play or both.

Advantageously, use of the card vault 100 limits human contact with the cards to game play thereby minimizing collusion or inadvertent mishandling of the cards. Also, with the tracking device 170 integrated on the card vault 100, the location of the cards may be tracked in substantially real-time throughout a casino environment at nearly all times. The universal locking mechanisms 160 allow a single card vault design to engage an automatic card shuffling machine, card shoe, card discard rack and card verifying machine.

In one practical example the card vault 100 is attached to the output section of the automatic card shuffling machine 180 such that cards are shuffled into the card vault 100. Shuffle data and a card vault ID, location, date and time are reported to a tracking system. Such reporting may be triggered automatically by the attachment of the card vault 100 to the card handling device. Alternatively, the reporting may be manually triggered by the casino personnel causing the attachment such as, for example, pressing a signal button on the card vault 100 or card shuffling machine 180. In such an embodiment, the card vault 100 may include a processor, storage device, power supply, user interface 101 and display 102. Casino personnel may then utilize the user interface to input or record data such as shuffle data and a card vault ID, location, date and time. The data can then be sent by a transmitter to a system receiver. The cards may be verified by a card verifier (e.g., Deckchecker) or the automatic card shuffling machine 180 may integrate such capabilities. The verifying data may also be reported to the tracking system as described above. The card vault 100 is then sealed. A seal may also incorporate a RFID tag or similar device. The shuffling and verifying of the cards takes place in a casino backroom or other designated area. The sealed card vault 100 is then transported to a designated gaming table. The movement of the sealed card vault 100 is tracked from the backroom to the gaming table. At the gaming table, the card vault 100 is unsealed and attached directly to the card shoe 210. At this time, the card vault ID is reported to the tracking system as set forth above. The same or a separate card vault is attached to the card discard rack 240. In one embodiment, the card shoe 210 includes an electronic reader for identifying the cards as they are removed from the card shoe 210. After the cards have been used to play game, they are placed into the card discard rack 240 which may also include an electronic reader for once again verifying the played cards. Once the cards from the card shoe 210 are exhausted or played to a cut card, the card vault attached to the card discard rack 240, which contains all the played cards, is removed and sealed. The card vault ID, location, date and time are reported to the tracking system as set forth above. The sealed vault holding the played cards is then returned to the backroom so the cards may again go through the cycle. If the cards are sufficiently worn, they may be destroyed or prepared for sale to casino patrons.

The tracking system may be a local area wireless network which communicates with the casino management system or other casino systems. In one embodiment, one or more user terminals having displays allow casino personnel to locate all card vaults in substantially real-time. Hand-held devices with displays may also be used to locate the card vaults. A storage device integrated into the tracking system also maintains a record of the location of each card and a corresponding time stamp. The tracking procedure may take many forms including the use of transmitters and receivers (or transceivers), RFID technology or GPS technology.

In another embodiment, the card vault 100 includes a card retention and release mechanism designed to hold the cards in the card vault 100 until the card vault 100 is connected to a card handling device (e.g., automatic card shuffling device). A card retention and release mechanism may comprise a spring-biased arm which contacts one end of the card stack contained in the card vault 100 thereby retaining the cards 230 in the card vault 100 via pressure. Upon connecting the card vault 100 to the card handling device, the spring-biased arm is released mechanically and/or electronically allowing the cards to release into the card handling device. The release may be manually or automatically triggered. Other retention and release mechanisms can be used.

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.