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Publication numberUS20030013516 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/171,495
Publication dateJan 16, 2003
Filing dateJun 13, 2002
Priority dateJun 13, 2001
Publication number10171495, 171495, US 2003/0013516 A1, US 2003/013516 A1, US 20030013516 A1, US 20030013516A1, US 2003013516 A1, US 2003013516A1, US-A1-20030013516, US-A1-2003013516, US2003/0013516A1, US2003/013516A1, US20030013516 A1, US20030013516A1, US2003013516 A1, US2003013516A1
InventorsJay Walker, James Jorasch, Scott Friesen, Geoffrey Gelman, Norman Gilman, Steven Santisi
Original AssigneeWalker Jay S., Jorasch James A., Friesen Scott T., Gelman Geoffrey M., Gilman Norman C., Santisi Steven M.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and apparatus for offering and providing consolation prizes
US 20030013516 A1
Abstract
A system and method for providing consolation prizes base upon player gaming losses is described. Gaming device players are awarded consolation prizes based upon the amount of money they lose in a gambling session. The prizes a player may be offered may be determined by calculating the total amount a player put into a gaming device (the “coin-in” amount) less the total amount he receives from the device (the “coin-out” amount) during a gambling session. In some embodiments, third-party merchants provide prizes that both represent value to players and allow the merchants to establish a relationship with new customers. For example, a consolation prize may include a free three-month trial subscription to a magazine or to a cable television service. In some embodiments, the consolation prizes may be rewarded on a tiered basis in proportion to the amount of loss the player has sustained. In some embodiments, a voucher with a retail value equal to the player's entire loss amount may be provided as a consolation prize
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Claims(77)
What is claimed is:
1. A method comprising:
determining an amount lost by a player at a gaming device;
determining a consolation prize based upon the amount lost; and
offering the consolation prize to the player.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein determining an amount lost includes
determining a tier based upon the amount lost.
3. The method of claim 2 wherein determining a consolation prize includes
determining a consolation prize based upon the tier.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein determining an amount lost includes
determining an amount lost based upon an initial amount.
5. The method of claim 1 wherein determining an amount lost includes
determining an amount lost based upon a cash-out amount.
6. A method comprising:
determining gambling losses; and
providing an award based upon the gambling losses.
7. The method of claim 6 wherein determining gambling losses includes
determining that an amount lost exceeds a threshold amount.
8. The method of claim 6 wherein determining gambling losses includes
determining an average rate of loss and a period of play.
9. The method of claim 6 wherein providing an award based upon the gambling losses includes
offering an award if the gambling losses exceed a threshold.
10. The method of claim 6 wherein providing an award based upon the gambling losses includes
offering an award if within a defined period of time the gambling losses exceed a threshold.
11. The method of claim 6 wherein providing an award based upon the gambling losses includes
offering an award if a duration of losing play exceeds a threshold.
12. The method of claim 6 wherein providing an award based upon the gambling losses includes
offering an award if
a duration of play exceeds a threshold, and
gambling losses exceed gambling winnings during the duration of play.
13. The method of claim 6 wherein providing an award based upon the gambling losses includes
determining a tier based upon the gambling losses; and
offering an award based upon the teir.
14. A method comprising:
receiving a player identifier;
receiving a wager amount;
receiving an indication that a gambling session is complete;
determining a cash-out amount;
determining a loss amount based upon the wager amount and the cash-out amount;
determining a prize based upon the loss amount; and
offering the prize.
15. The method of claim 14 wherein receiving a wager amount includes
determining the wager amount based upon receipt of a plurality of wagers.
16. The method of claim 14 wherein determining a prize based upon the loss amount includes
determining a tier based upon the loss amount; and
determining a prize based upon the tier.
17. The method of claim 14 further including:
providing an indication of an amount required to be lost to qualify for a prize.
18. The method of claim 14 further including:
providing an indication of an additional minimum amount required to be wagered to be able to qualify for a prize.
19. A method comprising:
determining a loss amount; and
providing an offer based upon the loss amount.
20. The method of claim 19 wherein providing an offer based upon the loss amount includes
providing a coupon to a player.
21. The method of claim 20 wherein providing a coupon to a player includes
providing a coupon having a face value based upon the loss amount.
22. The method of claim 19 wherein providing an offer based upon the loss amount includes
providing a coupon for a third-party product via a gaming device to a player.
23. The method of claim 22 wherein providing a coupon for a third-party product includes
providing a coupon having a face value based upon the loss amount.
24. The method of claim 19 wherein providing an offer based upon the loss amount includes
providing a consolation prize ticket via a gaming device to a player.
25. The method of claim 19 wherein providing an offer based upon the loss amount includes
providing a discount offer for a product.
26. The method of claim 19 wherein providing an offer based upon the loss amount includes
providing a voucher for a free product.
27. The method of claim 19 wherein providing an offer based upon the loss amount includes
providing an amount of value to a player wherein the amount of value is determined based upon the loss amount.
28. A method comprising:
receiving value from a player at a gaming device;
determining a loss amount for the player;
determining if the loss amount falls within a particular loss range among a plurality of predefined loss ranges;
associating the particular loss range with a consolation prize tier;
presenting the player with a consolation prize offer based on the consolation prize tier;
receiving acceptance of the consolation prize offer from the player; and
transferring the acceptance of the consolation prize offer to a third-party merchant.
29. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving value from a player at a gaming device includes
receiving a player tracking card.
30. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving value from a player at a gaming device includes
receiving a balance transfer from a casino account.
31. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving value from a player at a gaming device includes
receiving funds via a bill validator.
32. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving value from a player at a gaming device includes
receiving tokens.
33. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving value from a player at a gaming device includes
receiving a player identity.
34. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving value from a player at a gaming device includes
receiving a cashless gaming receipt.
35. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving value from a player at a gaming device includes
receiving a financial account identifier.
36. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
tracking coin-in and coin-out.
37. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
receiving an indication the player desires to cash-out.
38. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
receiving a cash-out signal.
39. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
detecting a pause in play greater than a threshold period of time.
40. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
subtracting a cash-out amount from a buy-in amount.
41. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
subtracting a coin-out amount from a coin-in amount.
42. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
summing loss amounts from all gambling sessions within a time period.
43. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
summing loss amounts from a continuous gambling session.
44. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
summing loss amounts from gambling sessions during a stay at a hotel associated with the gaming device.
45. The method of claim 28 wherein determining a loss amount for the player includes
counting losing outcomes and winning outcomes of the gaming device.
46. The method of claim 28 wherein determining if the loss amount falls within a particular loss range among a plurality of predefined loss ranges includes
specifying the plurality of predefined loss ranges.
47. The method of claim 28 wherein determining if the loss amount falls within a particular loss range among a plurality of predefined loss ranges includes
comparing the loss amount to the plurality of predefined loss ranges.
48. The method of claim 28 wherein determining if the loss amount falls within a particular loss range among a plurality of predefined loss ranges includes
specifying the plurality of predefined loss ranges based upon a value of a loss range to a casino.
49. The method of claim 28 wherein determining if the loss amount falls within a particular loss range among a plurality of predefined loss ranges includes
specifying the plurality of predefined loss ranges based upon values of a set of available consolation prizes.
50. The method of claim 28 wherein determining if the loss amount falls within a particular loss range among a plurality of predefined loss ranges includes
determining if the loss amount is greater than a lower bound of the particular loss range and less than an upper bound of the loss range.
51. The method of claim 28 wherein associating the particular loss range with a consolation prize tier includes
determining a number of consolation prize tiers desired.
52. The method of claim 28 wherein associating the particular loss range with a consolation prize tier includes
associating each one of the plurality of loss ranges with a different consolation prize tier.
53. The method of claim 28 wherein presenting the player with a consolation prize offer based on the consolation prize tier includes
associating a consolation prize with a consolation prize tier.
54. The method of claim 28 wherein presenting the player with a consolation prize offer based on the consolation prize tier includes
associating a plurality of consolation prizes with a consolation prize tier.
55. The method of claim 28 wherein presenting the player with a consolation prize offer based on the consolation prize tier includes
associating consolation prizes of increasing value with increasingly higher consolation prize tiers.
56. The method of claim 28 wherein presenting the player with a consolation prize offer based on the consolation prize tier includes
offering a plurality of consolation prize offers to the player.
57. The method of claim 28 wherein presenting the player with a consolation prize offer based on the consolation prize tier includes
determining a consolation prize offer having a cost approximately equal to the value of a loss amount associated with the consolation prize tier.
58. The method of claim 28 wherein presenting the player with a consolation prize offer based on the consolation prize tier includes
determining a consolation prize having a value based upon duration wherein the duration of the consolation prize is related to the consolation prize tier.
59. The method of claim 28 wherein presenting the player with a consolation prize offer based on the consolation prize tier includes
drawing attention to the player.
60. The method of claim 28 wherein presenting the player with a consolation prize offer based on the consolation prize tier includes
requesting information from the player.
61. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving acceptance of the consolation prize offer from the player includes
receiving a signal that indicates the player has accepted the consolation prize offer.
62. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving acceptance of the consolation prize offer from the player includes
providing the player with a written copy of the consolation prize offer.
63. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving acceptance of the consolation prize offer from the player includes
printing the consolation prize offer.
64. The method of claim 63 wherein printing the consolation prize offer includes
printing the consolation prize offer on a cashless gaming receipt.
65. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving acceptance of the consolation prize offer from the player includes
receiving payment from a third-party after a player redeems the consolation prize offer.
66. The method of claim 28 wherein receiving acceptance of the consolation prize offer from the player includes
requiring information from the player.
67. The method of claim 28 wherein transferring the acceptance of the consolation prize offer to a third-party merchant includes
providing the player with a copy of the consolation prize offer that can be redeemed at the third-party merchant.
68. The method of claim 28 wherein transferring the acceptance of the consolation prize offer to a third-party merchant includes
providing the player with a copy of the consolation prize offer that can be redeemed at a casino.
69. The method of claim 28 wherein transferring the acceptance of the consolation prize offer to a third-party merchant includes
providing the player with a confirmation number.
70. The method of 69 wherein providing the player with a confirmation number includes
providing the player with a confirmation number via email.
71. The method of claim 28 wherein transferring the acceptance of the consolation prize offer to a third-party merchant includes
transmitting data regarding the player to the third-party merchant.
72. The method of claim 28 wherein transferring the acceptance of the consolation prize offer to a third-party merchant includes
providing access to a database containing information regarding the consolation prize offer.
73. A system comprising:
means for computing an amount lost by a player at a gaming device;
means for selecting a consolation prize based upon the amount lost; and
means for presenting the consolation prize to the player.
74. A system comprising:
a gaming device coupled to a controller operative to
compute an amount lost by a player of the gaming device,
select a consolation prize based upon the amount lost, and
present a voucher for the consolation prize to the player.
75. A coupon comprising:
a material having printed theron a confirmation number representative of a consolation prize offered to a player of a gaming device based upon an amount lost by the player while playing the gaming device.
76. Computer readable media including computer executable instructions operable to implement the method of claim 1.
77. A gaming device comprising:
a memory; and
a processor coupled to the memory and operative to
calculate an amount lost by a player at the gaming device;
identify a consolation prize based upon the amount lost; and
provide a voucher for the consolation prize to the player.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority to commonly-owned, co-pending U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/297,970, filed Jun. 13, 2001, entitled “A METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR OFFERING CONSOLATION PRIZES BASED ON A PLAYER'S LOSS AMOUNT” which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to methods and apparatuses for offering and providing consolation prizes. More specifically, the present invention relates to determining an appropriate consolation prize as well as when and to whom it may be desirable to offer it.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Despite the fact that many players win sizable jackpots at casinos or in other gaming settings, many more would-be players are reluctant to play for fear of losing. Arguably, a fear of losing or a fear of receiving nothing in return for money wagered, is the most significant dissatisfaction or disappointment players experience at a casino. As a result, many prospective players avoid gambling altogether.

[0004] One way that casinos reward a player (who has either won or lost) is through “Casino Complimentary Programs.” These programs, also known as “comps,” are designed to provide a player with complimentary rewards based on the amount of money that a player has wagered or is expected to wager at a casino. For example, a player may accumulate thirty-five comp points as a result of slot machine play and subsequently apply those points towards the price of a buffet for a free meal. In addition, comp points may also be associated with a particular cash value.

[0005] There are, however, significant disadvantages to comp programs. One disadvantage is that comp points do not adequately provide a player with compensation in the event that he has lost a substantial amount of money in a short period of time. For example, if a player has lost $500.00 at a slot machine in two hours, he may not have accumulated sufficient comp points to receive even a low value comp and will most likely leave the casino frustrated and angry. Conversely, if a player has won $500 at a slot machine, the amount of comp points that he has earned will seem meaningless when compared to the emotional high that his winning $500.00 has created. In short, because a player must wager relatively large amounts of money in order to obtain a meaningful comp, the player may rarely make the effort to win the prizes that are available to him via a comp program. The result is that the player will leave the casino feeling empty and frustrated and the casino will lose valuable gaming revenue.

[0006] Another disadvantage of the current comp system is that a player can rarely accumulate the number of comp points that he needs to win a prize in one gambling session. Rather, a player must accumulate comp points over a long period of time. As a result, the player who has lost all of his money will usually leave the casino with nothing but bad memories. Furthermore, because the player has left the casino empty handed, he may associate “unlucky” feelings with the casino and may not want to return to that casino. Thus, a need exists for an improved system that does not have the above drawbacks of existing systems such as comp programs.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007]FIG. 1A is a block diagram illustrating an example system according to some embodiments of the present invention.

[0008]FIG. 1B is a block diagram illustrating an example system according to some alternative embodiments of the present invention.

[0009]FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a controller 102 as depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B according to some embodiments of the present invention.

[0010]FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a gaming device 104 as depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B according to some embodiments of the present invention.

[0011]FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a redemption terminal 108 as depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B according to some embodiments of the present invention.

[0012]FIG. 5 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a third-party merchant terminal 106 as depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B according to some embodiments of the present invention.

[0013]FIG. 6 is a table illustrating an example data structure of an example player database 208 as depicted in FIG. 2 for use in some embodiments of the present invention.

[0014]FIG. 7 is a table illustrating an example data structure of an example of offer database 210 as depicted in FIG. 2 for use in some embodiments of the present invention.

[0015]FIG. 8 is a table illustrating an example data structure of an example third-party merchant database 212 as depicted in FIG. 2 for use in some embodiments of the present invention.

[0016]FIG. 9 is a table illustrating an example data structure of an example transaction database 214 as depicted in FIG. 2 for use in some embodiments of the present invention.

[0017]FIG. 10 is a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary process for offering and providing consolation prizes according to and for use in some embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0018] The disclosed invention solves the above and other drawbacks of the prior art by providing a system for awarding consolation prizes based upon gambling losses, and other factors, as opposed to awarding comps based upon wager amounts.

[0019] According to some embodiments of the present invention, gaming device players are awarded consolation prizes based upon the amount of money they lose in a gambling session. In other words, the prizes a player may be offered may be determined by calculating the total amount a player put into a gaming device (the “coin-in” amount) less the total amount he receives from the device (the “coin-out” amount) during a gambling session. In some embodiments, third-party merchants provide prizes that both represent value to players and allow the merchants to establish a relationship with new customers. For example, a consolation prize may include a free three-month trial subscription to a magazine or to a cable television service. In some embodiments, the consolation prizes may be rewarded on a tiered basis in proportion to the amount of loss the player has sustained.

[0020] In some embodiments, a third-party merchant may be able to fund a consolation prize that completely eliminates a player's losses. For example, a telephone service provider may be willing to pay $50.00 to a casino in exchange for a new customer. In some embodiments, a gaming device may ask a player who finishes a losing gaming session if he would like his money back. The gaming device may offer the player the $42.00 the player lost in exchange for signing up for the telephone service provider's service plan. The casino makes $8.00 on top of their profits from the player's gaming, the player gets his $42.00 refunded, and the telephone company gets a customer for their customer acquisition fee.

[0021] The effect of providing a consolation prize based upon losses may be very different than a comp system where comps are provided based upon an amount wagered. Consolation prizes may provide a salve to a player suffering disappointment over a loss while a comp system is insensitive to whether a player wins or loses, it merely rewards more play. Thus, Applicants have recognized that a need exists for efficient and cost effective systems and methods that allow casinos and other entertainment providers to provide players with means to directly mitigate player losses and minimize player frustration. In some embodiments, the present invention may be used to supplement existing comp systems and thus, reduce the drawbacks and negative effects of existing systems.

[0022] The present invention may allow casinos to acquire new customers. A casino may attract more players by guaranteeing that a player will win something every time he plays a casino game. Players' fear of losing or their fear of not receiving anything in return for their money may be assuaged and ultimately eliminated. Further, the present invention may increase a casino's customer retention. A casino employing the present invention may encourage its current players to play for longer periods of time. Players who have yet to reach a certain consolation prize threshold may extend their playing time despite potentially increasing losses. Casinos employing the present invention may also realize increased gaming revenue. Players who would ordinarily quit playing after reaching a certain losing point may continue to play with the hopes of earning a better, higher-tier consolation prize.

[0023] Beyond reducing players' fear of loss by eliminating players leaving casinos empty handed and feeling rejected, depressed, and frustrated, the present invention may increase player's enjoyment of gaming. With the present invention players may be less inclined to worry about whether they win or lose because both winning and losing have positive, emotionally re-affirming effects. Further, the present invention may allow players to enjoy playing for longer periods of time as they try to earn their desired consolation prize. The present invention may be used to eliminate the possibility of any player from having a completely losing experience. Third-party merchants may also benefit from the present invention in that players who receive an introductory sample of a product or service as a consolation prize may be inclined to continue their use of the merchants' product or service. This may result in a low cost of customer acquisition for participating third-party merchants.

[0024] With these and other advantages and features of the invention that will become hereinafter apparent, the nature of the invention may be more clearly understood by reference to the following detailed description of the invention, the appended claims and to the several drawings included herein.

[0025] In the following description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that structural, logical, software, and electrical changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. The following description is, therefore, not to be taken in a limited sense, and the scope of the present invention is defined by the appended claims.

A. Terms

[0026] Throughout the description that follows and unless otherwise specified, the following terms may include the meanings provided in this section. These terms and illustrative meanings are provided to clarify the language selected to describe embodiments of the invention both in the specification and in the appended claims.

[0027] The terms “products,” “goods,” “merchandise,” and “services” shall be synonymous and may refer to anything licensed, leased, sold, available for sale, available for lease, available for licensing, and/or offered or presented for sale, lease, or licensing including packages of products, subscriptions to products, contracts, information, services, and intangibles.

[0028] The term “merchant” may refer to an entity who may offer to sell, lease, and/or license one or more products to a consumer (for the consumer or on behalf of another) or to other merchants. For example, merchants may include sales channels, individuals, companies, manufacturers, distributors, direct sellers, re-sellers, and/or retailers. Merchants may transact out of buildings including stores, outlets, malls and warehouses, and/or they may transact via any number of additional methods including mail order catalogs, vending machines, online web sites, and/or via telephone marketing. Note that a producer or manufacturer may choose not to sell to customers directly and in such a case, a retailer may serve as the manufacture's or producer's sales channel.

[0029] The term “user device” may refer to any device owned or used by a consumer capable of accessing and/or displaying online and/or offline content. Such devices may include gaming devices, personal computers, personal digital assistants, point-of-sale terminals, point of display terminals, kiosks, telephones, cellular phones, automated teller machines (ATM), etc.

[0030] The term “gaming device” may refer to any gaming machine, including slot machines, video poker machines, video bingo machines, video keno machines, video blackjack machines, video lottery terminal, arcade games, game consoles, personal computers logged into online gaming sites, etc.. Gaming devices may or may not be owned by a casino and/or may or may not exist within a casino.

[0031] The term “controller” may refer to a device that may be in communication with gaming devices, third-party servers/terminals, and/or a plurality of user devices or other network nodes. A controller may be capable of executing software and relaying communications and/or instructions and data to and from each type of network node.

[0032] The term “input device” may refer to a device that is used to receive an input. An input device may communicate with or be part of another device (e.g. a user device, a third-party server, a controller, etc.). Some examples of input devices include: a bar-code scanner, a magnetic stripe reader, a computer keyboard, a point-of-sale terminal keypad, a touch-screen, a microphone, an infrared sensor, a sonic ranger, a computer port, a video camera, a digital camera, a GPS receiver, a motion sensor, a radio frequency identification (RFID) receiver, a RF receiver, a thermometer, a pressure sensor, and a weight scale.

[0033] The term “output device” may refer to a device that is used to output information. An output device may communicate with or be part of another device (e.g. a user device, a third-party server, a controller, etc.). Some examples of output devices include: a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor, liquid crystal display (LCD) screen, light emitting diode (LED) screen, a printer, an audio speaker, an infra-red transmitter, a radio transmitter, etc..

[0034] The term “I/O device” may refer to any combination of input and/or output devices.

[0035] The term “loss range” may refer to an upper loss threshold, a lower loss threshold and the values between the thresholds. In some embodiments for example, a lower loss threshold may be a consolation prize threshold and a loss range may define the loss amounts that qualify a player for a consolation prize tier.

[0036] The term “consolation prize threshold” may refer to a loss threshold above which a player may qualify for a particular consolation prize or consolation prize tier. For example, a consolation prize threshold may denote that $100.00 is the minimum amount a player must lose in order to receive a consolation prize from the bronze consolation prize tier.

[0037] The term “consolation prize tier” may refer to one ore more consolation prizes that may be awarded to a player that sustains a loss within a corresponding pre-defined loss range. For example, in some embodiments, a consolation prize hierarchy may contain bronze, silver, gold, and platinum tiers. In addition, for each consolation prize tier, there may be associated a loss range specified in dollar values. For example, the bronze tier may allow a player who has lost between $10 and $99 to receive a particular consolation prize. Or, the silver tier may allow a player who has lost between $100 and $199 to receive a more valuable consolation prize.

[0038] The term “consolation prize ticket” may refer to a receipt or voucher (in some embodiments, much like a cashless gaming receipt) which may be printed from a gaming device and redeemed by a player for his consolation prize from a consolation prize redemption area, terminal, and/or redemption service provider. In some embodiments, a consolation prize ticket may be a pre-printed ticket or voucher which may be given to a player for losing a certain amount of money from a casino table game. In some embodiments, a consolation prize ticket may serve as a player's written guarantee that he will receive a consolation prize.

[0039] The term “consolation prize redemption area” may refer to a location or website at which a player may redeem a consolation prize ticket and/or receive a consolation prize. A consolation prize redemption area may be within a casino or in a third-party's facility.

[0040] The term “loss rate” may refer to a parameter used in some embodiments for determining the consolation prize tier from which a player may choose a consolation prize. In some embodiments, a loss rate may be determined by dividing the total amount of money lost by a player during a gaming session by the total amount of time in the gaming session.

B. System

[0041] Referring now to FIG. 1A, a system 100A according to some embodiments of the present invention includes a controller 102 that is in one or two-way communication with one or more gaming devices 104, third-party merchant terminals 106 and/or redemption terminals 108. In operation, the controller 102 may function under the control of a casino or other entity that may also control the gaming devices 104. For example, the controller 102 may be a slot server in a casino's slot network, a server in a network operated by a consortium of gaming industry entities, or a server in an Internet service provider's online network. In some embodiments, the controller 102, the gaming device 104, and/or the redemption terminal 106 may be one and the same.

[0042] Referring to FIG. 1B, an alternative system 100B according to some embodiments of the present invention may further include one or more third-party service provider servers 112. A third-party service provider server 112 may also be in one or two-way communication with the controller 102. However, as shown in the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1B, the third-party service provider server 112 may be disposed between the controller 102 and the third-party merchant terminals 106 and/or the redemption terminals 108 and serve as a gateway. The various network nodes may communicate via the Internet 110 (or other communications link). In some embodiments, controller 102 may include multiple servers, each under the control of different entities, e.g. different casinos. In such an embodiment, the third-party service provider server 112 may function as a service provider for the entities operating the plurality of controllers and any practicable network topology may be employed.

[0043] The primary difference between the two alternative embodiments depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B is that the embodiment of FIG. 1B includes the third-party service provider server 112 which may be operable by an entity both distinct and physically remote from the entity operating the controller 102. In operation, the third-party service provider server 112 may perform the methods of the present invention by sending signals to the controller 102 relayed from the third-party merchant terminals 106 and/or the redemption terminals 108. In such an embodiment, the third-party service provider server 112 may function as a reseller or distributor of information owned or controlled by the controller 102. For example, a customer acquisition service provider may operate a third-party service provider server 112 that communicates with a casino's slot server (functioning as a controller 102) to provide third-party merchants (via the third-party merchant terminals 106) with contact information of casino players who have been qualified as interested potential new customers. In the embodiment of FIG. 1A, the functions of the third-party service provider server 112 may be consolidated into the controller 102.

[0044] An additional difference between the two embodiments depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B relates to the physical topology of the system 100A, 100B. In both of the embodiments, each node may securely communicate with every other node in the system 100A, 100B via, for example, a virtual private network (VPN). Thus, all nodes may be logically connected. However, the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1B allows the third-party service provider server 112 to serve as a single gateway between the nodes that will typically be operated by a casino and active players and the other nodes in the system 100B, i.e. nodes that may be operated by third-party merchants and people outside the casino.

[0045] In some embodiments, the third-party merchant terminals 106 may each be controlled by different merchants. The controller 102 may be operated by a casino. If there is a third-party service provider server 112, it may be operated by an unrelated entity that arranges for the operators of the controller 102 to have access to products of the third-party merchants for use as consolation prizes. Thus, in such an example embodiment, the system of the present invention may involve merchants (operating third-party merchant terminals 106), a consolation prize service agent (operating the third-party service provider server 112), casinos (each operating one or more controllers 102), and players (operating gaming devices 102 and redemption terminals 108). In some embodiments, a casino may operate a combined controller/gaming device/redemption terminal directly and the system may only involve a casino and a player.

[0046] In both embodiments pictured in FIGS. 1A and 1B, communication between each of the controllers 102, the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, third-party merchant terminals 106, and/or the third-party service provider servers 112, may be direct and/or via a network such as the Internet 110.

[0047] Referring to both FIGS. 1A and 1B, each of the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider servers 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106 may comprise computers, such as those based on the Intel® Pentium® processor, that are adapted to communicate with each other. Any number of third-party service provider servers 112, gaming devices 104, redemption terminals 108, and/or third-party merchant terminals 106 may be in communication with the controller 102. The controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider servers 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106 may each be physically proximate to each other or geographically remote from each other. The controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider servers 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106 may each include input devices (not pictured) and output devices (not pictured).

[0048] As indicated above, communication between the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider servers 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106, may be direct or indirect, such as over an Internet Protocol (IP) network such as the Internet 108, an intranet, or an extranet through a web site maintained on the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider server 112) on a remote server or over an online data network including commercial online service providers, bulletin board systems, routers, gateways, and the like. In some embodiments, the nodes may communicate with the controller 102 over local area networks including Ethernet, Token Ring, and the like, radio frequency communications, infrared communications, microwave communications, cable television systems, satellite links, Wide Area Networks (WAN), Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) networks, Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), other wireless networks, and the like.

[0049] Those skilled in the art will understand that devices in communication with each other need not be continually transmitting to each other. On the contrary, such devices need only transmit to each other as necessary, and may actually refrain from exchanging data most of the time. For example, a device in communication with another device via the Internet 110 may not transmit data to the other device for weeks at a time. The nodes of the system 100A, 100B may not remain physically coupled to each other. For example, the gaming devices 104 may only be connected to the system 100A, 100B when a service technician needs to upload a slot machine's daily gaming data to the controller 102.

[0050] The controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider server 112) may function as a “web server” that presents and/or generates web pages which are documents stored on Internet-connected computers accessible via the World Wide Web using protocols such as, e.g., the hyper-text transfer protocol (“HTTP”). Such documents typically include one or more hyper-text markup language (“HTML”) files, associated graphics, and script files. A Web server allows communication with the controller 102 in a manner known in the art. The gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106 may include a Web browser, such as NAVIGATOR® published by NETSCAPE® to access HTML forms generated or maintained by or on behalf of the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider server 112).

[0051] As indicated above, any or all of the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider servers 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106 may include, e.g., processor based cash registers, telephones, interactive voice response (IVR) systems such as the ML400-IVR® designed by MISSING LINK INTERACTIVE VOICE RESPONSE SYSTEMS, cellular/wireless phones, vending machines, pagers, personal computers, portable types of computers, such as a laptop computer, a wearable computer, a palm-top computer, a hand-held computer, and/or a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). Further details of the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider server 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106 are provided below with respect to FIGS. 2 through 5.

[0052] As indicated above, in some embodiments of the invention the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider server 112) may include gaming devices 104 and/or redemption terminals 108. The controller 102 may communicate with players directly instead of through the gaming devices 104 and/or the redemption terminals 108. Although not pictured, the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider server 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106 may also be in communication with one or more consumer and/or merchant credit institutions to effect transactions and may do so directly or via a secure financial network such as the Fedwire network maintained by the United States Federal Reserve System, the Automated Clearing House (hereinafter “ACH”) Network, the Clearing House Interbank Payments System (hereinafter “CHIPS”), or the like.

[0053] In operation, a player may gamble using a gaming device 104. The gaming device 104 may communicate the player's identity, wagers, and gaming device outcomes to the controller 102. The controller 102 may compute the player's losses and determine a consolation prize to offer the player. The controller 102 may communicate the consolation prize to the gaming device 104 which may provide the player with a consolation prize ticket. The player may take the consolation prize ticket to a redemption terminal 106 that communicates the prize ticket information to the third-party service provider server 112. The third-party service provider server 112 may confirm the validity of the prize ticket and retrieve player information via communication with the controller 102 and then instruction a merchant via communication with the third-party merchant terminal 106 to ship a consolation prize to the player's home address.

C. Devices

[0054]FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating details of an example of the controller 102 of FIGS. 1A and 1B (and/or third-party service provider server 112 of FIG. 1B). The controller 102 is operative to manage the system and execute the methods of the present invention. The controller 102 may be implemented as one or more system controllers, one or more dedicated hardware circuits, one or more appropriately programmed general purpose computers, or any other similar electronic, mechanical, electromechanical, and/or human operated device. For example, in FIG. 1B, the controller 102 is depicted as coupled to a third-party service provider server 112. In the embodiment of FIG. 1B, these two servers may provide the same functions as the controller 102 alone in the embodiment of FIG. 1A.

[0055] The controller 102 (and/or third-party service provider server 112) may include a central processing unit (CPU) 202, such as one or more Intel® Pentium® processors. The CPU 202 may include or be coupled to one or more clocks or timers (not pictured), which may be useful for determining information relating to, for example, a length of a gaming session, and one or more communications interfaces 218 through which the CPU 202 communicates with other devices such as the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106. The CPU 202 is also in communication with a data storage device 204. The data storage device 204 includes an appropriate combination of magnetic, optical and/or semiconductor memory, and may include, for example, additional processors, communication ports, Random Access Memory (“RAM”), Read-Only Memory (“ROM”), a compact disc and/or a hard disk. The CPU 202 and the storage device 204 may each be, for example: (i) located entirely within a single computer or other computing device; or (ii) connected to each other by a remote communication medium, such as a serial port cable, a LAN, a telephone line, radio frequency transceiver, a fiber optic connection or the like. In some embodiments for example, the controller 102 may comprise one or more computers (or CPUs 202) that are connected to a remote server computer operative to maintain databases, where the data storage device 204 is comprised of the combination of the remote server computer and the associated databases.

[0056] The data storage device 204 stores a program 206 for controlling the CPU 202. The CPU 202 performs instructions of the program 206, and thereby operates in accordance with the present invention, and particularly in accordance with the methods described in detail herein. The present invention may be embodied as a computer program developed using an object oriented language that allows the modeling of complex systems with modular objects to create abstractions that are representative of real world, physical objects and their interrelationships. However, it would be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that the invention as described herein may be implemented in many different ways using a wide range of programming techniques as well as general purpose hardware systems or dedicated controllers. The program 206 may be stored in a compressed, uncompiled and/or encrypted format. The program 206 furthermore may include program elements that may be generally useful, such as an operating system, a database management system and “device drivers” for allowing the CPU 202 to interface with computer peripheral devices. Appropriate general purpose program elements are known to those skilled in the art, and need not be described in detail herein.

[0057] Further, the program 206 is operative to execute a number of invention-specific modules or subroutines including but not limited to one or more routines to upload, store, and organize player tracking information; one or more routines to compute a loss amount based on coin-in and coin-out; one or more modules to determine a consolation prize based on a loss amount; one or more routines to offer consolation prizes; one or more modules to implement a server for hosting Web pages; one or more routines to generate consolation prize tickets; one or more routines to confirm consolation prize tickets; one or more routines to redeem consolation prize tickets; one or more routines to receive and store information about a player; one or more routines to facilitate and control communications between the controllers 102 (and/or the third-party service provider servers 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106; and one or more routines to control databases or software objects that track information regarding players, consolation prize offers, merchants, gaming devices 104, and transactions. Examples of the functions of some of these routines and their operation are described in detail below in conjunction with the flowchart depicted in FIG. 10.

[0058] According to some embodiments of the present invention, the instructions of the program 206 may be read into a main memory of the CPU 202 from another computer-readable medium, such from a ROM to a RAM. Execution of sequences of the instructions in the program 206 causes CPU 202 to perform the process steps described herein. In alternative embodiments, hard-wired circuitry or integrated circuits may be used in place of, or in combination with, software instructions for implementation of the processes of the present invention. Thus, embodiments of the present invention are not limited to any specific combination of hardware, firmware, and/or software.

[0059] In addition to the program 206, the storage device 204 is also operative to store (i) a player database 208, (ii) an offer database 210, (iii) a third-party merchant database 212, and (iv) a transaction database 214. The databases 208, 210, 212, 214 are described in detail below and example structures are depicted with sample entries in the accompanying figures. As will be understood by those skilled in the art, the schematic illustrations and accompanying descriptions of the sample databases presented herein are exemplary arrangements for stored representations of information. Any number of other arrangements may be employed besides those suggested by the tables shown. For example, even though four separate databases are illustrated, the invention could be practiced effectively using one, two, three, five, six, or more functionally equivalent databases. Similarly, the illustrated entries of the databases represent exemplary information only; those skilled in the art will understand that the number and content of the entries may be different from those illustrated herein. Further, despite the depiction of the databases as tables, an object based model could be used to store and manipulate the data types of the present invention and likewise, object methods or behaviors may be used to implement the processes of the present invention. These processes are described below in detail with respect to FIG. 10.

[0060] Turning to FIG. 3, a block diagram of an example gaming device 104 is depicted. A gaming device 104 according to the present invention may include a CPU 302 coupled to a communications interface 308, a data storage device 304 that may store a gaming device program 306 and gaming data, a printer 310, a player input device 316, a player tracking card reader 314, and a display screen 312. Although not pictured, a gaming device 104 may include other typical elements such as a coin-hopper and a bill validator. A gaming device program 306 may include one or more routines to facilitate and control communications and interaction with the controller 102, routines to count coin-in and coin-out, and routines to implement a user interface to facilitate gaming and communication with the player. As indicated above, a gaming device 104 may be implemented by any number of devices such as, for example, an arcade game, a point-of-sale terminal, a lottery terminal, a telephone, an IVR system, a cellular/wireless phone, a kiosk, a vending machine, a pager, a personal computer, a portable computer such as a laptop, a wearable computer, a palm-top computer, a hand-held computer, and/or a PDA.

[0061] Turning to FIG. 4, a block diagram of an example third-party merchant terminal 106 is depicted. A third-party merchant terminal 106 according to the present invention may include a CPU 402 coupled to a communications interface 404, a data storage device (not pictured) that may store a merchant terminal program (not pictured), an input device (not pictured), and an output device (not pictured). A merchant terminal program may include one or more routines to facilitate and control communications and interaction with the controller 102 as well as a user interface to facilitate communications and interaction with a merchant operator (e.g. an operating system, a Web browser, etc.).

[0062] In addition, a third-party merchant terminal 106 may include additional devices to support other functions. For example, a third-party merchant terminal 106 embodied in a point-of-sale terminal may additionally include a system for tallying prices, receiving, counting, and dispensing cash as well as a printing device for generating a receipt. Further, many alternative input and output devices may be used in place of the device pictured in FIG. 4. Uses of these optional third-party merchant terminal 106 components are discussed below in conjunction with the description of the methods of the present invention.

[0063] Turning to FIG. 5, a block diagram of an example redemption terminal 108 is depicted. A redemption terminal 108 according to the present invention may include a CPU 502 coupled to a communications interface 504, a data storage device (not pictured) that may store a redemption terminal program (not pictured), an input device (not pictured), and an output device (not pictured). A redemption terminal program may include one or more routines to facilitate and control communications and interaction with the controller 102 as well as a user interface to facilitate communications and interaction with a player (e.g. an operating system, a Web browser, etc.).

[0064] In addition, a redemption terminal 108 may include additional devices to support other functions. For example, a redemption terminal 108 embodied in an ATM may additionally include a system for receiving, counting, and dispensing cash as well as a printing device for generating a receipt and/or a security camera. In another example, a redemption terminal 108 embodied in a gaming device may additionally include a system for generating and/or selling outcomes certified by a gaming authority. Such systems include slot machines which include conventional reel slot machines, video slot machines, video poker machines, video keno machines, video blackjack machines, and other gaming machines. In yet another example, a redemption terminal 108 embodied in a gasoline pump may additionally include a system for pumping, measuring, and managing the flow control of fuel. Further, many alternative input and output devices may be used in place of the device pictured in FIG. 5. Uses of these optional redemption terminal 108 components are discussed below in conjunction with the description of the methods of the present invention.

D. Databases

[0065] As indicated above, it should be noted that although the example embodiment of FIG. 2 is illustrated to include four particular databases stored in storage device 204, other database arrangements may be used which would still be in keeping with the spirit and scope of the present invention. In other words, the present invention could be implemented using any number of different database files or data structures, as opposed to the four depicted in FIG. 2. Further, the individual database files could be stored on different servers (e.g. located on different storage devices in different geographic locations, such as on a third-party service provider server 112). Likewise, the program 206 could also be located remotely from the storage device 204 and/or on another server. As indicated above, the program 206 includes instructions for retrieving, manipulating, and storing data in the databases 208, 210, 212, 214 as necessary to perform the methods of the invention as described below.

[0066] 1. Player Database

[0067] Turning to FIG. 6, a tabular representation of an embodiment of a player database 208 according to some embodiments of the present invention is illustrated. This particular tabular representation of a player database 208 includes two sample records or entries which each include information regarding a particular player. In some embodiments of the invention, a player database 208 is used to track such things as player tracking information including financial, demographic, performance, and contact information. Those skilled in the art will understand that such a player database 208 may include any number of entries.

[0068] The particular tabular representation of a player database 208 depicted in FIG. 6 defines fifteen fields for each of the entries or records. The fields may include: (i) a player identifier field 602 that may store a representation uniquely identifying a player; (ii) a name field 604 that may store a representation of the player's name; (iii) a financial account identifier field 606 that may store a representation of, for example, the player's credit card number or bank account number; (iv) a demographic field 608 that may store a representation of a description of demographic characteristics of the player; (v) a machine identifier field 610 that may store a representation uniquely identifying the machine on which the player played; (vi) a session theoretical win field 612 that may store a representation of the player's theoretical win amount for the current gaming session; (vii) a historical theoretical win field 614 that may store a representation of the player's theoretical win amount for all known gaming sessions; (viii) a win/loss field 616 that may store a representation of the amount of the player's winnings or losses during the current gaming session; and (ix) a time played field 618 that may store a representation of the duration of the current gaming session. A player database 208 may also include (x) a street address field 620; (xi) a town field 622; (xii) a state field 624; (xiii) a zip code field 626; (xiv) a telephone number field 628; and (xv) an email address field 630, that store a representation of the player's contact information.

[0069] The example player database 208 depicted in FIG. 6 provides example data to illustrate the meaning of the information stored in this database embodiment. Referring to the first entry in the player database 208, player “P111123” is named “Sam Brown.” Sam Brown's credit card number is “1111-1111-1111-1111” and he is “male, age 23.” Sam Brown played on gaming device “234M” for “3:24” (hours and minutes) and won “$50.” The casino had computed for him a session theoretical win of “$58” and a historical theoretical win of “$252.” Sam Brown lives at “183 Rock Place,” in “Park City,” “Nev.,” “95830.” His phone number is “418-555-1234” and his email address is sbrown@aol.com.

[0070] Referring to the second entry in the player database 208, player “P222234” is named “Linda Jones.” Linda Jones's credit card number is “2222-2222-2222-2222” and she is “female, age 47.” Linda Jones played on gaming device “532M” for “1:22” (hour and minutes) and lost “$100.” The casino had computed for her a session theoretical win of “$63” and a historical theoretical win of “$357.” Linda Jones lives at “34 Beat Street,” in “Juniper,” “N.J.,” “11364.” Her phone number is “445-987-6543” and her email address is “lones@hotmail.com.”

[0071] 2. Offer Database

[0072] Turning to FIG. 7, a tabular representation of an embodiment of an offer database 210 according to some embodiments of the present invention is illustrated. This particular tabular representation of an offer database 210 includes three sample records or entries which each include information regarding a particular consolation prize offer. In some embodiments of the invention, an offer database 210 is used to track consolation prize information such as the details of the offer, the value of the offer, and revenue from player acceptance of the consolation prize offer. Those skilled in the art will understand that such an offer database 210 may include any number of entries.

[0073] The particular tabular representation of an offer database 210 depicted in FIG. 7 defines eleven fields for each of the entries or records. The fields may include: (i) an offer identifier field 702 that may store a representation uniquely identifying a particular consolation prize offer; (ii) a merchant identifier field 704 that may store a representation uniquely identifying the merchant providing the consolation prize; (iii) an offer name field 706 that may store a representation of the name of consolation prize offer; (iv) a third-party merchant field 708 that may store a representation of the name of a producer of the consolation prize; (v) an offer duration field 710 that may store a representation of the length of time an subscription-type consolation prize will be provided; (vi) a full retail value field 712 that may store a representation of the actual retail value of the consolation prize; (vii) a quantity of offers made field 714 that may store a representation of the number of times the consolation prize offer has been offered; (viii) a payment to casino per offer made field 716 that may store a representation of the amount of revenue the casino earns from the third-party merchant each time the consolation prize offer is presented to a player; (ix) a payment to casino per offer accepted field 718 that may store a representation of the amount of revenue the casino earns from the third-party merchant each time the consolation prize offer is accepted by a player; (x) a tier level field 720 that may store a representation of the consolation prize tier of the consolation prize offer; and (xi) a threshold field 722 that may store a representation of a loss range required to qualify for the consolation prize tier level of the consolation prize offer.

[0074] The example offer database 210 of FIG. 7 provides example data to further illustrate the meaning of the information stored in this database embodiment. Referring to the example first entry, offer number “56839” from merchant number “M135468” is called “Magazine 1.” The Magazine 1 consolation prize offer is a “3 month” subscription to a magazine by “ABC Publisher” and has a retail value of “$11.85.” This consolation prize has been offered to “20” players, as a “bronze” level consolation prize, who have sustained a loss of “$1-$200.” The controller 102 operator, in this example a casino, does not get any payment from the merchant for offering or getting acceptances of this prize.

[0075] Referring to the second example entry, offer number “47532” from merchant number “M156321” is called “Phone Card.” The Phone Card consolation prize offer is “20 minutes” of telephone service by “North Telephone Company” and has a retail value of “$1.50.” This consolation prize has been offered to “65” players, as a “silver” level consolation prize, who have sustained a loss of “$201-$600.” The merchant is to pay controller 102 operator, in this example a casino, “$0.80” per Phone Card consolation prize offered to players. For every acceptance of the Phone Card offer, the casino is to receive “$1.25.” In some embodiments, the payment to the casino may not be on a flat rate basis. For example, the amount may be the difference between a player's losses and a total bounty paid by the third-party merchant.

[0076] Referring to the third example entry, offer number “56840” from merchant number “M135468” is called “Magazine 2.” The Magazine 2 consolation prize offer is a “3 month” subscription to a magazine by “XYZ Publisher” and has a retail value of “$8.85.” This consolation prize has been offered to “32” players, as a “gold” level consolation prize, who have sustained a loss of more than “$601.” The merchant is to pay controller 102 operator, in this example a casino, “$3.08” per Magazine 2 consolation prize accepted by a player. However, the casino does not receive any payment for offering the Magazine 2 consolation prize.

[0077] Note that the retail value may not be indicative of the tier level of a consolation prize relative to other consolation prizes. Also note that a tier level may not have an upper loss threshold. The example also illustrates that a single merchant may provide multiple different consolation prize offers.

[0078] 3. Third-Party Merchant Database

[0079] Turning to FIG. 8, a tabular representation of an embodiment of a third-party merchant database 212 according to some embodiments of the present invention is illustrated. This particular tabular representation of a third-party merchant database 212 includes two sample records or entries which each include information regarding a third-party merchant. In some embodiments of the invention, a third-party merchant database 212 is used to track information about the merchant providing consolation prizes, the amount earned by the controller 102 from the merchant, and other information. Those skilled in the art will understand that such a third-party merchant database 212 may include any number of entries.

[0080] The particular tabular representation of a third-party merchant database 212 depicted in FIG. 8 defines six fields for each of the entries or records. The fields may include: (i) a merchant identifier field 802 that may store a representation uniquely identifying the merchant; (ii) a merchant name field 804 that may store a representation of the merchant's name; (iii) a merchant address field 806 that may store a representation of the merchant's address; (iv) a product name field 808 that may store a representation of the merchant's product provided as a consolation prize; (v) a type field 810 that may store a representation of a description of the type of product provided as a consolation prize; and (vi) a total payment due from merchant field 812 that may store a representation of the total amount of money the merchant owes the entity operating the controller 102 as a result of the controller awarding the merchant's product as a consolation prize to players.

[0081] The example third-party merchant database 212 of FIG. 8 provides example data to further illustrate the meaning of the information stored in this database embodiment. Referring to the first sample entry, merchant number “M135468” is called “Magazine X” and is located in “Anyplace, USA.” Magazine X's product is called “Magazine” and it is a “subscription” type product. Based upon the total offers and acceptances of Magazine X's product as a consolation prize, Magazine X owes the controller 102 operator “$49.28.”

[0082] Referring to the second sample entry, merchant number “M156321” is called “Phone Company Y” and is located in “Someplace, USA.” Phone Company Y's product is called “Phone Card” and it is a “card” type product. Based upon the total offers and acceptances of Phone Company Y's product as a consolation prize, Phone Company Y owes the controller 102 operator “$133.25.”

[0083] 4. Transaction Database

[0084] Turning to FIG. 9, a tabular representation of an embodiment of a transaction database 214 according to some embodiments of the present invention is illustrated. This particular tabular representation of a transaction database 214 includes four sample records or entries which each include information regarding a particular consolation prize offer transaction. In some embodiments of the invention, a transaction database 214 is used to track such things as the details of consolation prize offer transactions including identification and confirmation numbers as well as time and date stamps. Those skilled in the art will understand that a transaction database 214 may include any number of entries.

[0085] The particular tabular representation of a transaction database 214 depicted in FIG. 9 defines seven fields for each of the entries or records. The fields may include: (i) a transaction identifier field 902 that may store a representation uniquely identifying at least one consolation prize offer transaction; (ii) an offer identifier field 904 that may store a representation uniquely identifying at least one consolation prize offer; (iii) a player tracking number field 906 that may store a representation uniquely identifying at least one player; (iv) a time field 908 that may store a representation of a time of day a transaction occurred; (v) a date field 910 that may store a representation of a date a transaction occurred; (vi) a player confirmation number field 912 that may store a representation uniquely identifying the transaction for use by the player in redeeming a consolation prize ticket; and (vii) a casino confirmation number field 914 that may store a representation uniquely identifying the transaction for use by the casino in billing third-party merchants for accepted consolation prize offers, for example.

[0086] The example transaction database 214 of FIG. 9 provides example data to further illustrate the meaning of the information stored in this database embodiment. Referring to the first sample data entry, transaction number “T1233456” involved consolation prize offer number “56839” to player number “P11123.” The offer was accepted at “3:24 PM” on “Apr. 4, 2001.” The player received confirmation number “1233456” and the controller 102 operator, in this example, a casino, recorded “412563” as a confirmation number for use with the third-party merchant supplying the consolation prize.

[0087] Referring to the second sample data entry, transaction number “T654321” involved consolation prize offer number “47532” to player number “P22234.” The offer was accepted at “1:26 AM” on “May 6, 2001.” The player received confirmation number “654321” and the casino recorded “965874” as a confirmation number for use with the third-party merchant.

[0088] Referring to the third sample data entry, transaction number “T789654” involved consolation prize offer number “56840” to player number “P33345.” The offer was accepted at “12:01 PM” on “Mar. 3, 2002.” The player received confirmation number “789455” and the casino recorded “764923” as a confirmation number for use with the third-party merchant.

[0089] Referring to the fourth sample data entry, transaction number “T345678” involved consolation prize offer number “67943” to player number “P44456.” The offer was accepted at “4:44 AM” on “Jan. 1, 2001.” The player received confirmation number “456789” and the controller 102 operator, in this example, a casino, recorded “478537” as a confirmation number for use with the third-party merchant.

E. Process Descriptions

[0090] The system discussed above, including the hardware components and the databases, are useful to perform the methods of the invention. However, it should be understood that not all of the above described components and databases are necessary to perform any of the present invention's methods. In fact, in some embodiments, none of the above described system is required to practice the invention's methods. The system described above is an example of a system that would be useful in practicing the invention's methods. For example, the player database 208 described above is useful for tracking users, but it is not absolutely necessary to have such a database in order to perform the methods of the invention. In other words, the methods described below may be practiced using a conventional player/customer list. Likewise, in embodiments in which a casino provides all consolation prizes, a third-party merchant database 212 may not be necessary or useful.

[0091] Referring to FIG. 10, a flow chart is depicted that represents some embodiments of the present invention that may be performed by the controller 102 (FIGS. 1A and 1B), an external third-party, and/or an integrated third-party entity/device such as a third-party service provider server 112. It must be understood that the particular arrangement of elements in the flow chart of FIG. 10, as well as the order of example steps of various methods discussed herein, is not meant to imply a fixed order, sequence, and/or timing to the steps; embodiments of the present invention may be practiced in any order, sequence, and/or timing that is practicable.

[0092] In general terms and referring to FIG. 10, the method steps of an embodiment of the present invention may be summarized as follows. In Step S1, the system 100A, 100B receives a player identifier. In Step S2, gaming device 104 coin-in and coin-out amounts are tracked. In Step S3, the system 100A, 100B receives an indication that the player has completed a gaming session. In Step S4, the system 100A, 100B determines a loss amount. In Step S5, a determination is made whether the player's loss amount qualifies for a consolation prize: if so, the process proceeds to Step S6 where the system 100A, 100B determines a consolation prize offer based upon the loss amount and then in Step S7, offers the player the consolation prize. If in Step S5, the loss amount is less than the lowest loss range associated with a consolation prize, the process terminates.

[0093] In the subsections that follow, each of these seven steps will now be discussed in greater detail. Note that not all seven of these steps are required to perform the method of the present invention and that additional and/or alternative steps are also discussed below. Also note that the above general steps represent features of only some of the embodiments of the present invention and that they may be combined and/or subdivided in any number of different ways so that the method includes more or less actual steps. For example, in some embodiments many additional steps may be added to update and maintain the databases described above, but as indicated, it is not necessary to use the above described databases in all embodiments of the invention. In other words, the methods of the present invention may contain any number of steps that are practicable to implement the processes described herein. The methods of the present invention are now discussed in detail.

[0094] Step S1: Receive A Player Identifier

[0095] In some embodiments of the present invention, a player may identify himself to the system 100A, 100B. This allows the present invention to be applied to a single gaming session played on different gaming devices 104, a discontinuous gaming session, shipping consolation prizes to a player's home, targeted consolation prize offers, and numerous other relationship-type benefits for players, casinos, and third-party merchants. However, in other embodiments of the present invention, a consolation prize may be awarded for example, based upon an anonymous player's losses at a single gaming device 104 during a single continuous gaming session. Thus, in some embodiments, players may not be required to identify themselves. A gaming session begins once a player starts to play, for example, upon the gaming device receiving the first coin-in of a wager. In some embodiments of the present invention, a player may sit down at a gaming device 104 and enter his player tracking card into the player tracking card reader 314. Next, the player may deposit bills into the gaming device's bill validator and proceed to play the gaming device 104. The player tracking card information may be used to populate a player database 208 or an identification number on a player tracking card may be used to access player information in a pre-existing player database 208.

[0096] Step S2: Track Coin-in And Coin-Out Amounts

[0097] While playing the gaming device 104, the gaming device 104 may record coin-in and coin-out amounts to keep a running tabulation of a player's current loss amount or to later determine a player's final loss amount. For example, all coin-in (the number of coins/credits wagered by the player) and coin-out (the number of coins/credits paid out by the gaming device 104) may be tracked, with the difference representing the player's win or loss. Such wins and losses may be recorded by the gaming device 104 and/or communicated to the controller 102 (to be stored, for example, in the player database 208). In some embodiments the gaming device 104 may display the player's current loss amount, an indication of one or more consolation prizes for which the loss amount qualifies, and/or a consolation prize tier for which the current loss amount qualifies. In some embodiments, the player's loss amount may be calculated based upon other factors in addition to or alternatively from the difference between coin-in and coin-out. For example, a loss calculation may include parameters such as standard deviation of the player's payouts over time to give more of a consolation prize and account for the emotional stress of large or sudden losses. In such embodiments, additional data may be tracked to facilitate such calculations.

[0098] Step S3: Receive An Indication That A Gambling Session is Complete

[0099] After the player has lost, for example, $112.00, the player may determine that he does not want to risk losing any additional money and he may decide to stop playing. The player may indicate to the gaming device 104 (and the system 100A, 100B) that he would like to stop playing by pressing a cash-out button on the gaming device 104. At that point, a final loss amount may be determined by gaming devices' CPU 302 comparing the total amount of coin-in with the total amount of coin-out and/or by another method.

[0100] In some embodiments, the gaming device 104 may determine that a player is finished playing based upon a pause in playing. For example, a gaming device 104 may ask the player (via a prompt on the display screen 312) if he is finished playing if the gaming device determines that the player has not made a handle pull within the past thirty seconds. The player input device 316 may be used to allow the player to respond to the gaming device's inquiry. In some embodiments, gaming devices 104 may be equipped with sensors that detect that a player is beginning to move away from the gaming device. In some embodiments, casino personnel may provide the indication to the system 100A, 100B that the gambling session is complete. Many other methods and devices may be employed to indicate to the system 100A, 100B that the gambling session is complete.

[0101] Step S4: Determine a Loss Amount

[0102] In some embodiments, the controller 102 may record and determine a player's loss amount. For example, for every losing combination that the player experiences, an outcome indicator may transmit a losing signal to the gaming devices' CPU 302. Conversely, for every winning combination that the player experiences, the outcome indicator may transmit a winning signal to the gaming devices' CPU 302. After receiving the gaming device's loss and win signals, the CPU 302 may transmit the losing and/or winning signals to the controller 102. Upon receiving the CPU's losing and/or winning signals, the controller 102 may record and store the number of losing and winning signals within the player database 208. For example, after a player sustains a loss of $100.00, the player database 208 may have recorded that the player has had 200 winning outcomes and 600 losing outcomes. After losing this $100, the player may decide to stop playing. The player may indicate to the gaming device 104 that he would like to stop playing by pressing a cash-out button. At that point, a final loss amount for the session may be determined by the controller 102 accessing the player database 208 and compare the total amount of losses with the total amount of wins.

[0103] Step S5: Determine If The Loss Amount Qualifies For A Consolation Prize

[0104] The system 100A, 100B may next compare the loss amount against a prize qualification threshold. If the loss does not exceed the prize qualification threshold, the process terminates without awarding a consolation prize in some embodiments. Otherwise, the process may proceed to determine an appropriate prize.

[0105] In some embodiments, it may be desirable to only provide a consolation prize to players with a loss amount greater than a defined minimum threshold. In some embodiments, a casino may want to provide consolation prizes no matter how small a player's loss amount may be. In some embodiments, certain players maybe be identified to be offered a consolation prize only when their losses exceed a threshold specific to them. Such an embodiment may be used to prevent a player from exploiting the system by receiving more consolation prizes than the casino intends. Many other rules may be employed in determining if a loss amount qualifies a player for a consolation prize.

[0106] Step S6: Determine A Prize Based Upon the Loss Amount

[0107] In some embodiments, consolation prizes may be awarded based directly upon the player's loss amount. For example, a casino may provide a player with a coupon with a retail value equal to the player's loss amount. In some embodiments, the consolation prize may be calculated from the loss amount. For example, a gaming device 104 may immediately provide a player with five percent of his loss amount if he agrees to continue playing.

[0108] In some embodiments, the system 100A, 100B may determine whether the loss amount falls within a predetermined loss range and if so, base the consolation prize on the loss range. Several loss ranges may be defined, each having one or more consolation prizes associated with them. For example, a set of loss ranges may be defined as follows: if a player loses between $1 and $200, then his loss is in loss range 1, if the player loses between $200 and $600, then his loss is in loss range 2, if the player loses between $600 and $1000, then his loss is in loss range 3, and if the player loses more that $1000, then his loss is in loss range 4. Loss ranges may be directly associated with particular consolation prizes or, in some embodiments, a loss range may be associated with a consolation prize tier. For example, if a player loses between $1 and $200 (loss range 1 of the above example) he may earn a consolation prize from the bronze tier. If a player loses between $200 and $600 (loss range 2 of the above example), the player may earn a consolation prize from the silver tier. If a player loses between $600 and $1,000 (loss range 3 of the above example), the player may qualify for the gold tier. Finally, if a player loses anything over $1,000.00 (loss range 4 of the above example), he may be automatically qualify for a platinum tier consolation prize. Clearly any number of different loss ranges, tier structures, and tier names may be used. The determination of for which tier a loss amount qualifies and within which loss range a toss amount falls may be performed on any of the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider servers 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106.

[0109] In conjunction with the various consolation prize tiers, there may exist various associated consolation prizes. In some embodiments of the present invention, each consolation prize tier may be associated with a number of different consolation prizes. In addition, each consolation prize tier may contain increasingly higher value consolation prizes. For example, the bronze tier may contain a number of different “minute denomination” variations for a pre-paid phone card. The silver tier may contain a number of three-month magazine subscriptions from various publishers. The gold tier may contain a one-month subscription to a number of different local telephone company services. Finally, the platinum tier may contain a number of different one-month cable and/or internet service subscriptions. As indicated above, any number of consolation prizes may be associated with any number of consolation prize tiers and is not limited to the examples which have been provided. Examples of the consolation prize tiers and their associated consolation prizes may be presented to a player as follows:

Bronze 20 Minute 30 Minute 10 Minute 15 Minute
Domestic Pre-Paid International International Pre-
Pre-Paid Phone Card Pre-Paid Paid Phone Card
Phone Card Phone Card
Silver Three-Month Three-Month Three-Month Three-Month
Magazine Magazine Magazine Magazine
Subscription Subscription Subscription Subscription
Gold Three-Month Three-Month Three-Month Three-Month
Caller ID Voice Mail Three-Way Conference Call
Subscription Subscription Calling Subscription
Subscription
Platinum One-Month One-Month One-Month One-Month
Internet Cable Direct TV Digital Television
Service Television Service Service
Subscription Service Subscription Subscription
Subscription

[0110] As described, a number of different consolation prizes may be associated with each consolation tier. Thus, a player whose total loss amount falls within the loss range associated with the bronze tier may be presented with a choice of one of the different pre-paid phone cards. In another example, when a player's total loss amount falls within the loss range associated with the platinum tier, he may choose from one of the different internet and/or cable television service subscriptions. Any number of different consolation prizes may be offered and possible prizes are not limited to the above examples. It may also be noted that either a casino or a service provider functioning as a consolation prize distributor may associate a consolation tier with a consolation prize. In some embodiments, available consolation prizes may be associated with particular values. For example, a three-month magazine subscription may have a retail value of $3.95 while a three-month internet service subscription may have a retail value of $69.00 ($23.00×3). These values may be assigned to help track the contributions of a third-party merchant and the benefits provided to a player.

[0111] Because new customers may have significant long term economic value to a company, merchants may be willing to pay a casino a commission for each consolation prize accepted by the player. For example, a player accepting a free three-month trial subscription to a sports magazine may generate significant profits for the publisher if he goes on to become a paid subscriber. For this reason, the publisher may be willing to pay, for example, the casino $4.00 for each consolation prize offer accepted by a player. Further, in some embodiments, the publisher may agree to pay the casino $10.00 for each customer that become a paid subscriber after having accepting the free initial trial period. In some embodiments, a publisher may agree to pay $3.00 a casino per year as long as the casino-generated customer continued the subscription.

[0112] Step S7: Offer the Prize

[0113] In some embodiments, a gaming device 104 may provide a player who has sustained a qualifying loss with a consolation prize ticket or an actual consolation prize immediately upon detecting that the player has completed a gaming session and calculating the loss amount. In some embodiments, a consolation prize ticket may be redeemed for a consolation prize at any of the controller 102 (and/or the third-party service provider servers 112), the gaming devices 104, the redemption terminals 108, and/or the third-party merchant terminals 106. In some embodiments, a casino may provide a consolation prize redemption area for players to receive their consolation prizes.

[0114] In some embodiments, after a gaming device 104 has associated a loss threshold amount with an appropriate consolation prize tier and associated consolation prizes, the gaming device 104 may present the player with the consolation prize offer. For example, the gaming device's CPU 302 may retrieve the player's consolation prize tier and associated consolation prize offers from an offer database 210 and present the consolation prize offers to the player. In some embodiments, the gaming device 104 may transmit a request to the controller 102 to obtain the player's consolation prize tier and associated offers. Upon receiving the gaming device's 104 request, the controller 102 may retrieve the player's consolation prize tier and associated offers from its databases and transmit the requested information to the gaming device 104. Next, the gaming device 104 may receive the requested information from the controller 102 and proceed to present the consolation prize tier and associated offers to the player.

[0115] In some embodiments, the gaming device 104 may present the player with the specific consolation prize tier for which his final loss amount has qualified him. For example, referring back to a previous example, a player who has lost $100 may be presented with the silver consolation prize tier's magazine subscription offers. A tabular representation of the following consolation prize offer may appear on the gaming device 104 display screen 312 as follows:

Congratulations, you have qualified for one of our Silver Tier
Consolation Prizes. Please make you selection:
Three-Month Three-Month Three-Month Three-Month
Subscription to Subscription to Subscription to Subscription to
ABC Magazine XYZ Magazine PQR Magazine RST Magazine
Press Here To Press Here To Press Here To Press Here To Accept
Accept Accept Accept

[0116] In some embodiments the gaming device 104 may present the player's consolation prize tier and associated offers in such a manner so as to attract attention to the player and gaming device 104. For example, the gaming device 104 may transmit a lighting signal to a centrally located ceiling spotlight to shine on the player. In addition, bells, whistles, confetti, laser lights, etc. may also direct attention to the player and gaming device 104. Conversely, a player may have the option to avoid any additional gaming device 104 directed attention. For example, prior to presenting the player with his consolation prize tier and associated offers, the player may press a button on the gaming device 104 which may indicate to the gaming device 104 that he would not like to receive the additional fanfare.

[0117] After being presented with the silver consolation prize tier and associated offers, the player, in some embodiments, may immediately indicate acceptance of one of the consolation prize offers. The number of consolation prize offers which a player may accept may be determined by either the casino or the participating third-party merchant. For example, in the case where a player wants to accept one consolation prize offer, he may press a button on the gaming device's 104 video or LCD screen which indicates his interest in accepting the offer. In some embodiments, the indication of acceptance may include pressing a button on another part of the gaming device such as an input/output button, or a spin button, or an accept button, etc. After pressing an accept button on the gaming device's display screen 312, the gaming device may present the player with a personal information page. At this point, the player may be prompted to enter his personal information into the gaming device 104. For example, the gaming device 104 may request that the player enter his name, mailing address, telephone number, email address, gender, age, additional magazine preferences and credit card number. In some embodiments, the player's information including his mailing address and credit card number may be obtained by the system from a play tracking card or from the player database 208. This information may be used to send the player his consolation prize.

[0118] In some embodiments, once the gaming device 104 has received the player's applicable information, it may transmit the player's information to the controller 102 where it may be recorded and stored. In some embodiments, the player's consolation prize acceptance information may be stored in the transaction database 214. After the controller 102 has recorded and stored the player's applicable information, the controller 102 may retrieve a confirmation number from the transaction database 214 and transmit the consolation prize offer name and confirmation number to the gaming device 104. Next, the gaming device 104 may receive the player's consolation prize offer name and confirmation number from the controller 102 and, in some embodiments, display the consolation prize offer name and confirmation number on the gaming device's 104 display screen 312. In some embodiments, after recording and storing the player's applicable information, the controller 102 may transmit an indication to the controller 102 to query the player as to whether he would like to receive his consolation prize offer name and confirmation number by email. In some embodiments, the player may indicate to the gaming device 104 that he would like to have his consolation prize offer name and confirmation number sent to his email address. At that point, the gaming device 104 may transmit the player's indication to the controller 102. Next, the controller 102 may receive the player's acceptance, retrieve the player's email address from the player database 208, and transmit the player's consolation prize offer name and confirmation number to the player's email address.

[0119] The above described embodiment may allow the creation of a direct communications link between the casino and the player which may be used for additional marketing purposes. Using the player's postal address, email address, etc., the casino may offer the player additional offers and promotions in an efficient and cost effective manner. In some embodiments, should the player prefer not to have his consolation prize offer name and confirmation number sent to his email address, he may have them printed from the gaming device's 104 printer 310. For example, after indicating to the gaming device 104 that he would not like to have his consolation prize offer name and confirmation number emailed to his email address, the gaming device 104 may print the player's consolation prize offer name and confirmation number and any other information which may be applicable onto a ticket. In some embodiments, the offer information may be printed onto a cashless gaming receipt. In some embodiments, the printed ticket may be lasered onto a roll of stock paper which may be stored within the gaming device 104. In some embodiments, the player's consolation prize ticket may serve as the player's receipt for his accepted consolation prize offer. The player may use his consolation prize ticket as a receipt if for any reason he has a problem receiving his expected consolation prize. In some embodiments, after the player has received his consolation prize ticket from the printer he may redeem it at an in-house casino consolation prize cage.

[0120] In some embodiments, after either the gaming device 104 or controller 102 has stored the player's acceptance of a consolation prize, the consolation prize offer name, and confirmation number, the controller 102 may transmit the player's information to a participating third-party merchant via the third-party merchant terminal 106. For example, referring back to a previous example, a player who has selected a three-month magazine subscription consolation prize may have particular information which a participating third-party merchant may need to process the order. For example, a participating third-party merchant may need the player's name, address, telephone number, email address, and credit card number to deliver the consolation prize. The player's credit card number may be used by the third-party merchant to continue the magazine subscription beyond a free-trial period if the player so chooses. For example, after a player has reached the end of his three-month trial subscription, additional subscription time may be automatically billed to the player's credit card unless he indicates that he desires otherwise. The magazine publisher may charge the player's credit card for the appropriate amount of the subscription and continue sending the player his magazine without interruption.

[0121] In some embodiments, a dedicated service provider may serve to consolidate all subscription related consolation prize transactions. Several casinos may feed accepted offers to this service provider, and the service provider may work with publishers to fulfill the subscriptions. In this embodiment, the service provider may manage payments to the casinos and transferring subscription information to the publishers.

[0122] In some embodiments, either the gaming device 104 or the controller 102 may retrieve the player's information from the applicable databases and create an entry in the transaction database 214. For example, the controller 102 may enter the offer number, player tracking number, time, date, and player's confirmation number into the transaction database 214. The controller 102 may transmit the information to the third-party merchant using the information in the third-party merchant database 212. In the above example, the third-party merchant may be a magazine publisher. After receiving the controller's 102 information, the third-party merchant may transmit a confirmation number back to the controller 102 which indicates that the participating third-party merchant has received the casino's transmission and is processing the order. The controller 102 may store the third-party merchant's confirmation number in the transaction database 214.

F. EXAMPLE ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

[0123] The following very specific examples are provided to illustrate particular embodiments of the present invention, particularly from the perspective of potential users of the system 100A, 100B including players and potential controller 102 operators such as casinos.

Example 1

[0124] A player may sit down at a slot machine and enter his player tracking card into the player tracking card reader. Next, the player may deposit a $100.00 bill into the slot machine's bill validator and proceed to play the slot machine. After the player has wagered and lost this $100.00, the slot machine may transmit an indication to the player that he has earned a consolation prize. At that point, the slot machine may present the player with five different consolation prize offers from which he may choose. After choosing one of the consolation prize offers, such as a three-month magazine subscription or a three-month internet service subscription, the player may enter his personal information and credit card number into the slot machine. Next, the slot machine may present the player with a confirmation number that represents confirmation to the player that he may expect to receive his consolation prize in the mail.

Example 2

[0125] A player may sit down at a slot machine and enter his player tracking card into the player tracking card reader. Next, the player may deposit a $10.00 bill into the slot machine's bill validator. At that point, the slot machine may receive the player's $10.00 bill and suggest that the player deposit another $10.00 into the slot machine by indicating to the player that the additional $10.00 will allow him to qualify to receive a consolation prize should he wager and lose all of the money. Next, the player deposits the additional $10.00 into the slot machine and proceeds to play the game. After losing all $20.00, the slot machine may present the player with a choice of consolation prize offers such as a free three-month magazine subscription or a $20.00 discount off the purchase of a hotel room stay. At that point, the player may choose a particular magazine subscription offer and proceed to input his personal information and credit card number into the slot machine. Finally, the slot machine may present the player with a confirmation number that represents confirmation to the player that he may expect to receive his three-month magazine subscription in the mail.

Example 3

[0126] A player begins a gambling session by inserting a $100 bill into the bill validator. After losing $73, the player elects to cash-out his remaining $27. As his coins are dispensed by the hopper of the slot machine, a printer on the slot machine prints a voucher for the player that entitles him to a $73 rebate on his next purchase of a Ford® truck.

G. Additional Embodiments of the Invention

[0127] The following are example alternative variations which illustrate additional embodiments of the present invention. It should be understood that the particular variations described in this section may be combined with the different embodiments, or portions thereof, described above in any manner that is practicable. These examples do not constitute a definition or itemization of all possible embodiments, and those skilled in the art will understand that the present invention is applicable to many other embodiments. Further, although the following examples are briefly described for clarity, those skilled in the art will understand how to make any changes, if necessary, to the above-described apparatus and methods to accommodate these and other embodiments and applications.

[0128] In some embodiments, a player may earn the right to purchase a particular product at a significant discount based on the total amount that the player has lost. For example, a player who has lost at least $100 may be eligible to purchase a $300 television for $200. After wagering and losing his $100, the player may decide to stop playing and press the cash out button. At that point, the player may be presented with the option to purchase the television. The player may choose to purchase the television by pressing the accept button on the gaming device 104. In response, the gaming device 104 may present a purchase information page for the player for the player to complete. After entering his name, address, credit card number, and any other applicable information, the gaming device 104 may transmit the information to the controller 102 where it may be recorded and stored. The controller 102 may then transmit a confirmation number to the gaming device 104 which may be presented to the player. The controller 102 may also transmit redemption information to the player. This information may include the merchant name and address where the player may pick up his television. The controller 102 may transmit the casino's request to purchase a television to a third-party merchant where it may be received and processed. In some embodiments of the present invention, the player may simply receive a coupon for a discount on a future television purchase, rather than committing to the purchase while at the gaming device 104.

[0129] In some embodiments, a consolation prize purchase offer or consolation prize offer may automatically appear on a player's gaming device 104 display screen 312. For example, there may exist predetermined triggers, such as losing a certain dollar amount or playing despite having mostly losing outcomes for a particular period of time, which may cause the presentation of a consolation prize purchase offer or consolation prize offer to appear. Thus, the player may receive consolation prize offers at any time during his gaming device 104 play.

[0130] In some embodiments, the casino may offer the player a consolation prize of an interest free loan for period of time. In some embodiments, a casino may offer the player a consolation prize that includes a hotel room upgrade.

[0131] In some embodiments, the third-party merchants may pay the casino a fee for every consolation prize given away. For example, a telephone company may pay a casino a fee for every three-month trial service period given away. The third-party merchant may be willing to pay the casino a fee in anticipation of a dramatic increase in new customers that the third-party merchant may receive.

[0132] In some embodiments, a casino may implement procedures to prevent a player from “gaming” the consolation prize offer system. Gaming the consolation prize offer system may include attempting to obtain more consolation prizes than are intended by the casino. In some embodiments, a player may be required to provide a credit card number every time he indicates that he is willing to accept a consolation prize. The casino may impose, for example, a five consolation prize limit and enforce the limit by charging the credit card of any player who exceeds the limit for the full retail value of the consolation prizes accepted in excess of the limit. Requiring a credit card number may filter out people who are not seriously interested in the consolation prizes. Additionally, in the case of trial subscription-type consolation prizes, providing a credit card number to a third-party merchant may facilitate conversion of free trial customers into paid subscribers through an automated subscription continuation program.

[0133] In some embodiments, a player may be required to provide a player tracking card in order to receive a consolation prize. For example, a player may be required to insert his player tracking card into the player tracking card reader 314 at some point while he is playing a gaming device 104 in order for the casino to associate the consolation prize offer with his player tracking card number. In addition, the casino will be able to track how many consolation prizes that the player has been offered and has received.

[0134] In some embodiments, consolation prize offers may be restricted to be only offered to hotel guests, high rollers, nickel slot players, players with children, players with an income over a threshold amount, and/or players with an out-of-state ID. In other words, the consolation prizes may not be offered to any player or category of player the casino determines should not receive such prizes. As indicated above, one way this may be achieved is by setting a very high qualifying loss amount threshold for individual players or categories of players.

[0135] In some embodiments, a player may be required to take his consolation prize ticket to the consolation prize redemption area to receive his consolation prize. For example, after providing a player with a consolation prize ticket, the gaming device 104 may instruct the player to go to the consolation prize redemption area to receive his prize. This may allow a casino attendant to recognize when a player is attempting to improperly redeem multiple consolation prizes ticket. In addition, a casino attendant stationed at a consolation prize redemption area may also be able to console a player who she knows has sustained losses. Such an attendant may be able to provide a personal touch in helping a player deal with frustrating feelings and also provide special consolation prizes based on both the player's losses and the attendant's perception of the player's frustration level. In some embodiments, a consolation prize redemption area may be provided that is designed to soothe and reassure losing players. Special lighting, music, and decorating may be employed to create such an atmosphere.

[0136] In some embodiments, a casino may intend to give away as many consolation prize offers as possible. This may be the case, for example, when a casino receives revenue from third-party merchants for each offer and/or acceptance of a consolation prize offer. To facilitate giving away as many consolation prizes as possible, a casino may rely upon a player tracking system and/or the use of a transaction database 214 in conjunction with storing player information in a player database 208.

[0137] In some embodiments, a loss amount may be determined considering the amount of time that a player has played a gaming device 104. For example, in addition to recording and storing the player's actual loss amount, the gaming device 104 may also record and store the total amount of time that a player has played a particular machine. After a player has inserted his player tracking card into the player tracking card reader, the gaming device's 104 CPU may begin recording and storing the total time that the player has been playing the gaming device 104. After deciding to stop playing, the player may press a cash out button. At that point, the player's loss rate may be determined by the gaming device's 104 CPU dividing the total amount of money that the player has lost by the total amount of time that the player has played the gaming device 104. To illustrate, an example equation may look as follows:

[0138] loss rate=(coin-in−coin-out)/total time of a play session

[0139] In some embodiments of the present invention, a player may be required to both meet a loss amount threshold and a loss rate threshold in order to qualify for a particular consolation prize or consolation prize tier. Alternatively, loss rate alone may be used to determine whether a player qualifies for a particular consolation prize or consolation prize tier.

[0140] In some embodiments, the gaming device 104 may require that the player establish an initial minimum credit balance on the gaming device to later be able to qualify for a particular consolation prize or consolation prize tier. Further, the system 100A, 100B may impose additional restrictions on when a consolation prize or consolation prize tier is available to players. For example, certain consolation prizes may only be awarded during off peak hours, only on specific gaming devices in the casino, and/or only during a casino marketing promotion such as a special event party.

H. Conclusion

[0141] It is clear from the foregoing discussion that the disclosed systems and methods to provide consolation prizes based upon losses represents an improvement in the art of gaming marketing. While the method and apparatus of the present invention has been described in terms of its presently preferred and alternate embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that the present invention may be practiced with modification and alteration within the spirit and scope of the appended claims. The specifications and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense.

[0142] Further, even though only certain embodiments have been described in detail, those having ordinary skill in the art will certainly appreciate and understand that many modifications, changes, and enhancements are possible without departing from the teachings thereof. All such modifications are intended to be encompassed within the following claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/25
International ClassificationG07F17/32
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/3244
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32K
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Sep 3, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: WALKER DIGITAL, LLC, CONNECTICUT
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WALKER, JAY S.;JORASCH, JAMES A.;FRIESEN, SCOTT T.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:013247/0167;SIGNING DATES FROM 20020614 TO 20020826
Feb 13, 2003ASAssignment
Jun 27, 2005ASAssignment
Dec 6, 2005ASAssignment
Nov 4, 2009ASAssignment
Owner name: IGT,NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:WALKER DIGITAL, LLC;REEL/FRAME:023456/0940
Effective date: 20090810