Title:
METHOD OF CONTROLLING OUT OF ORDER MODE ON A GAME
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A casino gaming apparatus is provided that allows the user to lock the casino gaming apparatus for a predetermined amount of time in order to hold the casino gaming apparatus until the user returns from a break. The invention provides for an identification reader such as a card reader for reading user information, and for setting the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode for a predetermined amount of time. The predetermined amount of time can be based on the length of play of the user on the casino gaming apparatus, or on a status of the user. The user can request an amount of time to set the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode, and if the user does not return in the predetermined amount of time, the casino gaming apparatus can be set back to a stand by mode.



Inventors:
Pickus, Robert M. (Northfield, NJ, US)
Molina, Thomas Scott (Linwood, NJ, US)
Application Number:
11/752409
Publication Date:
11/27/2008
Filing Date:
05/23/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
YOO, JASSON H
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SILLS CUMMIS & GROSS P.C. (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of operating a casino gaming apparatus, the method comprising: reading information associated with a user of the casino gaming apparatus; and automatically setting the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode for a predetermined amount of time based on the user information.

2. The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: determining whether the user is eligible to set the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode for the predetermined amount of time.

3. The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus of claim 2, wherein the predetermined amount of time is based on the user's length of play on the casino gaming apparatus.

4. The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: allowing the user to request an amount of time as the predetermined amount of time to put the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode.

5. The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: providing a display indicating that the casino gaming apparatus is in an out of order mode.

6. The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: storing information on the user and on the length of play of the user on the casino gaming apparatus.

7. The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: setting the casino gaming apparatus to a stand by mode after the predetermined amount of time expires.

8. The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: allowing the user to set the casino gaming apparatus from the out of order mode to a stand by mode based on information entered by the user.

9. The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus of claim 8, wherein the information entered by the user is a card associated with the user.

10. The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus of claim 8, wherein the information entered by the user is a personal identification number.

11. A casino gaming system, the system comprising: a casino gaming apparatus; a card reader for reading a card associated with a user; a keypad for entering a personal identification number associated with the user and sending a request to setting the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode for a predetermined amount of time; and a server system for determining whether the user can set the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode.

12. The casino gaming system of claim 11, wherein the server system allows or denies the user's request to set the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode.

13. A casino gaming apparatus, the apparatus comprising: an identification reader for reading user information; and means for automatically setting the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode for a predetermined amount of time based on the user information.

14. The casino gaming apparatus of claim 13, wherein the means for automatically setting the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode comprises: a keypad for entering a personal identification number in order to set the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode.

15. The casino gaming apparatus of claim 14, wherein the means for automatically setting the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode further comprises: a computer interface connecting the casino gaming apparatus to a server; wherein the server determines if the user can set the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode for the predetermined amount of time.

16. The casino gaming apparatus of claim 15, wherein the user can request an amount of time on the keypad for setting the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode.

17. The casino gaming apparatus of claim 15, wherein the server stores information on the user and on the length of play of the user on the casino gaming apparatus.

18. The casino gaming apparatus of claim 13, wherein the identification reader is a card reader.

19. The casino gaming apparatus of claim 13, further comprising: an indicator indicating the casino gaming apparatus is in an out or order mode.

20. The casino gaming apparatus of claim 13, wherein the predetermined amount of time is based on the length of play the user has played on the casino gaming apparatus.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to gaming, and more specifically, to a method and apparatus for placing a casino machine out of order for a predetermined amount of time by a customer at a casino.

2. Prior Art

A slot machine is a certain type of casino game. Traditional slot machines are coin-operated machines with three or more reels, which spin when a lever on the side of the machine is pulled. The machines include a currency detector that validates the coin or money inserted to play. The machine typically pays off based on patterns of symbols visible on the front of the machine when it stops. Modern computer technology has resulted in many variations on the slot machine concept. Today, slot machines are the most popular gambling method in casinos and constitute about 70% of the average casino's income.

A person playing a slot machine purchases the right to play by inserting coins, cash, or in newer machines, a bar-coded paper ticket (known as “ticket in/ticket out” machines), into a designated slot on the machine. The machine is then activated by means of a lever or button, or on newer machines, by pressing a touchscreen on its face. The game itself may or may not involve skill on the player's part—or it may create the illusion of involving skill without actually being anything else than a game of chance.

The object of the game is to win money from the machine. The game usually involves matching symbols, either on mechanical reels that spin and stop to reveal one or several symbols, or on a video screen. The symbols are usually brightly colored and easily recognizable, such as images of fruits, and simple shapes such as bells, diamonds, or hearts.

Most games have a variety of winning combinations of symbols, often posted on the face of the machine. If a player matches a combination according to the rules of the game, the slot machine pays the player cash or some other sort of value, such as extra games. Slot machines common in casinos at this time are more complicated. Most allow players to accept their winnings as credits, which may be “spent” on additional spins.

Slot machines are typically programmed to pay out as winnings between 82 to 98 percent of the money that is wagered by players. This is known as the “theoretical payout percentage”. The minimum theoretical payout percentage varies among jurisdictions and is typically established by law or regulation. For example, the minimum payout percentage in Nevada is 75 percent and in New Jersey is 83 percent. The winning patterns on slot machines, the amounts they pay, and the frequency at which they appear are carefully selected to yield a certain percentage of the cost of play to the “house” (the operator of the slot machine), while returning the rest to the player during play.

A slot machine's theoretical payout percentage is set at the factory when the software is written. Changing the payout percentages after a slot machine has been placed on the gaming floor requires a physical swap of the software, which is usually stored on an EPROM but may be downloaded to Non-Volatile Random Access Memory (NVRAM) or even stored on CD-ROM or DVD depending on the technological capabilities of the machine and the regulations of the jurisdiction. Based on current technology, this is a time consuming process and as such is done infrequently. In certain jurisdictions, such as New Jersey, the EPROM is sealed with a tamper-evident seal and can only be chanced in the presence of Gaming Control Board officials. Other jurisdictions, including Nevada, randomly audit slot machines to ensure that they contain only approved software.

Sometimes, when a customer leaves a particular machine, another player may come up and immediately hit a jackpot. The customer may think “If I had played just one more time, I would have won that jackpot.” Because of the significant time a customer “invests” in a particular slot machine, and a belief that a certain machine is “due”, the customer may be hesitant to leave the slot machine when the customer is hungry, tired or needs to use the restroom. Further, because of new smoking laws prohibiting smoking in some areas of the casino where the slot machines are placed, smokers may not leave the slot machine when they desire to have a cigarette. This often causes a difficult situation for the customer as they are hesitant to leave a particular slot machine in which they have “invested” significant time and money. Many gamblers believe that a person should not play more than one machine at a time.

Sometimes players taking a break for the rest room will tip a chair against the machine, leave a coat on the chair, or leave some other sign that they'll be back. However, these methods are ineffective and no guarantee of holding a slot machine, especially when a casino is busy.

Therefore, there is a need for a method and apparatus where a customer may be able to leave a particular slot machine to take a short break, and then be able to return to the same particular slot machine without anyone else having used that machine.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an apparatus and method for putting a “hold” on a particular slot machine for a certain period of time for a customer. The customer is able to “lock” or place the slot machine “out of order” when they need to take a break and then unlock the machine upon their return from their break.

Accordingly, a casino gaming apparatus is provided, the casino gaming apparatus comprising an identification reader for reading user information, and means for setting the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode for a predetermined amount of time. The means for setting the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode can comprise a keypad for entering a personal identification number in order to set the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode. The means for setting the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode can further comprise a computer interface connecting the casino gaming apparatus to a server, wherein the server determines if the user can set the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode for the predetermined amount of time.

The user can request an amount of time on the keypad for setting the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode. The server can store information on the user and on the length of play of the user on the casino gaming apparatus. The identification reader can be a card reader. The casino gaming apparatus can further comprise an indicator indicating the casino gaming apparatus is in an out or order mode. The predetermined amount of time can be based on the length of play the user has played on the casino gaming apparatus.

Also provided is a casino gaming system, the system comprising a casino gaming apparatus, a card reader for reading a card associated with a user, a keypad for entering a personal identification number associated with the user and sending a request to setting the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode for a predetermined amount of time, and a server system for determining whether the user can set the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode. The server system allows or denies the user's request to set the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode.

Also provided is a method of operating a casino gaming apparatus, the method comprising, reading information associated with a user of the casino gaming apparatus, and setting the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode for a predetermined amount of time. The method further comprises determining whether the user is eligible to set the casino gaming apparatus to an out of order mode for the predetermined amount of time. The predetermined amount of time is based on the user's length of play on the casino gaming apparatus.

The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus further comprises allowing the user to request an amount of time as the predetermined amount of time to put the casino gaming apparatus in an out of order mode. The method can also provide a display indicating that the casino gaming apparatus is in an out of order mode. The method further comprises storing information on the user and on the length of play of the user on the casino gaming apparatus.

The method of operating a casino gaming apparatus further comprises setting the casino gaming apparatus to a stand by mode after the predetermined amount of time expires. The user can set the casino gaming apparatus from the out of order mode to a stand by mode based on information entered by the user. The information entered by the user can be a card associated with the user, or a personal identification number.

The above and other features of the invention, including various novel details of construction and combinations of parts, will now be more particularly described with reference to the accompanying drawing and pointed out in the claims. It will be understood that the particular device embodying the invention is shown by way of illustration only and not as a limitation of the invention. The principles and features of this invention may be employed in various and numerous embodiments without departing from the scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the apparatus and methods of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following description, appended claims, and accompanying drawing where:

FIG. 1 is a schematic view showing a particular embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Although this invention is applicable to numerous and various types of gaming machines, it has been found particularly useful in the environment of slot machines at gaming casinos. Therefore, without limiting the applicability of the invention to the above, the invention will be described in such environment.

With reference now to the drawing, the method and apparatus of the present invention will be described. FIG. I illustrates a schematic representation of an embodiment of the present invention. A slot machine 100 is provided which a user will be playing on. An identification reader such as a card reader (not shown) with a keypad can be provided for on the slot machine 100. A user can insert his card into the card reader (or other means for identification) before he begins play so that the casino knows how long the user is using the slot machine (to determined awards based on length of play). This information is known as “user information”, and can include information about the user such as but not limited to identification information (name, address, number, etc.), customer status (new customer, VIP, frequency of visits, etc.), awards (points accumulated at the particular casino, winnings, losings, etc.), length of play on each gaming apparatus, and/or amount won/lost on each particular gaming machine.

When the user wants to take a break, the user inserts his/her card into the card reader, and can be required to enter a certain personal identification number (PIN) on the keypad. The PIN can be used as a security measure to ensure that the requesting player is the owner of the particular card. The user may also at this time enter the amount of time requested for his/her break.

At this point, the slot data system (SDS) interface board 110 sends the player information (determined by card inserted into card reader) through the SDS computer 130, and requests the casino management system 140 to put the game in an out or order mode. The user can also input on the keypad entry how long the user wants to put the game out or order for. The casino management system 140 determines whether the user meets the requirement to put the slot machine 100 in an out of order mode. If the player meets the requirement, then the casino management system 140 communicates to the SDS computer 130 to put the game in an out of order mode. An out of order mode is defined as a mode in which the gaming apparatus will not allow any play on the gaming apparatus, it is “locked” so that it will not accept any coins/tokens, and any remaining credits cannot be used either, until it is “un-locked”, which will be described below.

The SDS computer 130 communicates to the slot saver interface board 120 to put the game in an out of order mode and the game is put into an out of order mode for a predetermined amount of time (discussed below). The display on the slot machine can show that the game is in an out of order mode, or a light indicator can display it is in an out of order mode. When the player returns within the predetermined amount of time, the player inserts his card into the card reader. This information is again communicated over the SDS interface board and back to the casino management system 140, which determines if the card information is correct, and then the game is returned to a stand by mode (ready to accept bills, tickets or coins). If the user has a certain number of credits remaining, this information can also be saved so that the same amount of credits remain when the user returns from his/her break. If the player does not return within the predetermined amount of time, the game automatically goes into stand by mode so that anyone is free to use it.

Different criteria can be used for determining the amount of time a user can put the game into an out of order mode. This can depend on the particular “user information”. For example, for a 15 minute break (restroom, cigarette, phone call, etc.), the requesting player may be required to have a minimum of one hour of play on the particular slot machine 100. The requesting player may also be required to have a minimum average daily theoretical (ADT) of two hundred dollars or another predetermined amount. The requesting player can also be required to not put more than eight games down in an eight hour period.

For a two to three hour break (to have lunch, dinner, rest, etc.), the requesting player may be required to have a minimum of two hours of play on the particular slot machine 100. The requesting player may also be required to have a minimum average daily theoretical (ADT) of four hundred dollars or another predetermined amount. The requesting player can also be required to not put more than two games down in an eight hour period.

For a longer break, such as seven to eight hours (sleep, shop, etc.), the requesting player may be required to have a minimum of two hours of play on the particular slot machine 100. The requesting player may also be required to have a minimum average daily theoretical (ADT) of four hundred dollars or another predetermined amount. The requesting player can also be required to not put more than one game down in a twenty four hour period. Further, the requesting player may not put any machine down prior to 12:00 a.m. or other predetermined time.

Of course, these values are all arbitrary and not restricted to the above, and the numbers can be set accordingly by the particular casino depending on their requirements. Factors such as length of play, customer status (VIP, etc.), ADT, number of games, time of day, day of the week, holidays, etc. can all be evaluated in determining the length of time a player can put a game in an out of order mode.

The present invention provides several advantages that solve the problems with prior art methods. It provides a slot machine 100 that allows a customer to put a game in an out of order mode that guarantees it will hold the game for a certain length of time for the customer. Prior art methods such as tipped chairs, leaving jackets, etc, would not guarantee a hold on the machine and the user could often lose the particular slot machine being used. With the present invention, the user can guarantee a hold is placed for the length of time requested if approved by the casino management system. The user can either input how long the slot machine should be put on hold, or allow the casino management system to hold the machine for a length of time based on the card information provided by the user. This length of time can be displayed to the customer before the customer leaves so the customer knows when to return.

The above description of the present invention is only the preferred embodiment of the invention. Embodiments may include any currently or hereafter-known versions of the elements described herein. Other electronic or wireless components known in the art in order to identify a user may be used besides a card reader to obtain the user's information, such as but not limited to Bluetooth® devices, radio frequency identification (RFID) devices, personal identification numbers (PIN) assigned to customers, etc. The invention may also be used on other gaming machines, such as black jack tables, poker tables, etc., and is not limited to slot machines. Therefore, persons skilled in the art will recognize from this description that other embodiments may be practiced with various modifications and alterations.

While there has been shown and described what is considered to be preferred embodiments of the invention, it will, of course, be understood that various modifications and changes in form or detail could readily be made without departing from the spirit of the invention. It is therefore intended that the invention be not limited to the exact forms described and illustrated, but should be constructed to cover all modifications that may fall within the scope of the appended claims.