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Publication numberUS20030195037 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/121,703
Publication dateOct 16, 2003
Filing dateApr 11, 2002
Priority dateApr 11, 2002
Publication number10121703, 121703, US 2003/0195037 A1, US 2003/195037 A1, US 20030195037 A1, US 20030195037A1, US 2003195037 A1, US 2003195037A1, US-A1-20030195037, US-A1-2003195037, US2003/0195037A1, US2003/195037A1, US20030195037 A1, US20030195037A1, US2003195037 A1, US2003195037A1
InventorsVinh Vuong, Son Vuong, Binh Vuong, Craig Shinners
Original AssigneeVt Tech Corp.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Video gaming machine for casino games
US 20030195037 A1
Abstract
The present invention relates to a system and method for the play of casino games. Casino games are played on a gaming machine that includes a processor and at least one video camera for detecting images of the user and a remote controlled electronic lock. A reader associated with the gaming machine detects a transponder circuit containing encoded user information. Using the detected information, the gaming machine may be used to play casino games or, if the user is authorized to gain access to the interior of the gaming machine, the electronic lock is activated to permit access to the interior of the cabinet. The decision to provide access is made at a casino server. If unauthorized play or access is detected, video images are transmitted by the casino server to wireless Internet cellular telephones so that security personnel can identify the individual attempting the unauthorized play or access.
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Claims(20)
We claim:
1. A system for playing a casino game comprising:
a communication network;
a cabinet having processor, a user interface for initiating and controlling the play of a game of chance, a display, means for establishing a stake for the player, a reader for receiving information specific to a user and a network interface for establishing a network connection over said communication network;
a casino server coupled to said processor by said communication network, said casino server adapted to maintain an account for the user while said user is playing said casino game; and
means for securing said cabinet, said securing means including a reader for receiving a request by said user for access to the interior of said cabinet; said means for securing coupled to said processor so that in response to an access request, information regarding the identity of said person is transmitted to said casino server over said communication network so as to selectively enable remote determination whether access is authorized.
2. The system for playing a casino game of claim 1 further comprising:
a first video camera, coupled to said securing means and said processor, for generating an image of said user in response to receipt of said request.
3. The system for playing a casino game of claim 1 further comprising:
a non-contact reader adapted to detect information regarding said user; and
means for acquiring authenticating information from said user.
4. The system for playing a casino game of claim 3 wherein said information is maintained on an RFID device, said RFID device comprising a transponder circuit encoded with information corresponding to said user.
5. The system for playing a casino game of claim 3 wherein said authenticating information comprises biometrics information.
6. The system for playing a casino game of claim 3 wherein said casino server is adapted to detect when said user is a casino employee authorized to gain access to the interior of said cabinet.
7. The system for playing a casino game of claim 5 wherein said casino server is adapted to maintain a log file of each access to the interior of said cabinet, said log file including the identification of said employee, the time of access and the duration of access.
8. The system for playing a casino game of claim 7 further comprising means for generating an alarm and for transmitting a video image of said person attempting to gain access to the interior of said cabinet to at least one wireless display unit.
9. The system of claim 8 wherein said wireless display unit comprises a cellular phone.
10. The system for playing a casino game of claim 2 further comprising means for generating an alarm and for transmitting a video image of said person attempting to gain access to the interior of said cabinet to at least one wireless display unit.
11. The system of claim 10 wherein said wireless display unit comprises a portable Internet cellular phone.
12. The system for playing a casino game of claim 10 wherein said casino server is adapted to maintain a log file of all access to the cabinet including the identification of said user, the time of access and the duration of access.
13. The system of claim 1 wherein said reader comprises a security access controller that detects information encoded on an RFID circuit when said RFID circuit is positioned proximate to said security access controller.
14. The system of claim 13 further comprising an electronic lock controlled by said security access controller.
15. The system of claim 14 wherein said security access controller requires authorized information from said RFID circuit and authorization from said casino server before activating said electronic lock.
16. A method for controlling access to the interior of a gaming machine and for initiating play of a casino game at said gaming machine comprising the steps of:
A) detecting the presence of a person at said gaming machine;
B) if said person is a player, establishing a stake for said player;
C) initializing the play of said casino game;
D) maintaining a log file containing information regarding the play of said player;
E) monitoring the play of said player for alarm conditions; and
H) repeating steps A-E until said player terminates play at said gaming machine.
17. The method of claim 16 further comprising the steps of:
I) if, in response to step A, it is determined that said person is authorized to gain access to the interior of said gaming machine, requesting authorization to provide such access;
J) if said authorization is granted, providing access to the interior of said gaming machine;
K) maintaining a log file containing information regarding the person and the duration of said access;
L) monitoring the gaming machine for a plurality of alarm conditions;
M) initiating a request for security response if at least one of said plurality of alarm conditions is detected; and
N) terminating access to the interior of said gaming machine.
18. The method of claim 17 further comprising the step of transmitting a video signal of the person attempting to access said gaming machine to a wireless portable device with video display.
19. The method of claim 17 wherein said determining step comprises the steps of:
O) acquiring information from a transponder circuit containing encoded information regarding the person attempting to access the interior of the gaming machine; and
P) verifying that the encoded information corresponds to previously acquired biometric information.
20. The method of claim 19 wherein said verifying step is performed by a casino server.
Description

[0001] This invention claims priority under pending Provisional Patent Application Serial number 06/283,307 filed Apr. 13, 2001 entitled SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR LIVE INTERACTIVE REMOTE GAMING USING CASINO-BASED PROXIES and Provisional Patent Application Serial No. 06/301,939 filed Jun. 29, 2001 entitled INTELLIGENT CASINO MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR MANAGING INTERACTIVE REAL-TIME NETWORK GAMING SYSTEMS, both of which are assigned to VT TECH Corp. of Simi Valley, Calif., the assignee of the present invention, and the disclosures of which are incorporated herein for all purposes.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] (1) Field of the Invention

[0003] The present invention relates to a system and method for playing casino games and more specifically to a gaming machine system that supports remote play and manages access by repair and maintenance personnel.

[0004] (2)

[0005] Playing games of chance over the Internet is a popular past time for many people. Indeed a recent report indicates that more than 1,200 “on-line” casinos attract a large number of players who are otherwise unable to travel to a physical casino and play their desired casino game in person. In the Internet embodiment, the casino is little more than a computer server connected to the World Wide Web or other communication network. The computer server acts as a gateway to computer software programs that, when executed, replicate a game of chance. For example, the computer software replicates games of chance such as roulette, baccarat, craps, blackjack, pai gow (an Asian poker game) or slots, depending on the player desires. When a player accesses the computer server, the request to play a particular game is directed to the requested software and the player plays against the computer. In such games, the computer uses a random number generator to simulate the random nature of the casino game.

[0006] While software-generated casino games may closely replicate the odds of winning, many players would prefer to play at an actual casino where there is a real deck of cards, a real pair of die or a real video slot machine such as is commonly found in “brick and mortar” casinos. For this reason, a real-time interactive gaming system (RIGS) was described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,762,552, assigned to VT TECH Corp., the assignee of the present invention. The RIGS provides a platform where players can selectively play either casino games from a remote location or software generated games of chance. In order for the RIGS platform to function at sites remote from the traditional “land-based” casino, a secure gaming machine is needed. Preferably, the secure gaming machine will support remote play at either a live table game or a video slot game or the like. What is also needed is an entertainment venue where adults can play casino games in a legal social setting remote from a casino.

[0007] One problem that arises from remote gaming is that it is difficult for the player to collect the stake at the end of play. Accordingly, what is also needed is a gaming machine that accepts cash and provides for the electronic transfer of funds to establish and to cash out a player's stake. Clearly, it is also desirable that the casino be able to monitor operation of the gaming machine to ensure that it has not been compromised by unauthorized access.

[0008] With widely dispersed gaming machines it is difficult to maintain security. Typically, remotely located slot machines or video poker machines comprise a cabinet that have an access door. A conventional keyed lock usually secures the access door. Unfortunately, maintaining an inventory of keys is complicated by employee turnover and lost keys. When employees depart with their key or keys are lost, security concerns require that the lock be re-keyed. Unfortunately, it is expensive to re-key locks. Thus, some method is needed to ensure that only authorized employees gain access to the interior of the gaming machine.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] The present invention relates to a gaming machine system for use in remote locations, typically outside of a traditional land-based casino. Alternatively, the gaming machine system is located inside the traditional land-based casino when greater control over the access to the interior of the gaming machine is required. More particularly, the present invention relates to a gaming machine that may be used for both remote play at a table game or as a slot machine. The gaming machine may be located at a kiosk or other non-casino public sites such as coffee shops, nightclubs, hotels or virtually any other non-traditional casino location. Remote kiosks enable several players to remotely participate in the play of casino games while at the same time conveying the sense of excitement, social interaction and entertainment as if the remote player were physically present at a traditional casino.

[0010] In accordance with the present invention, the gaming machine is configured to support both cash and cashless wagering. The gaming machine is coupled to a traditional land-based casino by a communication network to provide remote play capability and to monitor the play rate of the player. The gaming system also enables remote monitoring and control of access to the interior of the gaming machine.

[0011] In one preferred embodiment, the gaming machine is housed in a traditional slot machine cabinet well known in the field of casino game manufacturing. A variety of such cabinets are well known in the field. Inside the cabinet, the game machine includes a processor for generating a game of chance, an access control device (which is also referred to as a player detection device), at least one video camera and an electronic lock remotely controlled over the network by the casino security personnel.

[0012] When the gaming machine is used as a slot machine, the on-board processor generates each play of the game including the result and transmits this information to the casino's casino server. Alternatively, the gaming machine may be configured to operate as a seat at a live action table game such as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,762,552 or at a proxy game conducted at the casino such as described in U.S. patent application, Ser. No. ______, filed concurrently herewith (Attorney Docket No. 16-109) entitled SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR LIVE INTERACTIVE REMOTE GAMING USING CASINO-BASED PROXIES both of which are assigned to the assignee of the present invention.

[0013] Examples of a live action table game are casino games based on cards (black jack, pai gow, baccarat, etc), die (e.g., craps) or wheels (e.g., roulette). A proxy game means that a player who is not at the casino is able to remotely place wagers on a casino game with the outcome determined by the play of another player playing at the casino. The remote player merely determines the size of the wager and the proxy player responsible for the actual play.

[0014] Each player may access a cash account maintained with the casino or access a third party credit card account. Player access is, in one embodiment, initiated using a non-contact proximity device encoded with player identification information. By way of example, non-contact proximity devices include radio frequency identification (RFID) circuits and Bi-Statix identification circuits. BiStatix technology is available from Motorola Inc. Proximity devices may be in the form of a plastic credit card, a pendant, a ring, a key tag or the like carried by the player. When proximity devices are positioned proximate to the gaming machine, an access control device detects the proximity device and initiates a sequence of operations to activate the gaming machine's operation. Players may also establish or add to their stake by depositing currency by way of a bill collector.

[0015] The access control device is coupled to the gaming machine's processor, which transmits the information to the casino's casino server over a communication network. Thus, a player's account information may be maintained at the casino and accessed by the player regardless of where they play.

[0016] The access control device also detects when a casino employee is present at the gaming machine and needs to gain access to the interior of the gaming machine. The access control device notifies the casino's security office over the communication network that the employee is present by transmitting this information to the casino's casino server. The server interfaces with an electronic lock that controls access to the interior of the gaming machine by authorized personnel at authorized time periods.

[0017] In operation, casino personnel are issued a non-contact proximity device encoded with their employee information. When an employee arrives at the gaming machine, the encoded proximity device is positioned proximate to the access control device and the employee information is transmitted to the casino's server to notify the casino security staff. The employee may be required to enter a password to request access to the interior of the gaming machine. If the casino security staff approves the access request, the electronic lock is activated to provide access.

[0018] The video camera associated with the gaming machine is positioned to capture the image of the player or casino employee. The camera enables the casino to readily implement casino security procedures at remote locations. The output of the video camera is recorded at the casino server and is available should there be a dispute regarding payment, the manner of play or access by casino employees.

[0019] The casino server is coupled to each of the gaming machines by way of a communication network, which by way of example may be the Internet, a wireless (IEEE 802.11) or wireline local area network (LAN), the telephone network (often referred to as “Public Switched Telephone Network” or PSTN, or “Plain Old Telephone System” or POTS) or a virtual private network. Advantageously, the communication link enables the player or employee information and video image to be viewed by security personnel so that the casino security staff can monitor activity at the gaming machine in real-time even if the gaming machine located at a remote site.

[0020] The gaming machine system of the present invention is more clearly described in the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0021]FIG. 1 shows a block diagram of one embodiment of an exemplary computer-based gaming machine system for practicing the invention.

[0022]FIG. 2 illustrates a method for monitoring play at the gaming machine in accordance with the present invention.

[0023]FIG. 3 shows a method for detecting the presence of a casino employee at the gaming machine in accordance with the present invention.

[0024]FIG. 4 shows a front perspective view of one embodiment of a gaming machine.

[0025]FIG. 4 illustrates one preferred embodiment of exterior the gaming machine.

[0026]FIG. 5 illustrates a front perspective view of the gaming machine with the access door opened.

[0027]FIG. 6 illustrates a lock assembly for controlling access to the interior of the gaming machine.

[0028]FIG. 7 illustrates one embodiment of an intelligent casino management network system for coupling a plurality of game machines to a casino server.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0029] The present invention relates to a casino gaming machine. More particularly, the present invention relates to an improved gaming machine for the play of slots, table games or other games of chance. In the following description of the preferred embodiment, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration a specific embodiment in which the invention may be practiced. Wherever possible, the same reference numbers will be used throughout in the drawings to refer to the same or like components. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

[0030]FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a computer-based gaming machine 100 configured for secure play at a location that is either in a traditional casino or outside the casino at a kiosk or other non-traditional location. With gaming machine 100, a player establishes a stake by either depositing currency or accessing an account maintained by the casino. Gaming machine 100 includes a currency collector 102 that accepts the deposit of either paper currency or coins.

[0031] In accordance with the present invention, each player may also access a private account maintained for the player by the casino with a personal identification card (not shown) that includes encoded player information. Identification cards are also referred to herein as ID cards. Gaming machine 100 includes a proximity detector circuit 104 to detect and transfer the ID card information to a processor 106. Processor is a computer-based system having its own microprocessor, memory and programming instructions as is well understood in the art.

[0032] Processor 106 monitors currency detector 102 and proximity detector circuit 104 and transfers account information to a casino server 108 over a local network 110 whenever a player begins play at gaming machine 100. Local network 110 may be a system bus or a local area network (LAN) such as Ethernet.

[0033] Gaming machine 100 also includes a network interface 108, which is coupled to processor 106 by local network 110; a visual display 112 for presenting the play of the game of chance; and a user interface 114 to enable the player to access their casino account and to play the game of chance. A bus 116, separate from bus 110, couples processor 106 to display 112 and user interface 114. By separating bus 116 from bus 110, the player is unable to access secure components of the gaming machine 100 coupled by bus 110. Gaming machine further includes at least one video camera 118 coupled by bus 110 to network 126.

[0034] When processor 106 needs to transfer information to a casino server 124, network interface 108, network interface 108 handles the transfer via communication network 126 which may be the Internet, PSTN or POTS, a proprietary wireless or wireline LAN, or a virtual private network. In this manner, communication network 126 links each gaming machine 100 to casino server 124. Casino server 124 maintains each player's account information, which is accessible by the player regardless of the location of gaming machine 100.

[0035] Gaming machine 100 may be placed at remote locations outside of a conventional casino, such as by way of example at a kiosk located in a coffee shop, airport or some other attended location where it is possible to restrict access by minors. Since gaming machine 100 may not be located in a secure location, it is also necessary to prevent unauthorized access to the interior of the gaming machine 100 where processor 106 and currency receptacle 102 are located. Conversely, it is often necessary to provide access to authorized personnel so that deposited cash can be collected or repairs made in a timely manner. Monitoring and controlling access to widely dispersed gaming machines is enhanced by the present invention. Rather than rely on a lock activated by a mechanical key, the gaming machine 100 utilizes an electronic network lock assembly 122 that is coupled to both the proximity detector circuit 104 and the casino server 124. Lock assembly 122 controls access to the interior of gaming machine 100 permitting access only when approved by casino security personnel. A request to service the gaming machine may be either approved and the event logged or disapproved in real-time.

[0036] Play of a Casino Game at Game Machine

[0037] In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, each player begins play by player may begin play of a casino game by accessing his or her personal account to establish a stake. Players use a casino player identification card having encoded personal information and an embedded RFID circuit. The player places their identification card proximate to reader to establish their stake or credit line. A password or other biometric information may be required to verify the player's identity. By way of example, biometric information may be obtained by using the video camera to verify identity using facial recognition techniques. Alternatively, a small keypad may be included as part of the user interface so that the player or employee can enter a password in a manner similar to an ATM cash machine verifying the user before dispensing money.

[0038] If the player wishes to begin play without using an identification card, the player must either use casino chips, tokens, coins, paper currency or a credit card. For this reason, currency collector 102 may include a proximity detector to detect the value of deposited casino tokens having embedded RFID circuits.

[0039] Once the stake is established, the gaming machine conveys player information to the casino server where a separate real-time account for every player is maintained. For each player, the account includes information, such as the name, address, age of the player, player preferences for food, lodging and entertainment and other information the casino may deem of value for their marketing efforts. The casino server also maintains a log file that lists the location of the gaming machine and the games played by the player, the amount of each wager, the amount of the players' stake and the average size of the wager. Casino server also collects additional statistical information regarding the won/lost percentage and the duration of play for each player for the present session and on a cumulative basis. This information is updated while the player plays by logging the information to the log file.

[0040] When a player terminates play, the casino server closes the player's account by crediting winnings, deducting losses and saving the log file. If the log file indicates that the anonymous player has won a substantial amount of money, the casino server can initiate an alarm to alert casino employees that the player should pay the appropriate withholding tax or be monitored for improper playing techniques. At the end of each accounting period, the casino may provide an account statement to each registered player on a monthly, quarterly, semiannual or annual basis. The account statement may be useful for the player when calculating their personal income tax return. Cumulative wagering information can be used to apportion tax revenue among multiple jurisdictions—specifically, the jurisdiction where the player is located and the jurisdiction where the casino is located.

[0041] Referring now to FIG. 2, a method for monitoring the play of a player is illustrated. Initially, as indicated at step 202, each new player begins play by opening their personal account and establishing a stake. In one preferred embodiment, players use a casino player identification card having an embedded RFID circuit with sufficient memory to store personal information to quickly identify the player. Such identification cards are well known in the art and are widely used by casinos to collect information regarding their players. Other forms of RFID devices are also well known and may be used instead of the ID card. For example, key tags are small cylinders with the embedded the RFID circuit. These key tags can be worn as a small personal article (such as a watch, ring or bracelet. If the player wishes to begin play without using an identification card, the player must either be on-site so that they can buy casino chips or tokens for use at the game server or use an approved credit card.

[0042] Once the player has established a stake, the gaming machine conveys this information to the casino server as indicated at step 204. The casino server uses the information to establish and maintain a separate real-time account for every player regarding his or her play. For each player, the account may include identifying information, such as the name, address, age, player preferences for food, lodging and entertainment and other information the casino may deem of value for their marketing efforts. If the player is playing anonymously, the account will be maintained but casino staff may approach the player to advise them of the important comps that are being lost and suggest that they obtain an identification card.

[0043] As indicated at step 206, the casino server also maintains a log file that lists the games played by the player, the amount of each wager, the amount of the players' stake and the average size of the wager. Casino server also collects information regarding the location of the player, the won/lost percentage and the duration of play for each player for each session and on a cumulative basis. This information is updated during play by logging the information to the log file.

[0044] With gaming machine 100, maintaining the history log associated with each player is greatly facilitated compared to manual entry casinos currently use for rating play by each player at a table game. If the log file indicates that the anonymous player has won a substantial amount of money, the casino server can initiate an alarm as indicated at step 208 and an attendant can be dispatched to offer the player an ID card for future play.

[0045] When a player terminates play, the casino server closes the player's account by crediting winnings, deducting losses and saving the log file as indicated at step 210. Statistical information may be updated at this time or at selected intervals throughout the day. When the player subsequently returns, the player's account may be re-opened and new information appended to the log file. Alternatively, the player may present their identification card to the casino and receive the balance of their account. Advantageously, the value of the account and the player's password are maintained by the casino and is need not be encoded on the players' identification card.

[0046] Service Access to Interior of Game Machine

[0047] In addition to tracking players while they are playing a casino game, the present system also provides information regarding the casino employee or employees servicing gaming machine 100 as illustrated in FIG. 3. To gain access to the interior of the gaming machine, casino employees use an employee identification card (not shown) having encoded personal information and an embedded RFID circuit that is detectable by the proximity detector circuit as indicated at step 302. When access is desired, casino service employees identify themselves as present at the gaming machine (see FIG. 1) by placing their proximity device 122 near proximity detector 104 and optionally entering a password. The proximity devices may be in the form of a plastic credit card, a pendant, a ring, a key tag or the like. The gaming machine includes a proximity detector circuit that detects the presence of the proximity device.

[0048] The employee's information and video image is transmitted from the gaming machine to the casino server as indicated at step 304. If the employee is authorized to access the interior of the gaming machine as indicated at step 306, the electronic lock is activated as indicated at step 308. If access is not authorized, security or police may be notified to take appropriate action as indicated at step 310. Security information is preferably maintained at the casino's casino server.

[0049] An access log file is maintained by the casino server to include information identifying the employee, the date and time, the amount of money in the cash collector device and the duration of time the gaming machine remains unlocked as indicated at step 314. The casino server monitors the maintenance service interval and automatically verifies that the gaming machine is securely locked when maintenance is completed as indicated at step 316. If the gaming machine is left unlocked for an atypical amount of time or if an unauthorized person attempts to access game machine, the casino server generates an alarm and automatically notifies police or other security personnel as indicated at step 318. The alarm provides the location of the gaming machine and a description of the problem for casino security personnel or police.

[0050] A video image of the person causing the alarm is transmitted to web-enabled cell phone or computers coupled to the Internet or other wireless network to assist police in identifying the people to question or detain to resolve the problem as indicated at step 320.

[0051] If no alarm condition is detected, the log file is closed and monitoring activity is terminated as indicated at step 322.

[0052] Gaming Machine Configuration

[0053]FIG. 4 illustrates one preferred embodiment of exterior of gaming machine 100. As illustrated, gaming machine 100 comprises a slot machine cabinet 400 of a type that is well known in the field of casino games. In this embodiment, game machine 100 includes a forward facing video display 112 for displaying either a broadcast of a live game of chance from a selected casino or a video slot or card game. Game machine 100 also includes a control panel 404 having a plurality of push buttons 406A-406F for controlling, by way of example, the rate of play and manner of play and the size of the wager. A deposit slot 408 accepts paper currency while coins are deposited in deposit slot 410 so that a player may establish a stake without accessing an account. Deposit slots 408 and 410 are coupled to currency collector 102 so that deposits can be counted and the amount conveyed to processor 106 to establish the stake. Gaming machine 100 further includes a coin receptacle 412 where coins are dispensed to pay off winning wagers if the player has not yet established a casino account.

[0054] A first video camera 414 is positioned to record the image of a player viewing the video display 402. A ceiling-mounted video camera 416 may be positioned external from the gaming machine 100 to capture the video image of the player from a different perspective.

[0055] Proximity detector 104 includes an antenna 418 built into the surface of gaming machine as indicted by the dashed lines in FIG. 4. If the player has a key tag or similar identification card, antenna 418 detects the presence whenever the ID card is proximate to the antenna. It will be appreciated that the RFID device comprises a transponder circuit encoded with information. The transponder transmits the encoded information whenever it is placed proximate to the antenna of a reader such as proximity detector 104.

[0056] A contact card reader 418 may be included so that players may initiate a stake or replenish their account using a standard credit card where personal information is maintained on a magnetic stripe.

[0057] Referring now to FIG. 5 a front perspective view of the gaming machine 100 console is illustrated with the front panel 502 swung open to permit access to the interior of the gaming machine 100. It will be appreciated that gaming machine 100 may have a rear panel door so that the maintenance personnel may work on the machine away from players at adjacent machines. Many of the typical components of the gaming machine, such as the display device, the processor or the currency collection mechanism are not shown to illustrate more clearly how lock assembly 122 is positioned to secure the gaming machine.

[0058] Lock assembly 122 is a security access control device that secures and manages entry to the interior of gaming machine 100. Secure means that the lock assembly 122 maintains the front panel in a closed and locked position until the casino security staff authorizes access. Access management provides the casino the ability to remotely monitor and determine whether access is authorized. Thus, even though the gaming machine detects an employee ID card, access may be denied if other criteria are not satisfied.

[0059] One preferred lock assembly 122 is commercially available from VT TECH Corp. the assignee of the present invention and is marketed under the Prox-eLock trademark. The Prox-eLock lock is a single door security access controller that may be networked and remotely controlled. An electric strike lock or an electromagnetic lock device 502 is mounted on opposing bars 504 and 506 that span the interior of gaming machine 100. When the strike is engaged, front panel 502 is securely fastened to the cabinet in the closed position. Preferably, lock assembly 122 has a failed-secured scheme so that the panel remains locked when the power to gaming machine is lost.

[0060] As shown in FIG. 6, lock assembly 122 includes a computer, CPU 602, responsible for controlling lock operations. Program instructions are stored in a memory 604 that includes both non-volatile memory and volatile memory. Nonvolatile memory includes EEPROM, PROM and flash memory. Volatile memory means random access memory that may be used to store access related information.

[0061] A real-time clock 606 keeps track of access grant or denial transactions. An access transaction is initiated by presentation of an employee ID card at detector 104. Employee information obtained by detector 104 is passed to CPU 602 by a reader interface circuit 610 that handles timing and other transfer dependent variables. Detector 104, often referred to as a reader, reads ID card or tags and may be based on barcode, magnetic, smartcard, or RFID encoded information. Biometric information (fingerprint, retina, face or voice information may also be collected by an additional reader (not shown). Detector 104 is mounted inside the gaming cabinet to prevent vandalism and is connected to antenna 418 (See FIG. 4) or it may be connected to a separate antenna on the backside of the gaming machine. It is to be understood that gaming machine 100 may include a plurality of detectors. Reader interface 610 may comprise a standard Wiegand, RS-232, RS-485 or Ethernet interface card. Sensors and relays 612 are used to monitor input signals such as door open/close, reader power and video camera and to initiate operation of the door strike, alarms 618, control indicators 620 and the video camera 408, respectively.

[0062] General I/O module 614 permits entry of additional information using, by way of example, a keypad. A power supply 622 supplies the appropriate voltage and current to operate lock assembly 122. Preferably, power supply 622 includes a battery back-up to maintain operation in the event of a power failure. A processor interface 624 manages the bus 110 interface with other components of gaming machine 100.

[0063] In operation, one or more individuals (such as a casino's maintenance supervisor) may be provided a master ID card to open any gaming machine at a specific site.

[0064] If the casino tokens include RFID circuits, the security access control unit monitors the deposit of the tokens. Since the RFID circuit includes encoded security codes, the use of counterfeit tokens is prevented. Further, the encoded information includes the token's value so tracking and inventory is greatly facilitated.

[0065] When a contact or contact-less smart card is used for making a wager, the security access control unit detects information encoded in the card and enables the player to access their personal account, maintained by the casino, for placing a wager. Once the player is recognized, the casino server monitors the duration and rate of play so that casino comps may be distributed in accordance with the value to the casino. When the player has completed play, the player's account is updated.

[0066]FIG. 7 illustrates one embodiment of an intelligent casino management network system 700 for coupling a plurality of game machines to the casino server. The casino management network system is hierarchical in nature so that separate computer systems are responsible for various tasks associated with conducting a game of chance with players located in remote locations. This hierarchical structure provides important safeguards that are necessary due to the public's access to the casino's networked system and the risk of hackers or cyber-criminals improperly manipulating accounting information, wager amounts or game results.

[0067] In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 7, the remote environment 702 is coupled to the brick and mortar casino environment 704 by a public or private communication network 126, which may be the Internet, public telephone network, a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN).

[0068] In casino environment 704, a network manager 706 manages the connection and the exchange of information between the remote gaming machines and the casino server 124. Network manager 706 is preferably a computer server system configured to maintain communication threads with a plurality of remote environments although only one is illustrated in FIG. 7. Similarly, the number of casino environments is not restricted to a single casino.

[0069] When network manager 602 receives information from the remote environment 702, player information is passed to casino server 124 to initiate play. During the course of play, casino server 124 maintains a detailed log of play by each authorized player until the player terminates play. Casino server 124 is responsible for notifying gaming machine 100 of the account status for the player at the gaming machine. By way of example, a remote player's status may be either authorized to play, currently playing one or more games of chance, inactive, terminated.

[0070] Casino server 124 maintains a separate list log file for each remote player together with each wager. The advantage of list log file is that it enables revenue sharing between different casino properties. This is particularly advantageous if a player begins play at a first casino but then selects a game at a different casino property in a different jurisdiction.

[0071] To minimize disruption due to failure of casino server 124, backup computer systems (not shown) are operated in parallel so there is always on-line redundancy. For higher levels of reliability (and to minimize the likelihood of improper manipulation of data in real-time), tertiary redundant casino server computer systems (not illustrated) enable periodic votes to determine whether there is agreement. If there is a disagreement: (1) the majority will prevail; (2) the losing system will be flagged as operating in an error state; and (3) system administrators will be notified of the error.

[0072] As illustrated in FIG. 7, network manager 706 includes a secure socket layer 708 to provide a secure environment to transfer account and wager information over network 126. The use of secure socket layer 708 is common in the art of network communications and will not be further discussed herein. Network manager 706 may include data storage space for retaining a record of the communication traffic with each remote player in a list log file (not shown). Although not illustrated, network manager 706 may comprise a plurality of computer server systems configured to balance the number of players on each system. Further, network manager may include a plurality of redundant computer servers configured to operate in tandem to provide a high degree of fault tolerance and reliability.

[0073] On the casino environment side, network manager 706 communicates over network 710 through a secure socket layer and firewall 712 to maximize secure communications with casino server 124. In the preferred embodiment, casino server 124 is also provided with a firewall and means for establishing a secure socket layer 714.

[0074] When network manager 706 receives communication from a remote user, the information is transmitted to the casino server 124. Casino server 124 generates a log file maintained on a storage area network (SAN) 716 of every message sent or received by network manager 706.

[0075] For each player, personalization information is collected by floor manger 720, transmitted to casino server 124 and retained so that the casino will know the player's preferences. Historical information includes data indicative of the player's average rate of play and average wagered amount for each game of chance and for each visit. The casino server will also maintain a stake for each player. This amount will increase or decrease as the player participates in one or more games of chance. When a wager is placed, a portion of the stake must be allocated to cover the wager in the event of a loss. A wager list is maintained to trace each wager place, the game ID and the result. Winning wagers are credited to the stake and losing wagers are deducted from the stake.

[0076] The data retained by casino server 124 represents comprehensive fine grain statistical data that enables the casino to drill down to obtain complete perspective of casino operations in real-time. Alternatively, the collected information enables a broader perspective for refining casino operations.

[0077] Video manager 718 is a computer server system dedicated to managing the stream of video data captured by a plurality of video cameras associated with gaming machines in the remote environment. Video manager 718 includes a storage area network for storing at least two video streams from each gaming machine in compressed format. Video manager 718 correlates the receipt of video with a time stamp so that it may be readily matched to the log file entries.

[0078] In remote environment 702, a floor manager 720 provides a portal to the non-traditional casino environment 704 through a secure socket layer connection 722. Floor manager 720 also manages a plurality of remote gaming machines 100A-100(n) over local area network 724. It will be appreciated that floor manager functions as a local server as may provide additional functions such as video compression, date encryption, network management functions or redundant storage resources for casino server 124.

[0079] While certain exemplary preferred embodiments have been described and shown in the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that such embodiments are merely illustrative of and not restrictive on the broad invention. Further, it is to be understood that this invention shall not be limited to the specific construction and arrangements shown and described since various modifications or changes may occur to those of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as claimed.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/29
International ClassificationG07F17/32
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3239, G07F17/32, G07F17/3241, G07F17/3232
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32E6D2, G07F17/32E6, G07F17/32H
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Apr 11, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: VT TECH CORP., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:VUONG, VINH THANH;VUONG, SON THANH;VUONG, BINH THANH;ANDOTHERS;REEL/FRAME:012798/0230;SIGNING DATES FROM 20020402 TO 20020410