Title:
Method and apparatus for gaming based upon a paper ticket
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method and apparatus are provided for gaming based upon an instant-win ticket. The method and apparatus are for use with tickets of the type having a durable substrate carrying a predetermined hidden indicator indicating a prize amount, such as scratch-off lottery tickets. The apparatus includes an electronically controlled payment acceptor to automatically accept fungible payments, such as currency or tokens, from a user. An electronically controlled display, such as a slot-machine style set of rotating cylinders, is adapted to display continuously changing information to the user during game play. A controller is connected to the display and to the payment acceptor. The controller is adapted to control operation of the display and distribution of fungible prizes to a gamer, all in response to a prize amount read from the instant-win ticket. The apparatus includes a ticket-reader connected to the controller. The ticket reader is adapted to read the instant-win ticket and determine the prize amount indicated by the hidden indicator. The apparatus may be used to simulate a slot machine, with prizes determined by a paper ticket.



Inventors:
Shuster, Gary Stephen (Fresno, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/406039
Publication Date:
08/24/2006
Filing Date:
04/18/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24; G07F17/40
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
COBURN, CORBETT B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KOWERT, HOOD, MUNYON, RANKIN & GOETZEL, P.C. (Austin, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for gaming based upon an instant-win ticket, the instant-win ticket comprising a durable substrate carrying a predetermined hidden indicator indicating a prize amount, the apparatus comprising: an electronically controlled payment acceptor adapted to automatically accept fungible payments from a gamer; an electronically controlled display adapted to display continuously changing information to the gamer; a controller connected to the display and to the payment acceptor, the controller adapted to control information displayed on the display and distribution of fungible prizes to a gamer, all in response to a prize amount read from the instant-win ticket; and a ticket-reader connected to the controller, the ticket reader adapted to read the instant-win ticket and determine the prize amount indicated by the hidden indicator.

2. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a ticket dispenser adapted to dispense the instant-win ticket to the ticket reader in operative response to a deposit of payment units in the payment acceptor.

3. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the fungible payments comprise instant-win tickets, and the ticket reader is adapted to receive the instant-win tickets from the payment acceptor.

4. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the fungible prizes are selected from electronic payments, tokens, redeemable vouchers, coins, or bills of currency.

5. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a prize dispenser adapted to dispense the fungible prizes from a secure prize holder adjacent to the display, in operative response to the controller.

6. The apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the secure prize holder is a currency bin.

7. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the display comprises a plurality of cylinders imprinted with various symbols.

8. The apparatus according to claim 7, wherein the controller is adapted to control rotation of the plurality of cylinders to simulate operation of a Las-Vegas style slot machine.

9. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the ticket reader is adapted to read the instant-win ticket by removing an opaque film from the durable substrate to reveal the hidden indicator.

10. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a tone generator adapted to generate a variety of tones as directed by the controller.

11. A method for paying a prize based on a hidden indicator recorded on a gaming ticket, the method comprising the steps of: accepting payment from a user; reading a gaming ticket having a hidden indicator to determine a prize amount indicated by the hidden indicator; determining a game result based on the prize amount, the game result comprising a combination of symbols; simulating a display of a slot machine of a type that randomly selects a combination of symbols from a plurality of symbol combinations, and pays a predetermined prize indicated by the selected combination of symbols, wherein the game result is a winning combination; displaying the game result; and paying the prize amount.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising marking the gaming ticket to indicate that the prize amount has already been determined.

13. The method of claim 11, wherein the simulating step comprises spinning cylinders of a simulated Las Vegas style slot machine.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the simulating step further comprises initiating the spinning step in response to a lever pulled by the user.

15. The method of claim 11, wherein the paying step comprises releasing a plurality of coins into a hopper.

16. The method of claim 11, wherein the reading step further comprises removing an opaque film covering the hidden indicator from the gaming ticket.

17. The method of claim 11, wherein the reading step further comprises optically sensing the hidden indicator.

18. The method of claim 11, further comprising selecting the gaming ticket from a plurality of different types of gaming tickets presented as choices to the user.

19. The method of claim 11, wherein the reading step further comprises reading a plurality of gaming tickets, and calculating a cumulative sum prize amount by summing prize amounts indicated by each gaming ticket.

20. The method of claim 19, wherein the determining step further comprises determining the game result based on the cumulative sum prize amount.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §119(e) to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/325,294, filed Sep. 26, 2001, which application is specifically incorporated herein, in its entirety, by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for playing a game of chance, and more particularly, to a method and apparatus for simulating a slot-machine when playing a paper ticket game, such as a lottery.

2. Description of Related Art

The term “slot machine” is generally used herein to refer to any automatic machine designed to accept cash from a user in exchange for playing a game of chance, and to pay a prize to the user depending on the result of the game. The results of the game of chance are determined by the slot machine. The user is not able to influence the probability of winning, although some machines may provide the user with limited influence over individual game results (i.e., provide a “nudge” function) to make playing the machine more appealing. Cash may be accepted in any suitable form, including as redeemable tokens, currency or electronic credit. Similarly, prizes may be paid in any suitable form.

Las-Vegas style slot machines use spinning cylinders, flashing lights, bells or musical sounds, clinking tokens, and the like, to make playing a game of chance more engaging. Such machines are popular with gamblers the world over. Over the years, gamblers have come to expect a slot machine to typically include a pull arm for initiating a game, three or four spinning cylinders with colorful symbols, and a hopper into which winnings are deposited in the form of currency or tokens. In modern slot machines, the payout ratio of the machines can be electronically set. The outcome of each game is randomly determined, but the operator is able to determine the percentage of money deposited that will be paid out, so that over the long run, the house always wins. Most gamblers recognize that slot machine gaming is, over the long run, designed to be a losing proposition for the player. Nevertheless, many are willing to spend long hours playing slot machines in an endeavor to beat the odds. The engaging and popular design of Los-Vegas style machines deserves much of the credit for creating this willingness to play.

Many institutions, such as state governments, sell paper gaming tickets as a fund-raising technique. In particular, scratch-off lottery tickets are popular with the public, and raise modest amounts of revenue for state coffers. The use of paper tickets permits the issuer to easily control the payout ratio while allowing a large number of people dispersed over a large geographic area to play the same game. Scratch-off tickets became popular as a way to allow purchasers of the tickets to “instantly” determine the outcome of the game. This innovation has enjoyed only limited success, perhaps partially because most people quickly become bored with scratching lottery tickets, and so much the more when they understand that their chances of winning are poor. Lower ticket sales, in turn, make it more difficult for the lottery operator to cover overhead costs, and payout ratios are accordingly diminished, making the game still less appealing. Yet many people who seldom, if ever, purchase scratch-off lottery tickets are willing to spend large amounts of money playing slot machines in casinos. Such people might be willing to play paper ticket games if the style of play were more engaging and entertaining. It is desirable, therefore, to provide a method and apparatus for this purpose.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a method and apparatus for making it more interesting and entertaining to play games of chance using an instant-win (e.g., scratch-off) paper ticket. A ticket-reading machine is provided, that outwardly appears to be a slot machine, and more preferably, a Las-Vegas style slot machine. In particular, the machine includes a plurality of spinning cylinders with gaming symbols, or an electronic display that emulates spinning cylinders. The machine includes a source of lottery tickets (such as a roll of tickets). A user initiates play as if operating a slot machine, such as by inserting a token or currency, and pulling a lever. When play is initiated, the cylinders of the machine spin. The machine reads the next ticket on the roll, determines whether the ticket is a winning ticket, and if so, the amount won. If the ticket is a losing ticket, the cylinders stop spinning at a losing combination, and no prize is paid. If the ticket is a winning ticket, the cylinders stop spinning at a combination that correlates to the amount of the prize. The prize is paid, preferably in the form of currency or tokens, into a hopper, just like a traditional slot machine.

Variations on operation of the system may include playing multiple tickets at one time. For example, a user may elect to play any number of tickets that have been paid for in a single spin. In such case, the machine reads all of the indicated tickets and pays out an amount equal to the total ticket winnings.

The invention thereby provides many benefits for the operators of paper ticket games. Since the player never needs to actually see the ticket, it does not need to be visually appealing, and the cost of printing tickets may be reduced. In the alternative, the machine may be designed to read conventional scratch-off lottery tickets. In such case, the lottery operator does not need to invest in the gaming machinery, and may leave that investment decision to individual operators at the point of sale. In either case, the cost of operating the game should decrease, or at least, not increase, while the volume of tickets sold should increase. The increased volume and lower costs may permit higher payout ratios, attracting still more interest. Gamblers who enjoy playing slot machines will have less incentive to travel to a casino to do so, and will be more likely to play lottery ticket games, from which profits may be returned to the public.

A more complete understanding of the method and apparatus for gaming based on a paper ticket will be afforded to those skilled in the art, as well as a realization of additional advantages and objects thereof, by a consideration of the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment. Reference will be made to the appended sheets of drawings which will first be described briefly.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a block diagram showing elements of an exemplary apparatus according to the invention.

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of an exemplary ticket reader according to the invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an exemplary apparatus according to the invention, that is designed to simulate a Las-Vegas style slot machine.

FIG. 4 is a flow chart showing exemplary steps of a method according to the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention provides a method and apparatus for gaming based on a durable ticket, that overcomes the limitations of the prior art. In the detailed description that follows, like element numerals are used to indicate like elements appearing in one or more of the figures.

A block diagram showing elements of an gaming machine 100 according to the invention is shown in FIG. 1. Gaming machine 100 is adapted to award prizes based on a prize amount indicated by a “instant-win” ticket 118. Machine 100 may be enclosed in a console, such as in one resembling a slot machine. In the alternative, machine 100 may be arranged in any desired manner that permits interaction with a gamer and real-time play based on information printed on ticket 118. Ticket 118 may be inserted into machine 100 by a user, handled by an acceptor device 108 and read by ticket reader 106. More preferably, machine 100 contains a supply of equivalent gaming tickets 116 accessible by ticket reader 106.

It should be appreciated that instant-win ticket 118 (and tickets 116) may be any durable ticket, coupon or other token article on which a prize amount (which may be zero) is indicated by a predetermined hidden indicator, such as hidden characters 119. Thus, the ticket's prize amount is predetermined at the time the ticket is made, but no prize is awarded until the ticket is played by revealing the hidden indicator. Lottery “scratcher” tickets are an example of a type of instant-win ticket, in which the prize indicator is hidden by an opaque removable film. Other methods for hiding an indicator on a ticket or other article exist, and a machine according to the invention may be adapted for use with such articles.

Machine 100 includes a ticket reader 106 connected to a controller 102. Controller 102 is connected to a display 104 and a payment acceptor 108. It should be appreciated that the ticket reader 106 may be any suitable device for revealing the hidden indicator on ticket 118 (or tickets 116), and thereby determining the ticket prize amount. It is not necessarily limited to a device for reading a scratch-off lottery ticket. For example, it may be a device for reading coded magnetic media, on which prize amounts may be encrypted. In general, the invention is not concerned with specific mechanical, electrical, or operating details of machine 100 such as may be appropriately selected by one of ordinary skill based on the disclosure herein.

By way of example only, and not by way of limitation, a suitable ticket reader 150 for reading a scratch-off ticket is shown in FIG. 2. Ticket 160 comprises a durable layer 162, covered by an opaque film layer 164. Although the term “paper tickets is used, the invention is not limited to the use of paper tickets, and any durable material may be used. Layer 164 may be a layer of foil or other reflective material adhered to substrate 164, covering pre-imprinted characters that indicate a prize amount. Ticket 160 may be inserted into reader 150 as indicated by arrow 170, and removed as indicated by arrow 171. The ticket may be guided and driven through the machine by rollers 152. Opaque layer 164 may be removed by an abrasive wheel 154, or any other suitable method. Debris from the removed layer may be suctioned away as indicated by arrow 172. It may be advantageous to verify that the opaque layer 164 is present and undamaged before accepting the ticket as valid, to ensure that used tickets are not re-used. In the alternative, tickets may be marked with ink or punched after being used, and such marks may be checked for before accepting a ticket as valid. Sensors (not shown) may be provided for fraud detection, if desired. Characters that are revealed by removal of layer 164 are read by any suitable sensor, such as optical reader 156. The characters may be in a machine-readable format, such as bar coded. In addition, or in the alternative, the revealed characters may convey encrypted information, for greater security.

In an embodiment of the invention, a gaming ticket with no removable opaque layer may be used, because modern coding and encryption techniques may render it unnecessary for concealing prize indicators. After reading and decrypting encrypted prize indicators from a ticket, a gaming machine according to this embodiment may translate the prize indicators to a human-readable format. The translated indicators may be printed on the ticket or on a separate receipt, if it is desired to give the user a record of the gaming transaction.

Referring again to FIG. 1, machine 100 includes a device 180 for automatically accepting payment 120 from a prospective gamer. Payment 120 may be in any acceptable format, including but not limited to a token 122, coins of currency 124, a bill of currency 126, or a magnetic card 128 configured for credit or debit purchasing. Various devices for automatically receiving and handling payments of such types are well known in the art. In addition, or in the alternative, device 108 (or an adjacent separate device, not shown) may accept a gaming ticket 118 for play in the machine, and pass it to ticket reader 106. However, it should generally be preferable to not accept tickets from users and draw them exclusively from an internally-located source, such as ticket supply 116. This should be more convenient, more secure, and easier to implement, at least in the general case. Controller 102 may be connected to acceptor 108 to receive information about the amount of payment received, or for any other desired reason.

When payment is in the form of coins or tokens, the payment acceptor may transfer accepted coins or tokens to a prize holder 110, which may take the form of a currency bin. In the alternative, or in addition, the prize holder 110 may be stocked with prizes during servicing of machine 100. In general, any fungible prizes may be used, such as the forms of payment 120 referenced above. Coins and tokens such as used in Las-Vegas style slot machines provide the advantage of generating a clinking sound when dispensed, to help hold the interest of the gamer. Prizes are dispensed from the prize holder 110 by a prize dispenser 112, operated by controller 102. Again, many suitable prize holders and dispensers are known in the art, and any suitable design may be employed. In the alternative, or in addition to a prize holder, machine 100 may award prizes by printing and dispensing a redeemable voucher. One of ordinary skill may equip the gaming machine with any suitable printer (not shown) for this purpose.

Gaming machine 100 further comprises a display 108 for simulating a game of chance, connected to and controlled by controller 102. In an embodiment of the invention, display 108 comprises a Las Vegas-style bank of cylinders (reels) imprinted with gaming symbols. In such case, the reels may be spun in response to a gamer pushing a button or pulling on a lever arm, as traditionally done with Vegas-style machines. Movement of the reels may be controlled by a suitable motion-control technique, so that the reels are caused to stop in a position corresponding to a prize amount indicated on a corresponding gaming ticket or tickets. In the alternative, or in addition, display 108 may comprise a video or flat panel display for display of any desired simulated game of chance, wherein the outcome is determined by a prize amount indicated on ticket 118 (or tickets 116). Of course, one alternative is to simply display the amount of the prize won before paying it out. A gamer might also be given the option of crediting the amount won to another play or plays.

Users may be presented with various options for modifying the game. One option may be to wager more than the minimum amount on a given ticket. For example, a one-dollar ticket may be wagered as a ten-dollar ticket, with the prize amount multiplied. Another option may be to wager more than one ticket at a time. For example, total prizes for ten consecutive tickets may be awarded in a single play. Combinations of different types of tickets may be played together for special multiplied prizes. Some tickets may award a large number of free spins each having a predetermined probability of winning. Complex levels of prizes may be awarded that increase as more tickets are played in a machine, thereby allowing individual machines to build up large “jackpots.” Such options, and many others that may be conceived and implemented on the gaming machine, may greatly increase the excitement and potential winnings associated with “paper ticket” play.

Control of the gaming functions of machine 100—comprising simulating games of chance based on ticket values and controlling payouts—is by controller 102. Controller 102 may comprise any suitable programmable controller. It may comprise a single microprocessor, or any number of interconnected microprocessors. All control functions need not be integrated into a single “box,” to the contrary, the intelligence of machine 100 may be distributed among its components to any desired degree, without departing from the scope of the invention. It should be apparent, however, that distributed intelligent components should communicate with each other in a coordinated fashion to perform the intended functions of machine 100. For conceptual simplicity, it is convenient to refer to the central control functions as residing in a “controller,” whether single or multiple processing devices are used.

Controller 102 may be connected to a tone generator 115. Tone generator 115 may be used to play bells, chimes, musical tones, and the like during gaming play, as known in the art of gaming machines. Such sounds may engage the interest of the gamer and others in the vicinity.

Controller 102 may also be connected to a user input device 114, or any number of such input devices. On a Las Vegas style machine, one example of an input device is the pull arm that is used to initiate a spin of the reels. One such pull arm is shown as item 210 in FIG. 3. Other examples include push buttons 208 (also in FIG. 3), keypads, touch screens (not shown), or any other desired input device.

An exemplary gaming machine 200 according to the invention, designed to resemble a Las-Vegas style slot machine, is shown in FIG. 3. Machine 200 comprises a console 203 enclosing the elements of the machine. A battery of reels 204 is provided for display of game results. Movement of the reels in battery 204 is controlled by a controller 204. Game play is initiated by inserting payment in slot 212 and actuating lever arm 210 to read a selected ticket and spin the reels. Before spinning the reels, a user may select a desired type of gaming ticket from window 218, where ticket rolls 220 of different types are displayed. Selection of a ticket type may be by pressing a corresponding one of buttons 208. Spent tickets are returned to the gamer via discharge slot 214. Prizes are deposited in hopper 216. Machine 200 merely exemplifies a Las-Vegas style slot machine according to an embodiment of the invention. A gaming machine according to the invention may be constructed in any other desired style. For example, the display may be in the form of a video game, with the game of chance simulated by a video character overcoming various hazards to win prizes at different levels. When certain levels are reached, prizes are paid.

In summary of the foregoing, exemplary steps of a method 300 according to the invention are shown in FIG. 4, for paying a prize based on a hidden indicator recorded on a gaming ticket. At step 302, payment is accepted from a user. At step 304, a suitable gaming ticket is selected based on the deposited amount and any options selected by the user. The gaming ticket may be selected from a plurality of different types of gaming tickets presented as choices to the user. At step 306, the gaming ticket having a hidden indicator is read to determine a prize amount indicated by the hidden indicator. At step 308, the ticket is marked to indicate that it has been read. At step 310, simulated game play is determined as needed to achieve a game result based on the prize amount. The game result may comprise a combination of symbols. At step 312, a display of a gaming machine is simulated until the game result is achieved. In an embodiment of the invention, a machine of a type that randomly selects a combination of symbols from a plurality of symbol combinations, and pays a predetermined prize indicated by the selected combination of symbols is simulated. The predetermined game result is one of the winning combinations for the simulated machine. At the conclusion of the simulated play, the game result is displayed. If the result is a winning result, the predetermined prize is paid at step 314.

Simulated machines may include Las Vegas style slot machines. In such case, the simulating step 312 may include initiating the spinning step in response to a lever pulled by the user. In addition, the paying step 314 may comprise releasing a plurality of coins into a hopper.

In case of a scratch-off paper ticket, the reading step 306 may include removing an opaque film covering the hidden indicator from the gaming ticket. Step 306 may also include optically sensing the hidden indicator.

In an embodiment of the invention, step 306 includes reading a plurality of gaming tickets, and calculating a cumulative sum prize amount by summing a prize amount indicated by each gaming ticket. In this embodiment, determining step 310 may include determining a game result based on the cumulative sum prize amount.

Having thus described a preferred embodiment of method and apparatus for gaming based on a paper ticket, it should be apparent to those skilled in the art that certain advantages of the within system have been achieved. It should also be appreciated that various modifications, adaptations, and alternative embodiments thereof may be made within the scope and spirit of the present invention. For example, an apparatus designed to look and operate like a Las Vegas style slot machine has been illustrated, but it should be apparent that the inventive concepts described above would be equally applicable to any other type of slot machine. It should also be apparent that the invention is not limited to use with lottery scratch-off tickets or other paper forms, and that any tangible medium for carrying concealed and predetermined gaming information may be used, without departing from the scope of the invention. The invention is defined by the following claims.