US 20020066996 A1
A gaming device and a method of gaming, the gaming device being an apparatus which combines features of slot and pinball machines. Winning a bonus round while initially playing in the slot machine mode allows a player to increase his/her winnings while playing in the pinball machine mode. Accumulating points while initially playing in the pinball machine mode allows a player to increase his/her winnings while playing in the slot machine mode.
1. A gaming apparatus comprising:
walls forming a housing, said housing having an upper section and a lower section;
a first gaming device disposed in said upper section of said housing;
a second gaming device disposed in said lower section of said housing;
means for permitting a player to initiate play on a selected one of said first gaming device and said second gaming device; and
means for automatically switching from a selected one of said first gaming device and said second gaming device to a non-selected one of said first gaming device and said second gaming device.
2. A gaming apparatus as recited in
3. A gaming apparatus as recited in
4. A gaming apparatus as recited in
5. A gaming apparatus as recited in
6. A method of gaming comprising the steps of;
initiating play by making at least one wager with a specific outcome to be determined by the chance arrangement of icons in a slot machine game;
activating said slot machine game to achieve said chance arrangement of said icons;
continuing play in a pinball-type game if said chance arrangement of icons conforms to a pre-determined pattern; and
determining winnings on said one wager by accumulating points in said pinball-type game.
7. A method of gaming as recited in
8. A method of gaming as recited in
9. A method of gaming as recited in
10. A method of gaming comprising the steps of:
initiating play by making at least one wager with a specific outcome to be determined by the accumulation of points in a pinball-type game;
activating said pin-ball type game to achieve said accumulation of points;
continuing play by the arrangement of icons in a slot machine game if said accumulation of points is of a pre-determined amount; and
determining winnings on said one wager by the arrangement of said icons.
11. A method of gaming as recited in
12. A method of gaming as recited in
13. A method of gaming as recited in
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Serial No. 60/251,427, filed Dec. 6, 2000.
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention generally relates to gaming devices. More specifically, the present invention is drawn to a pinball and slot machine combination and a method of gaming using the device.
 2. Description of Related Art
 “Gaming” or the participation of people in wagering games is probably as old as civilization and is world-wide in scope. In the last half of the twentieth century, the proliferation of casinos in the United States alone is evidence that games of chance are still enjoyed by large numbers of people. To maintain and enhance client interest, casino operators are always searching for new and interesting gaming formats. The present invention proposes a new and exciting game of chance which involves a merger of the widely popular pinball and slot machine games.
 Variations of pinball gaming devices are shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. Des. 251,515 (Richter), Des. 260,409 (Tanaka et al.) and Des. 337,790 (Gottlieb et al.). These Patents merely show ornamental designs of pinball machines.
 The most popular gaming device is probably the slot machine, variations of which are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,508,345 (Okada), 5,010,995 (Okada), British Patent 2 083 936A, and British Patent 2 182 186A. Only the well-known reel game may be played on the above cited slot machines.
 U.S. Pat. No. 4,518,098 (Fleischer) shows a vending machine designed to appear as a slot machine.
 U.S. Pat. No. 3,853,318 (Cagan) discloses a combination dart and pinball device. There appears to be no provision in the Cagan device for inserting coins for wagering.
 U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,630,586 (Lowden), 5,997,400 (Seelig et al.), 6,089,976 (Schneider et al.), 6,089,978 (Adams) and British Patent number 2 201 821A all disclose combination gaming devices. However, none incorporate a pinball-slot machine merger.
 U.S. Pat. No. 5,882,261 (Adams) shows a gaming device which incorporates a pinball-type game with a slot machine. The device of the instant patent differs from the proposed invention in arrangement and mode of play.
 None of the above inventions and patents, taken either singly or in combination, is seen to disclose the invention as will subsequently be described and claimed in the instant invention.
 The present invention, dubbed “Slotball”, is a combination of a slot machine and a pinball machine. As presently contemplated, the top section of the invention replicates a conventional reel-type slot machine, whereas the bottom section of the device is a conventional pinball machine. The slotball machine is designed with solid sides and a stable base to prevent tilting, which commonly occurs during pinball play. A single handle or button allows a player to either spin the slot reels, or shoot the pinball into action. The slot ball machine is equipped with various indicators and coin insert slots which allow a player to initiate play and monitor the results.
 The game of the instant invention may be played in two phases. An element of skill at pinball may enhance the chances of winning. The first phase involves the slot machine and requires that the player insert money or casino-issued tokens into the machine to enable the slot reels. When playing the slot phase of the game, the player's objective is to win the bonus slotball round. To qualify for the bonus slotball round, the player must bet a predetermined amount of credits. The bonus slotball round is achieved when the slotball icon appears with two other icons having the same indicia as will further be explained below. Achieving the bonus slotball round automatically activates the pinball section of the device. The player may then participate in a game of pinball to further increase his/her winnings. Once pinball play is over, the device automatically reverts to the slot machine mode whereby the process may be repeated. A player may bet less than the predetermined amount of credits if desired, however, such bets will not qualify for the bonus slotball round. However, variations of the game could exist where bonus and pinball play could not require the pre-determined amount of credits. It should also be noted that a player may participate in only one phase (slots or pinball) if desired.
 The player may opt to begin the game in the pinball phase as will be explained below. A pre-determined amount of credits must be bet, as required above, if the player desires to qualify for the slotball bonus round.
 Accordingly, it is a principal object of the invention to provide a new and exciting gaming method and apparatus therefor.
 It is another object of the invention to provide a gaming method and apparatus which combines the characteristics of plural gaming devices.
 It is a further object of the invention to provide a single gaming apparatus which combines the characteristics of a slot machine and a pinball machine.
 Still another object of the invention is to provide a gaming method and apparatus therefor which is easy to understand and use.
 It is an object of the invention to provide improved elements and arrangements thereof in a method and apparatus for the purposes described which are inexpensive, dependable and fully effective in accomplishing their intended purposes.
 These and other objects of the present invention will become readily apparent upon further review of the following specification and drawings.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a gaming device according to the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a flow chart of a method of playing a slot machine version of a game according to the present invention.
FIG. 3 is a flow chart of a method of playing a pinball version of a game according to the present invention.
 The gaming apparatus of the present invention is generally indicated at 10 as illustrated in FIG. 1. Apparatus 10 includes walls 12 which support and house conventional mechanical and electromechanical mechanisms 15 for operating a combination slot-pinball machine game. Walls 12 are designed to form a solid base to prevent the apparatus from being easily tilted. Although walls are illustrated as the support means, it is obvious that sturdy legs (or the like) could be utilized if desired.
 The upper section 14 of the gaming apparatus is designed to appear and function as a conventional slot machine and includes slot reels 16 and credit indicators 18, 18 a. Slot reels 16 exhibit the standard slot icons (sevens, bars, cherries, etc.). The instant invention however, requires at least one reel to employ an icon with the words “slot ball” inscribed thereon as shown at 16 a. Indicators 18, 18 a present readouts as to the amount of credits a player has won and the total amount of credits bet. A light 19 is adapted to flash to indicate either when a machine error occurs or when a player has hit the jackpot.
 The lower section 20 of the apparatus is designed to appear and function as a pinball machine. Lower section 20 includes a control panel which incorporates the following functions. A coin slot 22 is provided for inserting coins or casino tokens to initiate the apparatus game mechanisms. Push button 24 is utilized to place a pre-determined credit bet. Push button 24 a may be used to activate the slot reels or shoot the pinball. Button 24 b is employed when a player wishes to bet only one credit. Button 24 c is used when a player decides to terminate play and wishes to cash out. For convenience, a pay scale 26 is inscribed on the front wall of the apparatus. A tray 28 for catching the player's winnings is positioned immediately beneath the pay scale. A handle 30 may be employed to activate the slot reels or shoot the pinball in lieu of button 24 a if desired. Button 32 functions to move the pinball flippers (not shown) as is conventional in the art.
FIG. 1 is descriptive of only one of many configurations that the gaming apparatus may take on. For example, the slot reels can be either digital or mechanical; the apparatus may be entirely push-button operated (without a handle); a seat may be provided for the player; the apparatus may be designed with either a low or a high profile as desired; etc.
FIG. 2 is a flow chart illustrative of a preferred method of playing in the slot mode with a pinball bonus. To initiate a game a player would insert coins or tokens in slot 22. The monetary value of inserted coins would appear as credits at indicator 18 a. Push button 24 a is manipulated to prime the apparatus for play in the slot machine mode. If the player chooses, he/she may push button 24 to bet a pre-determined credit amount and thus entitle the player to qualify for the slotball bonus round. Manipulating either handle 30 or button 24 a will cause the reels of the slot machine to spin and eventually stop. The arrangement of the icons inscribed on the stopped reels (as indicated on pay scale 26) determines whether the player is awarded credits. If the reels are stopped to show a “slot ball” icon in combination with two like other icons (two sevens as shown), the player qualifies for the slotball bonus round at which time the apparatus automatically switches into the pinball machine mode. If the above “slot ball” combination does not result, the player continues to play the slot machine.
 Assuming that the player qualifies for the slotball bonus round, the player attempts to add credits to his/her winnings depending on the amount of points accrued in the pinball game. As stated above, a player must bet the pre-determined credits to qualify for the slotball bonus round. Unlike regular pinball, the pinball phase of the instant game is designed to allow the player to earn additional spins of the slot reels and earn additional credits if a combination of specified pinball bumpers are hit. Hitting the specified bumpers will function to lock the pinball in place while the player activates the slot reels. When the reel spin is completed and the added credits tallied, the pinball will automatically unlock so that the pinball phase may continue. At the end of the pinball game the apparatus automatically reverts to the slot machine mode. A player may cash out at the end of either the slot machine or pinball mode simply by pushing button 24 c.
 Attention is now directed to FIG. 3, which illustrates a preferred method of initiating play if the player desires to begin the game in the pinball phase. As in the game described above, the player would insert money or tokens into slot 22. The monetary value of inserted coins would appear as credits at indicator 18 a. Push button 24 a would be manipulated to prime the apparatus for play in the pinball machine mode. If the pre-determined amount of credits is chosen, the player may qualify to play the slot ball bonus round. To achieve the slot ball bonus round, a combination of specified bumpers must be hit to earn a score for bonus slot spins. If the player earns the necessary score, the pin balls are locked and the player can spin the slot reels to maximize his/her winnings.
 It is to be understood that the present invention is not limited to the sole embodiments described above, but encompasses any and all embodiments within the scope of the following claims.