US 20030040354 A1
Bingo players are provided with inexpensive electronic pagers that signal the current status of bingo cards purchased by players. A central computer automatically verifies all bingo cards sold to all players each time a new bingo number is called. Over a radio channel, the central computer notifies the electronic pagers of the current status of bingo cards purchased by the respective holders of the pagers. The pagers receive data transmitted by the central computer and display the received data including an identification of the leading bingo card and an indication of a bingo number needed to complete bingo. An identification of the bingo cards being monitored by the pager is input into the pager by a player via the pager's keypad or by a cashier that operates a point-of-sale terminal. The point-of-sale terminal communicates with the central computer and optionally with the electronic pagers as well.
1. An automated system for playing a bingo game including:
a central data processing means in combination with at least one electronic pager and in further combination with at least one bingo card associated with said electronic pager;
said at least one bingo card competing for a winning in said bingo game;
said central data processing means verifying said at least one bingo card upon calling of a new called bingo number in said bingo game and transmitting a current status of said at least one bingo card in said bingo game;
said electronic pager receiving said current status of said at least one bingo card and signaling said current status of said at least one bingo card.
2. Automated system of
3. Automated system of
4. Automated system of claim I wherein said electronic pager includes a local data entry means and a remote data entry means.
5. Automated system of
6. Automated system of
7. Automated system of
8. Automated system of
9. Automated system of claim I wherein said central data processing means transmits said current status over a wireless communication channel.
10. Automated system of claim I wherein said electronic pager displays an identification of said at least one bingo card assigned to said electronic pager.
11. Automated system of
12. Automated system of
13. Automated system of claim12 wherein confirmation of said new called bingo number is inputted to said electronic pager via a local data entry means.
14. Automated system of
15. Automated system of
16. Automated system of
17. Automated system of
18. Automated system of
19. An automated system for playing a bingo game including:
a central data processing means in communication with at least one electronic pager associated with at least one bingo card;
said at least one bingo card competing for a winning in said bingo game;
said central data processing means, upon calling of a new called bingo number in said bingo game, transmitting a current status of said at least one bingo card in said bingo game;
said electronic pager receiving said current status transmission of said at least one bingo card and signaling said current status of said at least one bingo card.
20. Automated system of
21. Automated system of
22. Automated system of
23. Automated system of
24. Automated system of
 The present invention relates generally to the field of gaming systems. More particularly, to the field of automated bingo systems. The present invention uniquely informs a bingo player of a bingo game status including the status of the player's cards being played, which cards are nearest bingo and numbers needed to attain bingo.
 U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,455,025 and 4,624,462 to Itkis disclose a bingo system including a bingo caller terminal and a plurality of electronic bingo player units receiving bingo data from the bingo caller terminal over a wireless network. Principles of these patents are embodied in the popular Bingo Star® system manufactured by FortuNet, Inc., of Las Vegas, Nev. and other similar bingo systems manufactured by various other vendors. Some of such systems are described for example, in bingo industry publications “Bingo on the Rebound”, International Gaming & Wagering Business, March 2000; “The Electronic Invasion”, Bingo Manager, August 1995; “Technology In the Palm of Your Hand”, Bingo Manager, November 1997; “The Electronic Management of Information”, Bingo Manager, September 1997; “Calling on Caller Equipment”, Bingo Manager, February 1998; “Color and Animation Improve Hand-Held Bingo”, Bingo Manager, October 1999; “Management Information Systems Insure Hall Integrity”, Bingo Manager, June 2000; “Electronics Evolve with New Ideas”, Bingo Manager, July 2000; “High Stakes Games Create Excitement and Profits”, Bingo Manager, August 2000.
 In the Bingo Star® environment, bingo players purchase electronic bingo cards at a point-of-sale terminal. A cashier operating a point-of-sale terminal provides a player with a sales receipt and an electronic bingo player unit that is downloaded (via a point-of-sales terminal) with bingo cards identified on the sales receipt. Via embedded radio receiver, the player unit receives data from a bingo caller terminal, e.g., called bingo numbers and bingo patterns, and by verifying downloaded bingo cards with received data, checks whether any of the downloaded bingo cards are winning cards. In such a case, a player unit plays a winning tune and displays a winning bingo card, a player announces “bingo” and a bingo caller verifies a winning bingo card with the help of a bingo caller terminal. Electronic bingo player units extensively process bingo data received over the air and/or wire and mark (also known as “daub”) a player's bingo card in accordance with called bingo numbers and bingo patterns. In addition, the units typically determine player's leading bingo cards which are closest to winning and often, display the bingo numbers the best cards need to win the game. Although Bingo Star® and other similar bingo player units are fully adequate for playing bingo in a bingo hall, being full-fledged PC-compatible computers, they are rather expensive and labor-intensive. In particular, the units require substantial computational resources, need to be recharged frequently and require downloading of massive data including bingo schedules and bingo cards sold to players.
 In essence, Bingo Star® and similar bingo systems are distributed processing systems wherein electronic player units perform the balk of data processing and the central computer is utilized only to verify the winning bingo cards that are detected by electronic bingo player units. An alternative to such a distributed processing is represented by a PLATO® educational system that in recent years started to be exploited commercially. PLATO® systems include a “bingo lesson” in which a user manually daubs his/her bingo card displayed on the computer terminal screen. The user mentally monitors the current status of his/her bingo card and manually signals to the central PLATO® computer that a bingo occurred on the bingo card being played. In response, PLATO's® central computer verifies that the card is indeed a winning card. In essence, a Bingo Star® player unit automatically performs functions of a “student” in the PLATO® environment.
 In recent years, numerous bingo sites have proliferated the Internet. Such bingo sites, such as bingo.com, zanybingo.com and freeonlinebingo.com, also offer players a simulation of conventional paper bingo game. Similarly to PLATO®, the internet bingo sites typically require players to (a) manually mark bingo cards displayed on the computer screen and (b) mentally detect the winning bingo pattern. Although the computers participating in an Internet bingo game may be very advanced, they essentially act as “dumb” terminals while the players mentally perform all data processing relevant to bingo game. Casinos and bingo halls, however, embrace electronic bingo player units as effective means of relieving bingo players from the chores of manual bingo to facilitate a bingo players' participation in activities that are additionally profitable for the gaming enterprise, such as slot machine playing and pulltab playing. Note also that not only “dumb” computer terminals inefficient in a gaming establishment environment, they are also quite expensive even more so than expensive dedicated electronic bingo player units optimized for playing bingo.
 To avoid high expenses typically associated with electronic bingo player units and computer terminals adapted for playing bingo, U.S. Pat. No. 5,951,396 to Tawil and co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 60/241,982 propose an alternative implementation of a computerized bingo system that automatically detects winning bingo cards without the need to provide each player with an electronic bingo player unit. Specifically, Tawil teaches a plurality of point-of-sale terminals selling barcoded paper bingo cards to players. The point-of-sale terminals send sales data to a central computer, and the latter automatically verifies all sold bingo cards every time a new bingo number is called. Eventually, the system detects a winning card (or cards) and signals the end of the game. Although the system avoids a need to utilize expensive electronic bingo player units (and/or computer terminals), it lacks the ability to inform each player about the current status of his/her bingo cards. In particular, Tawil's system does not inform the player which cards are closest to winning and which bingo numbers are needed to win the game.
 Well known bingo flashboards, such as radio-controlled flashboards disclosed by Lloyd in U.S. Pat. No. 4,332,389 are widely accepted means of delivering relevant information to bingo players. Although, rather inexpensive “per head” such displays do not deliver player-specific information unique to a particular player.
 Electronic pagers were suggested for use as inexpensive means for delivery of game outcome information to gamblers. Note that the low cost of pagers is due to the fact that by merely displaying received data as is, without performing complicated data processing functions, pagers need only minimum data processing resources and are power-efficient. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,012,983 to Walker et al. suggests pagers as inexpensive means for informing casino players about the outcome of a pending casino game, such as a slot game. However, Walker's device is in essence a mere extension of a regular slot machine and is incapable of playing group games, such as bingo, wherein a player plays against other players rather than against a machine. Moreover, Walker's device is not conducive to sales of bingo cards at a bingo hall's point-of-sale terminal or on the floor of a bingo hall. Also, it has no provision for manual entry of called bingo numbers that is required in many jurisdictions.
 U.S. Pat. No. 5,212,636 to Nakazawa discloses another pager-like device that receives horse racing data, selects a subset of the data that is of interest to the player and compares the outcome of the race with player's “prediction”, i.e., player's bet. Although Nakazawa's device receives information like a pager, in essence, it is a full-fledged autonomous player unit that processes publicly available information in conjunction with player-entered data and computes an outcome of a player's bet resulting from a horse race. Further, Nakazawa's device is not adapted for bingo game and is not conducive to sales of bingo cards at a bingo hall's point-of-sale terminal or on the floor of a bingo hall. Moreover, it does not allow for player's manual entering of called bingo numbers.
 Therefore, there exists an unsolved need to provide bingo hall patrons with inexpensive and efficient means of signaling the current status of their cards, e.g., displaying the leading bingo cards closest to winning.
 The present invention accomplishes the primary objective of answering the above stated heretofore unsolved need to provide bingo players with inexpensive efficient devices displaying and announcing the current status of their bingo cards.
 It is an additional objective of the invention to make such devices portable and capable of wireless communication.
 It is a further objective of the invention to provide an indication of the leading game cards and their degree of closeness to the winning.
 It is a further additional objective to adapt such devices for sales of bingo cards at the point-of-sale terminal and on the floor of gaming establishment as well.
 It is a further objective to make the devices capable of both a fully automatic playing and an interactive playing with some degree of player participation in marking called numbers to comply with certain jurisdictional restrictions.
 It is a further objective to make such devices flexible and adaptable for a broad range of applications. In particular, the invention accomplishes the objective of rendering such devices capable of issuing service requests, such as requests for additional bingo cards, change and cocktails.
 It is a further objective to make communication with such devices prioritized in accordance with the degree of closeness to winning of bingo cards being monitored by the devices in order to assure a prompt delivery of winning messages.
 These and other objectives of the invention will become more apparent from the following drawings and the description of the preferred embodiment.
 The focal point of the invention is a bingo pager that receives pre-computed data, from a central computer, readily identifying the current status of bingo cards sold to the holder of the bingo pager. The bingo cards are typically sold at a point-of-sale terminal and are linked with a pager including a manufacturer's identification number carried on a barcode label attached to a pager that is read into a point-of-sale terminal with the help of a barcode reader. Each sales transaction is reported or transmitted by a point-of-sale terminal to a central bingo caller terminal. With every new called bingo number the bingo caller terminal automatically verifies all bingo cards participating in a game and by doing so determines the current status of bingo cards assigned or sold to each bingo pager. Thereafter, the bingo caller terminal broadcasts computed current status of bingo cards to all bingo pagers over a radio channel. Each bingo pager selects out of the entire received data stream specific data addressed to the pager (e.g., carrying a manufacturer's identification number of a specific pager) and displays the current status of bingo cards purchased by the holder of the pager. In addition, a bingo pager emits various sounds (e.g., briefly “beeps” when a new bingo number is called by a bingo caller terminal and plays a tune when one of the cards monitored by the bingo pager wins) as the game progresses.
 The default mode of operation of a bingo pager is a totally automatic mode that does not require any interaction with a player. However, absolute automatic playing of bingo cards may be prohibited in some jurisdictions. Therefore, a bingo pager is provided with a limited capability to accept a player's input. For example, a bingo pager may be able to accept a player's pressing of the “ENTER” pushbutton. The act of such player input signals a player's confirmation of the latest called bingo number that is highlighted on said pager's screen.
 Although a bingo pager has very limited computational capabilities, it can nevertheless display on its screen any information transmitted by a bingo caller terminal. In particular, it can display general game related information, including bingo patterns being played and bingo prizes available, to players. Moreover, a central computer transmits non-bingo-related information, including advertisements, which the bingo pager can display as well.
 Being equipped with a radio transceiver, the bingo pager can send data to the bingo caller terminal. For example, the bingo pager can send an identification of purchased bingo cards entered by a player via a pager's keypad. As a result, the bingo pager may be used in an environment wherein bingo cards are sold at a point-of-sale terminal and also on the floor of bingo hall. Moreover, even without sending any information to a bingo caller terminal a bingo pager may be used in a floor sales environment. In particular, a bingo pager can select, from the entire data stream transmitted by a caller terminal, specific data applicable to bingo cards purchased by a player who enters into a bingo pager an identification of purchased cards (e.g., a serial number of the purchased pack of bingo cards) In addition, the bingo pager can send various service requests such as requests for “CHANGE” or “MORE CARDS”.
 The present invention is illustrated in FIG. 1 including a bingo pager 1, a bingo caller terminal 2 and a point-of-sale terminal 3. As shown in FIG. 1, bingo pager I is an electronic programmable device equipped with an inexpensive alphanumerical character Liquid Crystal Display (“LCD”) 4, a twelve key keypad 5 and a radio antenna 6. Said LCD 4 may be a five line by fourteen character display. The keypad 5 includes ten numerical buttons 7, an “ENTER” button 8 and “MENU” button 9. Although only one bingo pager 1 is shown in FIG. 1, in practical implementation, any number of bingo pagers 1 may be utilized by a bingo hall. Bingo caller terminal 2 is a PC-compatible computer 11 equipped with a color graphics LCD touchscreen display 12 and a radio antenna 13. Point-of-sale terminal 3 is also a PC-compatible computer 14 equipped with a color graphics LCD touchscreen display 15 and a radio antenna 16. Via cable 17, point-of-sale terminal 3 is interconnected with a receipt printer 18 capable of printing a sales receipt 19. Point-of-sale terminal 3 is also interconnected with a barcode reader 20 via cable 21. Optionally, point-of-sale terminal 3 may be interconnected with bingo caller terminal 2 over a local area network cable 22.
 The internal architecture of bingo pager 1 is illustrated in FIG. 2. As shown in FIG. 2, bingo pager 1 incorporates a low cost programmable microcontroller 23, such as a “DragonBall-EZ” microcontroller manufactured by Motorola Corporation that controls its operations. In particular, microcontroller 23 is interconnected with monochrome character LCD display 4 via cable 24, with keypad 5 via cable 25 and with speaker 26 via cable 27. Microcontroller 23 is also interconnected via cable 28 with a BlueTooth® transceiver 29, such as BlueTooth Radio transceiver manufactured by Ericsson Corporation, and the latter in its turn, is interconnected with antenna 6 via a coaxial cable 30. Programmable microcontroller 23 stores a unique manufacturer's identification number corresponding to bingo pager 1 that is provided in a barcoded form on label 10 in its non-volatile memory (not specifically shown in FIG. 2).
 PC-compatible computer 11 of bingo caller terminal 2 incorporates a Central Processing Unit (“CPU”) 31, such as Intel Pentium-4 high performance CPU and a BlueTooth® transceiver 32. CPU 31 is interconnected with a high-resolution color graphics touchscreen LCD 12 via cable 33 and with BlueTooth® transceiver 32 via cable 34. BlueTooth® transceiver 32 is interconnected with antenna 13 via a coaxial cable 35. PC-compatible computer 14 of point-of-sale terminal 3 also incorporates a CPU 36 and a BlueTooth® transceiver 37. CPU 36 is interconnected with a high-resolution color graphics touchscreen LCD 15 via cable 38 and with BlueTooth® transceiver 37 via cable 39. BlueTooth® transceiver 37 is interconnected with antenna 16 via a coaxial cable 40.
 Via inexpensive BlueTooth® transceivers 29, 32 and 37, bingo pager 1, bingo caller terminal 2 and point-of-sale terminal 3 send and receive messages to and from each other at a high data rate. Architecture and operation of BlueTooth® transceivers is comprehensively described in many industry publications, including “Specification of the BlueTooth System v. 1.0 B” published Dec. 1, 1999 by Ericsson corporation such that the specific details of BlueTooth® communication protocols are omitted here. Similarly, the conventional techniques of interfacing and programming microcontrollers and PC-compatible computers are well known to practitioners of the art, and therefore are omitted as well. Following teachings of Itkis embodied in Bingo Star® system and the like, bingo caller terminal 2 broadcasts via antenna 13 bingo game data, such as called bingo numbers and game-over command as illustrated in FIG. 3c and FIG. 3b respectively.
FIG. 3a illustrates a typical data packet 41 received by bingo pager 1 from bingo caller terminal 2. Conventional BlueTooth® header and trailer fields 42 and 43 encapsulate data packet 41. The application-specific content of data packet 41 consists of a destination field 44, a message identification field 45 and a number of optional data fields 46, 47 through 48. Drawings FIG. 3b-FIG. 3f provide specific examples of application-specific data packets. For example, FIG. 3b illustrates a data packet addressed to all bingo pagers 1 as evidenced by the destination field “ALL”49. With the exception of the destination field 49, data packet of FIG. 3b consists only of a message identification field 45. Specifically, FIG. 3b illustrates a data packet notifying all bingo pagers 1 that a bingo game is over as evidenced by the data filed “GAME OVER”50. Similarly, FIG. 3c illustrates another data packet addressed to all bingo pagers 1. The data packet of FIG. 3c includes a message identification field equal to “LAST CALL” 51 and a data field “BALL #” 52. Message identification 51 informs all bingo pagers 1 that the immediately following data field 52 carries information about the last called bingo number and the data field 52 identifies the last called bingo number.
 Drawings FIG. 3d-FIG. 3f illustrate examples of data packets addressed to individual bingo pagers 1. The destination field of data packets shown in FIGS. 3c-3 f contains “UNIT #” 53 corresponding to a manufacturer's identification number barcoded on label 10 that uniquely identifies a specific bingo pager 1. The message identification field “BINGO” 54 illustrated in FIG. 3f informs a unit that it is a winning unit. The first optional data field “CARD #” 55 informs bingo pager 1 which specific bingo card, or cards, is a winning card, and an optional second data field “FACE” 56 carries contents of the winning bingo card. The message identification field “ON” 57 illustrated in FIG. 3e informs a specific bingo pager 1 that it is just one number away from bingo. An optional first data field “BALL #” 58 informs bingo pager 1 which specific bingo number it requires to achieve bingo, and an optional second data field “CARD #” 60 informs bingo pager 1 which specific bingo card, or cards, is one number away from bingo. The message identification field “AWAY” 61 illustrated in FIG. 3d informs a unit that it is at least two numbers away from bingo. The first optional data field “# OF BALLS” 62 informs bingo pager 1 how many numbers away from bingo its leading bingo card is, and an optional second data field “# OF CARDS” 63 informs bingo pager 1 the number of its bingo cards which are leading cards.
 The operation of an automated bingo system illustrated in FIG. 1 is controlled by bingo caller terminal 2 and by point-of-sale terminal 3. Bingo pager 1 plays a subservient role and simply displays received information originating at bingo caller terminal 2 and/or point-of-sale terminal 3. Similarly to Bingo Star® system and the like, point-of-sale terminal 3 registers sales of all bingo cards to bingo players. Typically, bingo cards are sold to players in multiples of six called packs. Each sold pack typically has a unique identification number. Such an identification number is often printed on a side of paper bingo pack and in the case of electronic bingo cards each “virtual” pack of cards is automatically assigned a unique identification number by point-of-sale terminal 3. FIG. 1 illustrates a sales receipt 19 accompanying a sale of five bingo packs starting from pack number denoted 64 and concluding with a pack number denoted 65. Sales receipt 19 shown in FIG. 1 is issued by point-of-sale terminal 3 and is printed on receipt printer 18. Point-of-sale terminal 3 assigns a unique sequential receipt or transaction number 66 to sales receipt 19. Sales receipt 19 is also imprinted with a manufacturer's identification number or unit number 67 of a specific bingo pager 1 that accompanies sales receipt 19. In addition, sales receipt 19 is imprinted with a barcode label 97 that uniquely identifies receipt 19. For example, barcode 97 may carry receipt number 66, unit number 67, pack numbers 64 and 65, and/or any combination of the above parameters 64 through 67 in an encoded form.
 As stated above, unit number 53 equal to manufacturer's identification number 67 shown on receipt 19 of pager 1 is barcoded on label 10 and is stored in memory of bingo pager 1. In order to link a sales receipt 19 to a specific bingo pager 1, a cashier reads into point-of-sale terminal 3 a barcode label 10 with the help of barcode reader 20. In the alternative, a cashier may simply manually enter manufacturer's unit number 67 into point-of-sale terminal 3 via its touchscreen 15. Similarly to Bingo Star® system and the like, point-of-sale terminal 3 transmits data packets detailing each sales transaction specifically including unit number 53, receipt number 66, first pack number 64 and last pack number 65 as illustrated in FIG. 3g to bingo caller terminal 2, via antenna 6 and/or via local area network 22. Bingo caller terminal 2 acts as a file server and stores in a database, such as an ACESS® database, all received sale receipts 19. The database specifically includes the identification of each sale receipt 19 along with the associated unit number 67 and the identification of sold bingo packs 64 through 65. For every bingo game being played, bingo caller terminal 2 automatically links identifications of each sold bingo pack with bingo cards included in the bingo pack. Note that paper bingo packs are precut and collated from standard preprinted pages of bingo cards, and therefore, there exists a predetermined relationship between bingo pack identification numbers and bingo cards assigned to a given bingo pack in each particular bingo game. Manufacturers of electronic bingo devices also adapted a similar technique of linking bingo packs with electronic bingo cards in every bingo game. Similarly to Tawil and co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 60/241,982, bingo caller terminal 2 automatically verifies all sold bingo cards each time a new bingo number is called and/or a new bingo pattern is introduced. Bingo caller terminal 2 also ranks all bingo cards participating in the game by their degree of closeness to bingo. Once a bingo is detected by bingo caller terminal 2, the game is automatically stopped by bingo caller terminal 2, and optionally, prize payouts attributable to winning bingo cards are automatically computed by bingo caller terminal 2.
 Bingo caller terminal 2 proceeds beyond simple detection of winning bingo cards. Specifically, bingo caller terminal 2 retrieves from the stored database the identity of the specific sales receipt 19 that the winning bingo card belongs to and broadcasts via antenna 13 a data packet illustrated in FIG. 3f. As shown in FIG. 3f, this data packet specifically includes manufacturer's identification number 67 of the winning bingo pager 1. In essence, bingo caller terminal 2 pages a specific bingo pager 1. In response, the target bingo pager 1, having a matching manufacturer's identification number 67 beeps via speaker 26 and/or vibrates to alert a player and displays a face number of the winning bingo card as illustrated in FIG. 4c. Optionally, bingo pager 1 also displays the winning card itself as illustrated in FIG. 1 and FIG. 4m. Note that although the capabilities of an inexpensive character LCD display 4 are severely limited, it is still possible to indicate on such a display the daubed bingo numbers by under-scrolling such numbers on the displayed bingo card as illustrated in FIG. 4m.
 Unlike bingo player units disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,624,462, bingo pager I does not derive new information by processing received data. In particular, bingo pager 1 does not determine the current status of bingo cards by comparing bingo card contents with received called bingo numbers and bingo patterns being played. Instead, bingo pager 1 simply displays the current status of bingo cards as determined by bingo caller terminal 2. The principles of operation of bingo pager 1 are illustrated in more detail in the simplified flowchart shown in FIG. 5. Upon power-up/reset 68, microcontroller 23 executes an initialization routine “INIT” 69 that prepares bingo pager 1 for further operation. Once initialized, microcontroller 23 enters into the main execution loop through its entry point “A” 70. The main execution loop starts with receive packet routine “RX PACKET” 71. Subsequently in step “MY?” 72, the microcontroller 23 checks whether the packet is addressed to it, such that the field “UNIT #” 53 in the received packet matches its manufacturer's identification number 67 stored in the memory of said microcontroller 23. If the received packet is indeed addressed to the bingo pager 1 in question, microcontroller 23 checks whether the received packet has a message identifier field “BINGO” 54 by executing a test step “BINGO?” 73. If test 73 is positive, microcontroller 23 executes step “DISPLAY CARD #” 74 that results in displaying the winning card number on display 4 of bingo pager 1 as shown in FIG. 4c. If the test for bingo fails, microcontroller 23 re-enters the main loop at the point “A” 70. If the received packet is not addressed to the bingo pager 1 in question, as determined by the primary test “MY?”=0 72, microcontroller 23 executes an additional test “NEW?” 75. The latter test is performed in order to determine whether the received packet carries information about a new called bingo number as is shown in the packet illustrated in FIG. 3c. If it is determined that a new bingo number indeed arrived microcontroller 23 causes display 4 to show the new called bingo number as shown in FIG. 4b by executing step “DISPLAY #” 76. If no new called bingo number is detected in step 75, a final check is made in step “END?” 77 to determine whether the arrived packet carries the end of game command as illustrated in FIG. 3b. If test 77 confirms that the game is over, microcontroller 23 displays on display 4 the name of the next game in step “DISPLAY NEXT GAME” 78. Otherwise, microcontroller 23 re-enters main loop at point “A” 70. Whatever the display operation may be performed by microcontroller 23 in steps 74, 76 and 78, upon completion of either operation, microcontroller 23 re-enters the main loop at point “A” 70.
 Capabilities of bingo pager 1 can be substantially expanded through improvements of its software and hardware. For example, the flowchart in FIG. 5 illustrates only a very simple version of a program running on microcontroller 23. This program can be easily generalized to include additional features without departure from the main principles of the invention. For example, main loop starting at point “A” 70 may include an additional subroutine shown in FIG. 6a that processes the “ON” cases when only one number is needed to complete bingo. The subroutine shown in FIG. 6a starts with step “ON?” 79 and checks whether the received data packet signifies that a bingo card is “ON” as indicated by the message identifier field “ON” 57 shown in FIG. 3e. If so, a ball number carried in an optional field “BALL #” 58 is displayed by microcontroller 23 on a LCD display 4 in step “DISPLAY ON #” 80 as shown in FIG. 4d. Otherwise, the routine exits.
 Similarly, FIG. 6b shows an optional subroutine checking for “AWAY” packets carrying information about how far away from bingo unit's 53 leading card currently is. The overall structure of the subroutine shown in FIG. 6b is identical to the structure of the subroutine shown in FIG. 6a. It includes the test step “AWAY?” 81 and a display step “DISPLAY X CARDS Y AWAY” 82, wherein “X” is the number of matches needed to complete a bingo as shown in FIG. 3d and “Y” is the number of leading bingo cards. The “X” and “Y” values are extracted by microcontroller 23 from the data fields “# OF BALLS” 61 and “# OF CARDS” 62 illustrated in FIG. 3d.
 As described above, bingo pager 1 operates without any player intervention. In some jurisdictions, laws and/or regulations may prohibit a fully automatic detection of bingo as so-called “auto-daubing”. In order to use essentially the same bingo pager 1 in such restrictive jurisdictions, its program has to be modified to include at least some interaction with a player. For example, when display 4 shows a new called bingo number as illustrated in FIG. 4b it may be displayed with blinking under-scroll. Further updating of the display 4 may be suspended until and unless a player presses “ENTER” button 8 or in even more restrictive jurisdictions a player enters the digits of the newly called number into keypad 5. The operation of bingo pager 1 in such a mode is illustrated in subroutine shown in FIG. 6c. The subroutine of FIG. 6c starts at the point “B” 83 of main loop. Similarly to main loop of FIG. 5, the subroutine of FIG. 6c starts with the test “NEW #” 84. If a new called bingo number is detected in step 84, then a flag is set in step 85 and the newly called bingo number is displayed in the subsequent step “DISPLAY BLINKING #” 86. Thereafter, microcontroller 23 starts to scan keypad 5 in a tight loop 87 around step “ENTER” 88 until and unless a player presses the “ENTER” button 8. Once a player does press “ENTER” button 8, the subroutine shown in FIG. 6c exits after clearing the flag set in step 85.
 In the environment shown in FIG. 1, a cashier that operates point-of-sale terminal 3 handles bingo pager 1. In many bingo halls however, bingo cards are sold “on the floor” rather than through a point-of-sale terminal. Fortunately, bingo pager 1 is readily adaptable for use in a floor sales environment. In such an environment, a player enters pack identification numbers 64 and 65 into keypad 5, and bingo caller terminal 2 transmits bingo pack identification numbers 64 and 65, instead of manufacturer's identification number 67 in the destination field 44 of the data packets shown in FIGS. 3d-3 f. Note that the overall range of sold bingo packs must be known before a bingo game begins in order to prevent cheating. Therefore, the overall range of packs or cards being played can be easily entered into bingo caller terminal 2 by bingo caller via touchscreen 12 instead of being transmitted from the point-of-sale terminal 3. Similarly, it is not an overwhelming task, especially being guided and assisted by the convenient data entry template displayed on LCD 4 as shown in FIG. 4h, for a player to enter via keypad 5 the identification numbers of the first 64 and the last 65 purchased bingo packs. It is rather simple to modify the program running on microcontroller 23 to track a range of destination fields instead of only one specific destination address. Note also that instead of pack identification numbers 64 and 65, the “face” numbers of the first card on the first and the last pack may be utilized as shown in FIG. 4i. In the latter case, bingo caller terminal 2 will have to transmit respective “face” numbers instead of manufacturer's identification number 67 in the destination field 44 shown in FIGS. 3d-3 f.
 Bingo pager 1 is also readily adaptable for receiving and displaying general-purpose game relevant information. For example, bingo pager 1 can display an outcome of a game as illustrated in FIG. 4n, session and a game names as shown in FIG. 4a, advertising information as shown in FIG. 4g, and generally, any arbitrary message as indicated in FIG. 4o. Moreover, capabilities of bingo pager 1 can be expanded significantly through the use of a main menu 89 illustrated in FIG. 4k. The main menu 89 is accessible through key 9 of keypad 5. For example, by selecting the first selection “BINGO PACKS” shown in FIG. 4k, a player can access the pack entry screen shown in FIG. 4h. Moreover, main menu 89 of the type shown in FIG. 4k may be utilized to access games other than bingo. For example, bingo pager 1 can conceivably display current status of a variety of games as long as the status is determined and transmitted by a central computer in a manner similar to bingo caller terminal 2.
 Bingo pager 1 can be equipped with a broad variety of input and output peripherals. Up to this point, the only capability of BlueTooth® transceiver 29 utilized in bingo pager 1 was the capability to receive data. However, BlueTooth transceiver's 29 capability to transmit data is advantageous for expansion of the field of applications of bingo pager 1. For example, BlueTooth® transceiver 29 can send out requests for service, such as requests for change 90 and/or cocktails 91as illustrated in FIG. 4k. Similarly, it can signal a desire of the player to purchase additional bingo cards. To initiate a service request, a player simply presses menu button 9 on keypad 5 and subsequently enters a respective selection, such as selections 90 and 91, via keypad 5. In response, microcontroller 23 sends via BlueTooth® transceiver 29 an encoded message to a remote point of service terminal equipped with a matching BlueTooth® transceiver. Similarly, bingo pager 1 can send arbitrary data to bingo caller terminal 2 and/or to point-of-sale terminal 3. For example, a “feedback” data sent by bingo pager 1 can include an identification of bingo cards purchased on the floor in a manner described above. In the latter case, bingo pager 1 becomes essentially a mobile point-of-sale terminal carrying out certain functions of point-of-sale terminal 3. Also, bingo pager 1 can be used to play so-called “do-it-yourself” or “U-pick 'em” bingo cards, wherein a player selects his/her favorite bingo numbers, typically seven bingo numbers, and the player-selected numbers form a “do-it-yourself “bingo card as shown in FIG. 41. Through main menu of FIG. 4k, a player can access a “U-pick 'em”=0 screen and enter the player's selections via keypad 5 resulting in a bingo card shown in FIG. 41 displayed on display 4. Once a “U-pick 'em” card is fully entered by a bingo player, its contents can be transmitted by bingo pager 1 to bingo caller terminal 2 using transceiver 29. Note that throughout the entire above description, a generic term “bingo card” is equally applicable to both “electronic” bingo cards and conventional “paper” bingo cards.
 Although the above description presumes that a BlueTooth® transceiver is utilized in bingo pager 1, a broad variety of wireless communication devices other than BlueTooth® transceivers and techniques including not only radio but also infrared and ultrasound communications can be utilized in implementing the invented system. In particular, the assortment of applicable communication methods includes a broad variety of conventional data integrity, data compression and data security techniques. A particularly recommended technique, especially in the case of a limited-capacity wireless communication channel operating in a noisy environment, is the utilization of redundant prioritized data queues. For example, the notification of winning bingo pagers 1, may be assigned higher priority than the notification of the units that are one number away from bingo, and the notification of the units two or more numbers away from bingo may be assigned even lower priority. Such a prioritization technique is illustrated in FIG. 7 wherein a packet 92 notifying “UNIT A” about bingo is transmitted first of all and is repeated three times. The notification of the “UNIT B” 93 that is “ON” follows the notification of the “UNIT A” and is repeated only twice. The notification of the “UNIT C” 94 and of the “UNIT D” 95 that are two or more numbers away from bingo is performed only once and at the last opportunity.
 Although the above description presumes that bingo pager 1 is equipped with an inexpensive five-by-fourteen character display 4, it nevertheless is capable of indicating matches between called bingo numbers and matching bingo card numbers 96 by simply underlying the matching bingo numbers as shown in FIG. 1. Even smaller displays, such as a one-line by twelve character display, can be used since the information displayed on the screen can easily be scrolled. On the other hand, with the progress of technology more advanced displays, including color-graphics displays may become affordable for utilization in bingo pager 1. Moreover, touchscreens may be utilized in lieu of or in addition to keypad 4.
 Although the invention has been described in detail with reference to a preferred embodiment, additional variations and modifications exist within the scope and spirit of the invention as described and defined in the following claims.
FIG. 1 illustrates a block diagram of an automated bingo system including a point-of-sale terminal, a bingo caller terminal and a bingo pager.
FIG. 2 illustrates an internal architecture of a point-of-sale terminal, a bingo caller terminal and a bingo pager.
FIG. 3 illustrates various data packets broadcast by a bingo caller terminal.
FIG. 4 illustrates various screens displayed on a bingo pager.
FIG. 5 illustrates a sample flowchart of a bingo pager.
FIG. 6 illustrates various flowchart stabs of a bingo pager.
FIG. 7 illustrates a prioritized train of data packets broadcast by a bingo caller terminal.