Title:
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR CASHLESS GAMING
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method for providing game players with an incentive to redeem winnings using a cashless device. The method includes providing a wagering game on a gaming device to a player and allowing the player to transfer value to the gaming device. The value transferred by the player to the gaming device is recorded. A game is presented to the player and the player is allowed to place a wager and play the game. It is determined whether the result of the game is a winning event or a losing event. The recorded value is updated by adding or subtracting from the recorded value depending on whether the result of the game was a winning or losing event. The player is allowed to cash out at least a portion of the updated recorded value using a cashless device. A prize is awarded to the player if the cashout occurs during a certain time period.



Inventors:
Seelig, Jerald C. (Absecon, NJ, US)
Henshaw, Lawrence M. (Hammonton, NJ, US)
Application Number:
11/750934
Publication Date:
11/15/2007
Filing Date:
05/18/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/20
International Classes:
A63F9/24; G06F17/00; G07F17/32
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
GRAY, BRANDON RAMON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ATIP Law (RENO, NV, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for providing a player an incentive to redeem winnings using a cashless device, comprising, but not necessarily in the order shown: (A) providing a wagering game to a player; (B) allowing the player to transfer value to the wagering game; (C) recording the value transferred by the player to the wagering game; (D) presenting a game to the player; (E) allowing the player to place a wager; (F) playing the game; (G) determining whether the result of the game is a winning event or a losing event; (H) updating the recorded value by adding or subtracting from the recorded value depending on whether the result of the game was a winning or losing event; (I) allowing the player to cash out at least a portion of the updated recorded value using a cashless device; and (J) awarding a prize to the player if the cashout occurs during a first pre-determined time period.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the pre-determined time period is randomly determined.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the player is awarded the prize if an initial wager occurs during a second pre-determined time period.

4. The method of claim 1, further comprising displaying a list of possible prizes to the player.

5. The method of claim 4, further comprising allowing the player to select at least one prize from the list.

6. The method of claim 1, further comprising displaying the prize for using the cashless device to the player prior to allowing the player to cash out.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein the prize awarded can only be used on a downloadable gaming system.

8. A gaming apparatus for allowing a player to redeem winnings comprising: (A) a value acceptor and dispenser, wherein the value acceptor and dispenser is configured to accept currency or currency equivalents from the player; (B) a controller in communication with the value acceptor and dispenser, the controller configured to present the player with a game of chance and to determine whether the player has won or lost the game of chance, the controller configured to store the amount of value accepted from the player and update the value according to whether the player has won or lost the game of chance; (C) a cashless gaming system, the cashless gaming system in communication with the controller and the value acceptor and dispenser, the cashless gaming system configured to compare information from the controller to a set of predefined instructions to determine whether the player is entitled to a prize and to dispense at least a portion of the stored value to the game player.

9. The gaming apparatus of claim 8, further comprising a prize indicator, the prize indicator indicating to the player the prize to which the player may be entitled.

10. The gaming apparatus of claim 8, wherein the player is awarded the prize if an initial wager occurs during a first time period.

11. The gaming apparatus of claim 8, wherein the player is awarded the prize if the player elects to receive a cashless cashout during a second time period.

12. The gaming apparatus of claim 11, wherein the second time period is randomly determined.

13. The gaming apparatus of claim 8, further comprising displaying a list of possible prizes to the player.

14. The gaming apparatus of claim 13, further comprising allowing the player to select at least one prize from the list.

15. The gaming apparatus of claim 8, wherein the prize can only be used on a downloadable gaming system.

16. The gaming apparatus of claim 8, further comprising a plurality of gaming apparatuses that are adapted to be played by a plurality of players, wherein the cashless gaming system is adapted to award a prize to all of the players when all of the players elect to use the cashless gaming system to cash out.

17. The gaming apparatus of claim 8, further comprising a plurality of gaming apparatuses that are adapted to be played by a plurality of players, wherein the cashless gaming system is adapted to award a prize to the last player that elects to use the cashless gaming system to cash out.

18. The gaming apparatus of claim 8, further comprising a plurality of gaming apparatuses that are adapted to be played by a plurality of players, wherein the cashless gaming system is adapted to award a plurality of prizes, the awarded prize depending on when the players elect to cash out.

19. An apparatus for awarding a gaming player a prize, comprising: (A) a controller for controlling a gaming device; (B) a value acceptor and dispenser in communication with the controller, the value acceptor and dispenser configured to accept and dispense a value. (C) a cashless gaming system in communication with the controller and the value acceptor and dispenser; (D) software operable on the controller and the cashless gaming system to: (a) monitor if the gaming player selects a cashless cashout; (b) determine if the cashless cashout is associated with a prize; (c) award the prize to the gaming player.

20. The apparatus of claim 19 wherein the player is awarded the prize if an initial wager occurs during a first time period and the cashless cashout occurs during a second time period.

21. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the player is awarded the prize if the player selects the cashless cashout during a second time period.

22. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the second time period is randomly determined.

23. The apparatus of claim 19, further comprising displaying a list of possible prizes to the player.

24. The apparatus of claim 23, further comprising allowing the player to select at least one prize from the list.

25. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the prize can only be used on a downloadable gaming system.

26. The apparatus of claim 19, further comprising a plurality of gaming devices that are adapted to be played by a plurality of players, wherein the cashless gaming system is adapted to award a prize to all of the players when all of the players elect to use the cashless gaming system to cash out.

27. The apparatus of claim 19, further comprising a plurality of gaming devices that are adapted to be played by a plurality of players, wherein the cashless gaming system is adapted to award a prize to the last player that elects to use the cashless gaming system to cashout.

28. The apparatus of claim 19, further comprising a plurality of gaming devices that are adapted to be played by a plurality of players, wherein the cashless gaming system is adapted to award a plurality of prizes, the awarded prize depending on when the players elect to cashout.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a Continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/613,878, filed on Jul. 2, 2003, the contents of which are herein incorporated by reference in entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for encouraging players to use cashless gaming devices and systems.

BACKGROUND

Gaming devices, such as slot machines and video poker machines, were originally designed only to accept and dispense coins. This restriction is unsatisfactory for both players and for gaming proprietors. Players are unsatisfied because they are forced to carry around large quantities of heavy coins. Furthermore, players are unable to interchangeably use coins in machines designed for wagers of different denominations. For example, dollar tokens cannot be used in nickel machines and vice versa. Therefore, a player either has to carry around multiple denominations of coins or is forced to go to a cashier cage or casino attendant in order to change coins to a desired denomination. This inconvenience detracts from the player's gaming experience.

The restriction to coins is also unsatisfactory to gaming proprietors. Apart from providing their patrons with a sub-optimal experience, the use of coins creates added expense and inconvenience for gaming proprietors. For instance, gaming proprietors might be required to utilize additional personnel in order to conduct coin based transactions with patrons. Gaming proprietors are also forced to deal with the logistics of maintaining sufficient amounts of various coins, including an increased security risk to gaming employees and patrons from maintaining large amounts of currency on the gaming premises.

Coins also create increased maintenance costs and machine down-time. For example, when coins are used, attendants must collect excess coins from machines and must fill the coin hoppers when the machines begin to run low on coins. Coins also cause wear and tear on the internal components of the gaming machines, resulting in malfunctions and broken machines. Coins generate metallic dust that can cause the machines to break and malfunction. Coins often become jammed in the coin transport mechanisms, requiring maintenance.

The introduction of paper currency acceptors and validators addressed some of the problems discussed above. In particular, game players are able to play games of different wager amounts by inserting paper currency into the machine. Therefore, to some extent, the player is no longer required to carry around coins of different denominations.

However, other problems were not solved by paper currency acceptors. For example, even though the gaming machines might accept paper currency, they still dispense winnings in the form of coins. Once a player stops playing the game and “cashes-out” his or her winnings, the player is not be able to use the coins in machines designed for different denominations of coins or tokens. The player still has to visit a cashier cage or attendant in order to change coin types or obtain paper currency. Paper currency acceptors also have not solved the problems of filling and removing currency from the machines and maintenance resulting from wear and tear on the machines caused by the coin handling functions. In fact, the paper currency acceptor and transport mechanisms have additional items that require maintenance and service.

The introduction of non-currency methods, such as tickets, vouchers, smart cards, credit cards, and other credit based transactions (generally, “cashless methods”) has allowed many of the previously described problems to be solved, or at least mitigated. For example, when cashless methods are used, players are able to use their cashless device on machines programmed to wager any denomination.

By using cashless devices, the customer must no longer tote around coins or currency. A player's winnings or losses can be added or subtracted from the value stored in the cashless device. The customer no longer has to worry about exchanging various denominations of currency.

Cashless devices increase the security and safety of the gaming environment. Cashless devices allow the gaming proprietor to reduce the amount of currency on site, reducing the potential for criminal activity. Cashless devices can be tied to a specific person's identity, reducing the chance for theft. For example, a gaming proprietor can require a patron to provide identification before cashing out a cashless device. Similarly, if a patron reported a cashless device as lost or stolen, the gaming proprietor may cancel the missing cashless device and issue the patron a new device.

However, there are problems associated with the use of cashless devices. For example, many game players are unfamiliar with the use of cashless devices and prefer to use currency. Many players are reluctant to try cashless devices because they are not familiar with them. What has long been needed is a means for providing players with an incentive to use cashless devices so that both gaming proprietors and game players can experience the full benefits of the use of cashless devices.

In addition, it would be beneficial to provide players with an incentive to cash out cashless devices only when a player has accumulated a desired value. This would encourage players to play longer, which would benefit the gaming proprietors by increasing revenue.

SUMMARY OF ONE EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

Advantages of One or More Embodiments of the Present Invention

The various embodiments of the present invention may, but do not necessarily, achieve one or more of the following advantages:

encourage game players to use cashless devices;

discourage game players from cashing out before they have accumulated a desired value;

reduce the number of cash/cashless device transactions between game players and gaming employees, such as attendants and cashiers;

encourage game play by providing game players with an incentive to obtain a cashless device with a certain value;

reduce maintenance and servicing of gaming devices;

encourage game players to cash out using a cashless device during certain time periods;

encourage game players to start and end game play during certain time periods;

allow game players to view and select a prize for using a cashless device;

allow game players to receive a prize for electing to use a cashless device to cash out before or during a game;

provide a prize for using a cashless device with a downloadable gaming system;

encourage a group of game players to cash out using cashless devices;

require less cash on the gaming premises; and

encourage cashouts on cashless devices rather than for currency or currency equivalents.

These and other advantages may be realized by reference to the remaining portions of the specification, claims, and abstract.

Brief Description of One Embodiment of the Present Invention

The present invention provides a method for providing game players with an incentive to redeem winnings using a cashless device. The method includes providing a wagering game to a player and allowing the player to transfer value to the wagering game. The value transferred by the player to the wagering game is recorded. A game is presented to the player and the player is allowed to place a wager and play the game. It is determined whether the result of the game is a winning event or a losing event. The recorded value is updated by adding or subtracting from the recorded value depending on whether the result of the game was a winning or losing event. The player is allowed to cash out at least a portion of the updated recorded value using a cashless device. A prize is awarded to the player if the cashout occurs during a first time period.

The present invention also provides a gaming apparatus that allows a player to redeem winnings. The gaming apparatus includes a value acceptor and dispenser. The value acceptor and dispenser are configured to accept currency or currency equivalents from the player. A controller is in communication with the value acceptor and dispenser. The controller is configured to present the player with a game of chance and to determine whether the player has won or lost the game of chance. The controller is configured to store the amount of value accepted from the player and update the value according to whether the player has won or lost the game of chance. A cashless gaming system is in communication with the controller and the value acceptor and dispenser. The cashless gaming system is configured to compare information from the controller to a set of predefined instructions to determine whether the player is entitled to a prize and to dispense at least a portion of the stored value to the game player.

The above description sets forth, rather broadly, a summary of one embodiment of the present invention so that the detailed description that follows may be better understood and contributions of the present invention to the art may be better appreciated. Some of the embodiments of the present invention may not include all of the features or characteristics listed in the above summary. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described below and will form the subject matter of claims. In this respect, before explaining at least one preferred embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of the construction and to the arrangement of the components set forth in the following description or as illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is substantially a front view of a gaming apparatus for use with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is substantially a flow chart illustrating the operation of a method of an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is substantially a flow chart illustrating the operation of a method of an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is substantially a continuation of the flow chart of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is substantially a block diagram of internal components of the gaming device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is substantially a flow chart illustrating the operation of a method of another embodiment of the present invention and is a continuation of the flow chart of FIG. 3.

FIG. 7 is substantially a continuation of the flow chart of FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is substantially a continuation of the flow chart of FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is substantially a flow chart illustrating the operation of a method of an additional embodiment of the present invention

FIG. 10 is substantially a continuation of the flow chart of FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is substantially a flow chart illustrating the operation of a method of an additional embodiment of the present invention and is continuation of the flow chart of FIG. 2.

FIG. 12 is substantially a continuation of the flow chart of FIG. 11.

DESCRIPTION OF CERTAIN EMBODIMENTS OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

In the following detailed description of the embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part of this application. The drawings show, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

The present invention relates, generally, to methods of encouraging the use of cashless gaming devices, such as vouchers, coupons, tickets, stubs, certificates, memory storage devices, and cards. A cashless device is meant to be anything that can be assigned or communicate a particular value. For example, one cashless device may be a voucher. The voucher can be issued with a specific value. Preferably, the value associated with the voucher can be updated by recording (e.g., by printing) a new value on the voucher when a player chooses to cash out from a particular gaming device.

Another cashless device is a player card that can be linked to a cash or credit account, such that player's winnings or losses can be credited to or debited from the account. Preferably, the gaming device has a reader that gathers account identifying information in the card, queries a central computer or accesses a computer network, and receives information about the player's cash or credit account.

Cashless devices are capable of having a variable value. One way this can be achieved is by imprinting a unique code or identifier on the cashless device. This code could be, for example, a bar code or could be encoded on a magnetic strip, such as those used on credit cards. The identifier is associated with a database that stores information about the cashless device and a player account. The information stored can include many different things, but includes player information and a credit and/or cash account balance. Preferably, the balance stored in the database can be modified. For example, the balance may be updated when a player wins or loses credits, pays additional currency to be converted to credits, or decides to cash out all or part of the value of the cashless device.

Cashless devices can also contain, or be linked to, a player tracking system. Player tracking systems are often used by gaming proprietors to track a player's wagering habits, and to award “comps” such as room upgrades, free meals, show tickets, etc. The information recorded might include the kind of games the player has played, how often the player visits the establishment, the amount won or lost by the player, the amount of time spent playing games of chance, etc. As will be discussed below, this player tracking information (or “player characteristics”) can be used to determine when a player will be given an incentive to cash out and to determine the nature of and/or odds of receiving the incentive award.

The methods, processes, and apparatus of the present invention can be used with many different types of gaming devices, including wagering devices such as slot machines, video poker machines, and the like. One example of a suitable gaming device is the slot machine illustrated in FIG. 1.

As seen in FIG. 1, the present invention comprises a gaming apparatus, generally indicated by reference number 10. In one embodiment, gaming apparatus 10 comprises a prize display 12 and a gaming device 14. Gaming device 14 may be any of a large number of devices that are adapted to allow players to play a game, such as gaming devices typically found in arcade and casino environments, including arcade games, video games, gambling machines, video poker machines, slot machines, etc. Gaming device 14 is further adapted to allow a player to place a wager and play a game, such as a slot machine.

Gaming device 14 may include a wager acceptor for accepting wagers, such as a coin slot 16, a device such as a value acceptor and dispenser 19 that is capable of reading and/or dispensing cashless devices. Gaming device 14 may also include a device 18 for accepting paper currency. In addition, a payout mechanism (not shown) and a coin receptacle 20 may be provided for awarding prizes or for dispensing wagers to players cashing out and retiring from a game. A printer (not shown) may also be provided for printing out cashless vouchers. A handle 22 and a button 24 may be provided for activating gaming device 14 to begin a game. A pay table 26 may further be provided to allow a player to see what symbol or combination of symbols provide a winning event. In at least one embodiment, gaming device 14 may be an S Plus model gaming device manufactured by International Game Technology in Reno, Nev.

Gaming device 14 may further include a gaming outcome display 28 positioned so that a player (not shown) playing gaming device 14 can see the gaming outcome display 28. Gaming outcome display 28 may utilize physical game reels 30, 32, and 34. Game reels 30, 32, and 34 may be attached to a drive mechanism (not shown) of gaming device 14 to rotate the reels in a manner well known in the art. Each game reel 30, 32, and 34 has a plurality of symbols (not shown) positioned on the circumference of each game reel 30, 32, and 34. Game reels 30, 32, and 34 may be positioned side-by-side with coincident axes of rotation and a portion of their individual circumferences facing outward from gaming device 14.

A panel 36 may cover game reels 30, 32, and 34 such that only a portion of their individual circumferences is shown to the player. At least one symbol from any of game reels 30, 32, and 34 may be used to display a game outcome. At least one pay line 38 may be provided for the player to use in determining a game outcome based on the symbol or a combination of symbols positioned thereon. In an alternative embodiment, gaming outcome display 28 utilizes a video display (not shown) displaying images of game reels and images of at least one pay line. A video display may also display game symbols in many other formats and arrangements, such as playing cards.

Gaming apparatus 10 further has a prize display 12 configured to display at least one game and prize to a player. Prize display 12 is most often configured to display a bonus game and at least one bonus prize to the player. In other embodiments, prize display 12 may provide a primary game. Alternatively, prize display 12 may be a stand-alone device allowing a player to place a wager and play a game.

In an embodiment, prize display 12 is attached to gaming device 14 and positioned on top of gaming device 14. In other embodiments (not shown), prize display 12 may be separate from gaming device 14 but in communication with gaming device 14. In this embodiment, prize display 12 may be in communication with a plurality of different gaming devices 14 via a computer network (not shown) in a manner that is well known in the art. Prize display 12 may be positioned adjacent to or remote from gaming device 14. In other embodiments, prize display 12 is a stand-alone display not in communication with gaming device 14, and it may be capable of independently accepting wagers and awarding prizes to a player.

With reference now to FIG. 5, some of the internal components of gaming apparatus 10 are shown. Gaming apparatus 10 may have a controller 40 that can control the operation of gaming apparatus 10. Controller 40 can be a conventional computer or a microprocessor that operates with software. Controller 40 can be in communication with a cashless gaming system 42 and a cashless device such as a value acceptor and dispenser 19. Controller 40 can store the value of credits that are wagered, won and lost on gaming apparatus 10. Controller 40 may further be in communication with a server (not shown) that is in communication with several gaming apparatuses 10.

Cashless gaming system 42 may gather information from controller 40 and other sources and direct value acceptor and dispenser 19 to issue awards or prizes based on certain game player actions. Cashless gaming system 42 may direct value acceptor and dispenser 19 to issue vouchers or other value devices when a player elects to discontinue game play on gaming apparatus 10 and cashout. Cashless gaming system 42 may be programmed with software to provide incentives or awards to game players for using cashless devices to cashout from gaming devices.

Two categories of cashouts are particularly relevant to the invention. Cashouts can occur when a player obtains, removes, or modifies a cashless device from a gaming apparatus. Another type of cashout occurs when a player converts the value of a cashless device into currency or currency equivalents, such as credit on a credit card or to a bank account. For example, a player might choose to convert credits on a casino account to cash. It should be recognized that these two different types of cashouts differ in their value to the gaming operator and differ in how the operator may choose to implement them.

In general, cashouts occur where the player obtains credit or currency are less desirable for the gaming operator than cashouts where the value remains on a cashless device. Cashouts for currency or credit are likely to require more personnel to make the required credit transfer or to provide currency to the player. Also, if the player is obtaining currency or credit, the player is less likely to continue to use that value to play wagering games. Therefore, it may be desirable for the gaming operator to encourage players to wait until their cashless device reaches a set value before they cashout.

Cashouts for currency also are likely to involve more maintenance, service, inconvenience and wear and tear on machines than cashouts where the value remains on the cashless device. For example, when cashouts for currency occur at a gaming device, the currency dispensed causes wear on the machine components. As discussed above, currency dispensers also require service and maintenance. Whether a machine or cashier makes a currency cashout, the gaming operator is required to maintain greater cash reserves on the premises and consequently is likely to require more security.

As was previously discussed, many gaming machines and devices are presently designed to accept and dispense both currency and cashless devices (such as player tracking cards, smart cards, credit cards, vouchers, tickets, etc.). The present invention encourages players to cashout using cashless transactions. Preferably, the player is provided with an incentive to cashout using a cashless device when the value cashed out is above a certain threshold.

A player may be encouraged to cashout on a cashless device by providing the player an opportunity to win an award in return for using the cashless device. However, if the player is given a chance to win an award every time a cashless device is used for a cashout, the player may simply cash out small values in order to have a chance at winning a prize. The gaming operator may choose to set a threshold, or qualifying amount, of money that must be cashed-out in order to receive an award or a chance at an award. The operator could base this qualifying amount on any number of things.

For example, the operator may choose to allow a player to be awarded a prize, or a chance at a prize, merely for cashing out using a cashless device. Alternatively, the operator might choose to provide the incentive to customers who cash out winnings over a certain amount. In this embodiment, the operator could protect against players repeatedly cashing in and cashing out, without actually playing the wagering games. Similarly, the operator could tie the qualifying event to the amount wagered by the player, or the amount lost by the player.

For example, a qualifying cashout could be based, not on the exact amount cashed out, but on the amount wagered. For example, a player might insert a cashless device with a value of $500. The player might play the wagering game for an hour, place an aggregate wager of $300, and have a cashout balance of $400. The gaming operator could base the qualifying award on the $300 wagered, the $100 lost by the player, the cashout value of $400, or on a combination of these values.

A variation of this would be, in place of or in addition to correlating the qualifying event to the winnings cashed-out, to correlate the qualifying event to the amount of time spent playing a particular game of chance. The operator might choose to make a certain percentage of a cashless device's value available for a qualifying event for a particular duration of game play. For example, the operator might make 15% of the cashless device's value available for every 15 minutes of game play. In the above example, this would mean that the cashout value for award purposes would be 60% of the cashless device's value.

The qualifying events could also be subject to limitations. For example, a particular type of qualifying event could be subject to certain maximums. A particular qualifying event might be limited to a set number of times per day or per hour. These limitations could be tailored according to the value of the incentive and/or the operator's desire to provide the incentive. For example, higher value and/or higher odds awards might be subject to more stringent limitations than lower value and/or lower odds awards. Similarly, if the operator wants to provide a stronger incentive for a particular type of qualifying event, the operator might choose to impose less stringent limitations, or increase the value of the award.

Those of skill in the art will recognize that the nature of the qualifying event can be any of the above embodiments, or additional embodiments within the skill of the person of ordinary skill in the art. Combinations of qualifying events could also be used. Those of skill in the art will also recognize that multiple qualifying events could be used simultaneously, potentially with different incentives, and that the nature of the qualifying event can vary with the incentive awarded, as will be discussed infra.

The incentive provided to the player can take many forms. One incentive might be awarding a player an additional amount of currency/credit. In this embodiment, a player's decision to cashout (perhaps an amount over a threshold level) triggers a random number generator. The random number generator indicates an additional award to which the player is entitled. For example, the random number generator could determine a completely random amount of money (perhaps within a fixed range) to be added to the player's winnings. Alternatively, the amount awarded could be a random, progressive, or fixed percentage (or multiple) of the amount cashed-out. The amount awarded could be correlated to other factors, such as a player rating maintained on the player based on the player's wagering frequency and amounts (such as those currently employed by casinos for awarding comps).

In addition to being awarded additional credits or currency, a player could be awarded goods, merchandise, or services for qualifying cashouts. For example, a player might be awarded a free meal, a room upgrade, or prizes such as jewelry, vacations, automobiles, and other goods of varying value. The prize could be entry into a gaming competition, such as a slot tournament. Anything having a value may be suitable for use as a prize. The value of the good and/or service awarded could be correlated to factors such as the player's rating or the amount cashed-out.

Rather than automatically receiving some prize for qualifying cashouts, a player could be awarded a chance at being awarded a prize. The player's decision to initiate a qualifying cashout event could trigger a random number generator. The random number generator can be used to determine whether a winning event has occurred. If a winning event has occurred, the player can either be awarded a predefined prize of a predefined value, a predefined prize having a randomly determined value, a predefined prize having a value correlated to some other variable, or the player could be randomly awarded a prize having a fixed or randomly determined value.

Rather than generating a random number immediately when a player cashes-out a qualifying amount, a player could be given a chance to play another game or machine and have a chance at winning a prize. For example, when a player made a qualifying cashout, he or she could be awarded a voucher that could be used to activate a gaming device, such as a slot machine, or game wheel, that is designed to award, and perhaps dispense, additional prizes. Also, the player could be awarded free play on the gaming device the player cashed-out from as a reward for making a qualifying cashout.

As was mentioned above, those of skill in the art will recognize that the qualifying event can be tailored to the nature of the incentive. In addition, it will be recognized that multiple incentives, potentially having different qualifying events, can be used. For example, it may be beneficial to encourage all players to use cashless devices. Accordingly, the operator might provide an incentive that is available for all players for all cashouts on cashless devices. In this embodiment, the operator might choose to have the award be of relatively low value and/or relatively low odds of winning. This would tend to discourage players from engaging in repeated cashout transactions merely to obtain a prize or increase their chances of winning a prize.

For other cashout qualifying events, such as when a player has wagered a large amount or played a game for a long period of time, the operator might want to provide a greater incentive to use the cashless device. In this case the operator might want to increase the value of the incentive and/or increase the odds of obtaining the prize.

Those of skill in the art will recognize that the above described incentives and incentive trigger events can be used for both cashouts on cashless devices and for cashouts for currency. Incentives can be provided so that players are discouraged from cashing out for currency until the incentive condition has been reached. Again, the incentive condition can be any of the above described incentive conditions including, without limitation, threshold cashout amounts, wagering thresholds, and game play duration threshold.

Description of a Method of Operation of an Embodiment of the Invention

FIGS. 2-4 illustrate the operation of an embodiment of the invention. With reference to FIG. 2, a gaming device is provided to a player, who may initiate a game by inserting value into the gaming device. The player may insert value by inserting coins in step 60, inserting cash in step 68, or inserting a cashless device in step 62. If coins 60 or cash 68 are inserted, the value of the currency is added to the players gaming credits at step 70.

If a cashless device is inserted at step 62, the next step depends on whether the value of the cashless device is stored on the cashless device or card itself, or if the value is stored remotely. If decision 64 determines that the value is stored on the card, the value of the card is added to the player's game credits on the gaming device at step 70. If decision 64 determines that the value of the card is stored remotely, the gaming device requests information about the gaming device over the remote network in step 66. Once the value of the card is transmitted to the gaming device, the value is added to the player gaming credits at step 70.

After the player has been credited with credits available for play, the player is presented with a game, places a wager, and initiates the game at step 72. Optionally, the gaming device can determine if player tracking (using a player tracking system) has been started at decision 74. If player tracking has been started, or if no player tracking is enabled, the gaming device proceeds to determine a game outcome at step 78. If player tracking is enabled, and tracking has not been initiated, the gaming device may initiate tracking at step 76 before going on to determine the game's outcome at step 78.

Player tracking can be integrated with the cashless device. Player tracking may also be independent from the cashless device processes. For example, a player could swipe his or her tracking card prior to inserting a cashless device into a gaming device. The player tracking system could provide the cashless device system with any information needed to determine whether the player is entitled to an additional prize.

If the game outcome of step 78 is determined at decision 80 to be a wining event, the prize won by the player is added to the player's credits at step 82. If the game outcome is not a winning event, the amount of the wager is subtracted from the player's credits at step 84. At decision 86, the player can then either choose to play another game, in which case the player will once again be presented with a game at step 72, or can choose to cash out. If the player chooses to cash out, tracking, if enabled, is stopped at step 88 and the gaming device enters the cashout process at step 90.

The cash out process 90 is shown in detail in FIG. 3. At step 120, the player is presented with the opportunity to elect the type of cashout. In decision 122, the player may choose between obtaining a cashout for currency, usually dispensed in coins, or may choose to cashout via a cashless device. It should be noted that it is not necessary to provide the player with this choice for all embodiments of the invention. Even if the player is only allowed to cash out on a cashless device, it may still be desirable to have the player only cash out amounts over a certain value, for example.

In one embodiment, if the player chooses to cashout for currency, the cashout process takes place normally at step 124. This will be by the gaming device dispensing the appropriate number of coins. If the player has chosen to cashout via a cashless device in decision 122, the gaming device checks to see if the player is entitled to an additional award (such as those previously described).

For example, if the gaming proprietor wishes, the player can be awarded a prize, including the chance to obtain an item of value, in return for cashing out using a cashless device. If this prize is available at decision 126, the machine determines what, if any, prize the player is entitled and awards that prize in step 128. The machine then proceeds to determine if other prizes are available. If the proprietor has chosen not to award a prize merely for cashing out with a cashless device, the device may proceed to determine if the player is entitled to other awards.

The player may be provided with a prize for cashing out amounts over a certain value using a cashless device at decision 130. If this award has been enabled, the gaming device checks in decision 132 to see whether the player has cashed out an amount over a threshold amount using their cashless device. If the threshold has been met or exceeded, the player is awarded a prize in step 134, which may include a chance to receive an item of value. Once any prize has been awarded, if the threshold has not been met, or if the minimum cashout prize has not been enabled, the gaming device goes on to determine whether the player is entitled to other prizes.

The player can be awarded a prize if a threshold value has been wagered at decision 136. If this type of award is enabled, the gaming device proceeds in decision 138 to determine whether the player tracking information shows that the player has wagered at least a threshold amount. If the amount is met, the player is awarded a prize in step 140. If the amount is not met, if the award is not enabled, or once the prize, including the chance at receiving an item of value, is awarded, the game again may proceed to determine whether the player is entitled to other prizes.

With reference now to FIG. 4, the player can be awarded a prize for playing a game for a certain amount of time. Decision 160 checks to see if this prize event is available. If so, the gaming device checks the player tracking information to determine the length of time the player has been playing one or more gaming devices in decision 162. The gaming device then determines what, if any, prize the player is entitled in step 164, awards any prize in step 166, and then proceeds to determine if other prize-qualifying events are enabled. If the minimum time award is not activated in decision 160, the gaming device may proceed to determine if other prize-qualifying events are available.

The player may be awarded a prize if a minimum amount wagered has been lost on one or more gaming devices. Decision 170 checks to see if this prize-qualifying event is activated. If so, the gaming device will check in decision 172 to see if a threshold amount has been lost and then awards a prize in step 174. The prize can include a chance at receiving an item of value. If the threshold is not met, the event has not been activated, or after any prize has been awarded, the gaming device may proceed to determine whether other prize-qualifying events are available.

Those of skill in the art will recognize that the above steps can occur in a different sequence, that different steps can be included, and that certain steps can be omitted with the process still falling within the scope of the present invention.

Once the prize-qualifying events have been checked, the gaming device completes the cashout process. In decision 176, the machine may check to see whether a cashless device was used to initiate the gaming session. If not, the gaming device may check in decision 180 to see if it is to issue a cashless device, such as a voucher. If a cashless device is to be issued, the gaming device, in step 182, directs a cashless device to be generated and issued to the player. Alternatively, if a cashless device is not to be issued, the gaming device could establish a cashless account for the player in step 184 and store the value of the player's credit without issuing a cashless device to the player. For example, the player could be shown an account number and/or a personal identification number (PIN) that can be used to access the player's account.

In decision 176, if the gaming device determines that a cashless device was used to initiate the gaming session, the gaming device then determines in decision 186 whether a value is stored on the cashless device. If value is stored on the cashless device, the gaming device updates the value stored on the cashless device in step 190 and then issues the cashless device to the player in step 192.

In decision 186, if value is not stored directly on the cashless device, the gaming device updates a remotely stored value associated with the cashless device in step 188.

First Alternative Method of Operation of the Invention

With reference to FIGS. 2, 3 and 6-8, another method 200 of operating gaming apparatus 10 (FIG. 1) is shown. Steps 60-140 on FIGS. 2 and 3 are the same as previously described. With specific reference to FIG. 6, decision 160 continues from FIG. 3. Decision 160 checks to see if an award is provided for minimum time played. If so, the gaming device checks the player tracking information to determine the length of time the player has been playing one or more gaming devices in decision 162. The gaming device then determines what, if any, prize the player is entitled in step 164, awards any prize in step 166, and then proceeds to determine if other prize-qualifying events are enabled. If the minimum time award is not activated in decision 160, the gaming device may proceed to determine if other prize-qualifying events are available.

The player may be awarded a prize if a minimum amount wagered has been lost on one or more gaming devices. Decision 170 checks to see if this prize-qualifying event is activated. If so, the gaming device will check in decision 172 to see if a threshold amount has been lost and then awards a prize in step 174. The prize can include a chance at receiving an item of value. If the threshold is not met, the event has not been activated, or after any prize has been awarded, the gaming device may proceed to determine whether other prize-qualifying events are available.

The player may be awarded a prize if the player started playing a gaming device during a pre-determined or random time period. For example, a casino may desire to encourage game play during slow periods and may provide an incentive to encourage game players to use gaming devices during slow periods. Decision 202 checks to see if this prize-qualifying event is activated. If an award is not provided for starting game play during a time period, decision 202 proceeds to decision 208. If an award is enabled at step 202, the gaming device will check in decision 204 to see if game play was started or initiated during a certain time period. If game play was started during the time period, a prize is awarded in step 206. The prize can include a chance at receiving an item of value. If game play was not started during the time period, decision 204 proceeds to decision 208.

The player may be awarded a prize if the player chooses to cash out using a cashless device during a pre-determined or random time period. For example, a casino may desire to encourage game players to cash out during slow or less busy periods and may provide an incentive to encourage game players to use a cashless cashout during these periods. Decision 208 checks to see if this prize-qualifying event is activated. If an award is not provided for a cashless cashout during a certain time period, decision 208 proceeds to step 230 of FIG. 7. If an award is enabled at step 208, the gaming device will check in decision 210 to see if the cashless cashout occurred during the time period. If the cashless cashout occurred during the time period, a list or display of possible prizes is shown to the game player at step 212. The list of prizes may include a dollar amount, tickets for entertainment, a meal voucher, a coupon for a shop, a free entrance to a drawing, a free play for the same or other games, and other prizes.

At decision 214, the gaming device checks to see if the player is allowed to select one of the prizes that are displayed. If the player is allowed to select one of the prizes on the list as a award, decision 214 proceeds to step 216 where the player is allowed to select any prizes. The player may select one of the prizes from the list using an input device such as a touch screen or a button (not shown). The selected prize is awarded in step 218. After step 218 method 200 proceeds to step 230 of FIG. 7. If the player is not allowed to select one of the prizes on the list as an award, decision 214 proceeds to step 218 where the controller selects and awards a prize. After step 218 method 200 proceeds to step 230 of FIG. 7.

Turning now to FIG. 7, method 200 further includes decision 230. At decision 230, method 200 checks to see if the player is eligible for an award for playing a game on a downloadable gaming system and receiving a cashless cashout. A downloadable gaming system allows gaming devices to download game information from a server (not shown). The downloadable gaming system allows a gaming device to be reconfigured to present a large variety of different games to casino patrons.

If the player is eligible for an award for using a downloadable gaming system and selects a cashless cashout at decision 230, method 200 proceeds to step 232 where the player is awarded a prize. If the player is not using a downloadable gaming system or does not select to receive a cashless cashout or the award is not enabled, decision 230 proceeds to decision 234.

At decision 234, method 200 checks to see if the player is eligible for an award for playing a game on a non-downloadable gaming system and receiving a cashless cashout. If the player is eligible to receive and award for using a non-downloadable gaming system and selecting a cashless cashout, decision 234 proceeds to step 236 where the player is awarded a prize that can only be used on a downloadable gaming system. If an award is not provided for using a non-downloadable gaming system or the players does not select to receive a cashless cashout, decision 234 proceeds to decision 176 of FIG. 8.

Turning to FIG. 8, after the prize-qualifying events have been checked, the gaming device completes the cashout process. In decision 176, the gaming device checks to see whether a cashless device was used to initiate the gaming session. If not, the gaming device may check in decision 180 to see if it is to issue a cashless device, such as a voucher. If a cashless device is to be issued, the gaming device, in step 182, directs a cashless device to be generated and issued to the player. Alternatively, if a cashless device is not to be issued, the gaming device could establish a cashless account for the player in step 184 and store the value of the player's credit without issuing a cashless device to the player. For example, the player could be shown an account number and/or a personal identification number (PIN) that can be used to access the player's account.

In decision 176, if the gaming device determines that a cashless device was used to initiate the gaming session, the gaming device then determines in decision 186 whether a value is stored on the cashless device. If value is stored on the cashless device, the gaming device updates the value stored on the cashless device in step 190 and then issues the cashless device to the player in step 192.

In decision 186, if value is not stored directly on the cashless device, the gaming device updates a remotely stored value associated with the cashless device in step 188.

Those of skill in the art will recognize that the above steps can occur in a different sequence and that different steps can be included and that certain steps can be omitted in the method and still fall within the scope of the present invention.

Second Alternative Method of Operation of the Invention

With reference to FIGS. 3, 4, 9 and 10 another method 300 of operating gaming apparatus 10 (FIG. 1) is shown. Method 300 can award a prize to a game player before game play begins when the player selects to receive a cashless cashout before starting the game. Steps 120-192 on FIGS. 3 and 4 are the same as previously described. With specific reference to FIG. 9, a gaming device is provided to a player, who may initiate a game by inserting value into the gaming device. The player may insert value by inserting coins in step 60, inserting cash in step 68, or inserting a cashless device in step 62. If coins 60 or cash 68 are inserted, the value of the currency is added to the players gaming credits at step 70.

If a cashless device is inserted at step 62, the next step depends on whether the value of the cashless device is stored on the cashless device or card itself, or if the value is stored remotely. If decision 64 determines that the value is stored on the card, the value of the card is added to the player's game credits on the gaming device at step 70. If decision 64 determines that the value of the card is stored remotely, the gaming device requests information about the gaming device over the remote network in step 66. Once the value of the card is transmitted to the gaming device, the value is added to the player gaming credits at step 70.

Method 300 next proceeds to decision 302 where the gaming device checks to see if a cashless cashout has been selected before game play begins. If a cashless cashout is selected, method 300 proceeds to decision 304. If a cashless cashout was not selected at decision 302, method 300 goes to step 72 of FIG. 10.

At decision 304, the gaming device determines if an alternative pay table is to be applied to the game as a reward for selecting a cashless cashout. The alternative pay table would have a higher average payout or payback percentage. If it is determined at decision 304 that an alternative pay table is to be applied, method 300 proceeds to step 306 where the pay table is changed. If an alternative pay table is not to be applied, method 300 proceeds to decision 308.

At decision 308, the gaming device determines if any prizes for selecting a cashless cashout are to be awarded before game play begins. Any prizes awarded before the start of game play would be added to the player's credit meter where they could be used as a wager. If it is determined at decision 308 that a prize is to be awarded before game play begins, method 300 proceeds to step 310 where any prizes are awarded and added to the gaming device credit meter. Step 310 then proceeds to step 72 of FIG. 10. If a prize is not awarded in decision 308, method 300 proceeds to step 72 of FIG. 10.

Turning now to FIG. 10, after the player has been credited with credits available for play, the player is presented with a game, places a wager, and initiates the game at step 72. Optionally, the gaming device can determine if player tracking (using a player tracking system) has been started at decision 74. If player tracking has been started, or if no player tracking is enabled, the gaming device proceeds to determine a game outcome at step 78. If player tracking is enabled, and tracking has not been initiated, the gaming device may initiate tracking at step 76 before going on to determine the game's outcome at step 78.

Player tracking can be integrated with the cashless device. Player tracking may also be independent from the cashless device processes. For example, a player could swipe his or her tracking card prior to inserting a cashless device into a gaming device. The player tracking system could provide the cashless device system with any information needed to determine whether the player is entitled to an additional prize.

If the game outcome of step 78 is determined at decision 80 to be a wining event, the prize won by the player is added to the player's credits at step 82. If the game outcome is not a winning event, the amount of the wager is subtracted from the player's credits at step 84. At decision 86, the player can then either choose to play another game, in which case the player will once again be presented with a game at step 72, or can choose to cash out. If the player chooses to cash out, tracking, if enabled, is stopped at step 88 and the gaming device enters the cashout process at step 90. Method 300 then proceeds to steps 120-192 on FIGS. 3 and 4 to completed the cashout process in the same manner as previously described.

Those of skill in the art will recognize that the above steps can occur in a different sequence and that different steps can be included and that certain steps can be omitted in the method and still fall within the scope of the present invention.

Third Alternative Method of Operation of the Invention

With reference to FIGS. 2, 11 and 12, another method 400 of operating several gaming apparatuses 10 (FIG. 1) is shown. Method 400 awards a prize or prizes to a group of gaming devices, if some or all of the players elect to cashout of the gaming device using a cashless cashout. Several gaming apparatuses 10 (FIG. 1) may be arranged together to form a bank (not shown) of gaming devices or machines as is known in the art. The gaming devices would typically be interconnected through a network that uses a server. The group of gaming devices allows a group of game players to play as a community of game players.

Steps 60-90 on FIG. 2 are the same as previously described except that steps 60-90 apply to several gaming devices. With specific reference to FIG. 11, step 402 continues from step 90 of FIG. 3. At step 402, a cashout message may be displayed to all of the game players at all of the gaming devices. For example, a message may be shown on a video display on each gaming device. The message may state, “If all of the game players in this group of gaming devices agree to cashout using a cashless device, all of the game players will receive an additional prize”. Alternatively, the cashout message could be shown to the game players before or during game play.

Next, method 400 proceeds to decision 404. At decision 404, method 400 checks to see if all of the game players have chosen to cashout using a cashless device. If all of the game players have chosen to use a cashless device to cashout, decision 404 proceeds to step 406 where any additional prizes are awarded to all of the game players. From step 406, method 400 continues to step 176 of FIG. 12. The additional prizes can be added to the player's credit meters. If all of the game players do not chose to use a cashless device to cashout at decision 404, method 400 continues to decision 408.

At decision 408, method 400 checks to see if any of the game players have chosen to use a cashless cashout. If at least one of the game players have chosen to use a cashless device to cashout, decision 408 proceeds to decision 412. If none of the game players chose to use a cashless device to cashout, method 400 proceeds to step 410 where the players are paid in currency or coins to cashout.

At decision 412, method 400 checks to see if the game player that is cashing out is the first game player to cash out using a cashless device. If the game player is the first game player from the group of game players to cash out using a cashless device, method 400 proceeds to step 414 where the first game player to cash out is awarded a first prize. The first prize may be the smallest prize in order to encourage the group of game players to play longer. The later that a game player cashes out using a cashless device, the larger that an award maybe. If the game player choosing to use a cashless device to cash out at decision 412 is not the first player from the group of players to cash out, method 400 proceeds to decision 416.

At decision 416, method 400 checks to see if the game player that is cashing out is the next (Nth) or second game player to cash out using a cashless device. If the game player is the Nth or second game player from the group of game players to cash out using a cashless device, method 400 proceeds to step 418 where the Nth or second game player to cash out using a cashless device is awarded a next (Nth) or second prize. The Nth or second prize may be the larger than the first prize in order to encourage the group of game players to play longer. The later that a game player cashes out using a cashless device, the larger that an award maybe. After the Nth prize is awarded in step 418, method 400 proceeds to decision 420. If the game player choosing to use a cashless device to cash out at decision 416 is not the Nth or second player from the group of players to cash out, method 400 proceeds to decision 420.

At decision 420, method 400 checks to see if all of the game players in the group of players have cashed out. If all of the game players have cashed out, method 400 proceeds to step 176 of FIG. 12. If all of the game players in the group of players have not cashed out, method 400 proceeds to back to decision 416. Decision 416 repeats until all of the game players have cashed out.

Turning now to FIG. 12, at decision 176, method 400 may check to see whether a cashless device was used to initiate the gaming session. If not, the gaming device may check in decision 180 to see if it is to issue a cashless device, such as a voucher. If a cashless device is to be issued, the gaming device, in step 182, directs a cashless device to be generated and issued to the player. Alternatively, if a cashless device is not to be issued, the gaming device could establish a cashless account for the player in step 184 and store the value of the player's credit without issuing a cashless device to the player. For example, the player could be shown an account number and/or a personal identification number (PIN) that can be used to access the player's account.

In decision 176, if the gaming device determines that a cashless device was used to initiate the gaming session, the gaming device then determines in decision 186 whether a value is stored on the cashless device. If value is stored on the cashless device, the gaming device updates the value stored on the cashless device in step 190 and then issues the cashless device to the player in step 192.

In decision 186, if value is not stored directly on the cashless device, the gaming device updates a remotely stored value associated with the cashless device in step 188.

Method 400 can be used to encourage a group of game players to use cashless devices to cash out. Players may be prompted to indicate if they want to use a cashless device to cash out during game play rather than when they cash out. In another embodiment, only the last player who cashes out using a cashless device will receive a prize or award. In another embodiment, the later the player cashes out using a cashless device, the larger the award the player will receive. For example, three players are playing at a group of gaming devices. The first player to cash out receives no prize or the smallest prize. The second player to cash out receives a prize that is grater than the first player, and the third player to cash out receives the largest prize.