|Publication number||US20040033095 A1|
|Application number||US 09/795,337|
|Publication date||Feb 19, 2004|
|Filing date||Feb 27, 2001|
|Priority date||Feb 27, 2001|
|Also published as||CA2373308A1|
|Publication number||09795337, 795337, US 2004/0033095 A1, US 2004/033095 A1, US 20040033095 A1, US 20040033095A1, US 2004033095 A1, US 2004033095A1, US-A1-20040033095, US-A1-2004033095, US2004/0033095A1, US2004/033095A1, US20040033095 A1, US20040033095A1, US2004033095 A1, US2004033095A1|
|Inventors||Ali Saffari, Gary Sullivan, Clyde Ikehara|
|Original Assignee||International Game Technology.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (5), Referenced by (17), Classifications (8), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
 This invention relates to game playing services for gaming machines such as slot machines and video poker machines. More particularly, the present invention relates to mechanisms for printing ticket vouchers in gaming machines.
 There are a wide variety of associated devices that can be connected to a gaming machine such as a slot machine or video poker machine. Some examples of these devices are lights, ticket printers, card readers, speakers, bill validators, ticket readers, coin acceptors, display panels, key pads, coin hoppers and button pads. Many of these devices are built into the gaming machine or components associated with the gaming machine such as a top box which usually sits on top of the gaming machine.
 Typically, utilizing a master gaming controller, the gaming machine controls various combinations of devices that allow a player to play a game on the gaming machine and also encourage game play on the gaming machine. For example, a game played on a gaming machine usually requires a player to input money or indicia of credit into the gaming machine, indicate a wager amount, and initiate a game play. These steps require the gaming machine to control input devices, including bill validators and coin acceptors, to accept money into the gaming machine and recognize user inputs from devices, including key pads and button pads, to determine the wager amount and initiate game play. After game play has been initiated, the gaming machine determines a game outcome, presents the game outcome to the player and may dispense an award of some type depending on the outcome of the game.
 As technology in the gaming industry progresses, the traditional method of dispensing coins or tokens as awards for winning game outcomes is being supplemented or replaced by ticket dispensers which print ticket vouchers that may be exchanged for cash or accepted indicia of credit in other gaming machines for additional game play. An award ticket system, which allows award ticket vouchers to be dispensed and utilized by other gaming machines, increases the operational efficiency of maintaining a gaming machine and simplifies the player pay out process. An example of an award ticket system is the EZ Pay™ ticket system by International Game Technology of Reno, Nev. Award ticket systems and systems using other cashless mediums are referred to as cashless systems.
 Cashless systems, such as the EZ Pay™ ticket system, provide advantages to both game players and casino operators. For example, many players find it more convenient to carry an award ticket than a large number of coins. For gaming machine operators, cashless systems tend to reduce gaming machine operating costs. For example, the infrastructure needed to remove and count indicia of credit (e.g. coins, tokens, bills) from the gaming machine may be minimized when it is replaced with a cashless system, which reduces the gaming machine operating costs and machine down-time. Further, coin dust, which is potentially damaging to the components of the gaming machine (e.g. electronic components) may be eliminated or minimized when the cashless system is added to or replace the coin acceptor.
 Currently, cashless systems have become very popular and have been embraced by customers. For example, ticket vouchers that are generated upon cashout and redeemed for cash or gaming machine credits within a particular casino are well accepted by game players. When a ticket voucher is generated in a gaming machine, the ticket voucher is typically printed on a media of some type such as paper. Various voucher parameters including a voucher value, an issue time, a place of issue, an identification number, graphics, etc., may be printed on the paper ticket. In addition, the voucher parameters may be stored electronically at some location for verification and auditing purposes. Once the ticket voucher is printed, a customer may remove the ticket and may utilize it for additional game play or may redeem it for cash.
 To employ printed ticket vouchers in a cashless system, the physical ticket must satisfy a number of requirements. For example, like paper currency, the media of the ticket and the graphics on the ticket must be durable because a player may carry a printed ticket voucher for an extended period of time (e.g. months). While carrying the ticket, the player may repeatedly handle it in a manner that causes the ticket to degrade such as folding it or bending it. As damage accumulates to the ticket, it may eventually become unusable. Hence, the need for durability. Another requirement of printed ticket vouchers used in cashless systems is fast printing of high quality graphics. A quick print time is desirable because the player does not want to wait a long time to receive a printed ticket voucher. The high quality graphics are necessary for using the printed tickets in a ticket reader such as a bill validator. Yet another requirement of printed ticket vouchers is a very reliable and simple to operate printing mechanism to minimize maintenance and operation costs.
 A thermal printer is a widely used mechanism for printing ticket vouchers as part of a cashless system that meets the requirements described above. A thermal printer uses a heated plate to thermally activate ink imbedded in a durable paper-like media. The thermal printer can quickly print high quality graphics that may be read by a ticket reader such as a bill validator. In addition, thermal printers tend to be reliable and easy to maintain.
 Within the gaming industry, there is a desire for cashless systems that provide duplicate tickets. The duplicate ticket provides a paper record of a gaming transaction that may be used for auditing purposes and may be used to supplement the electronic records of the cashless system. Furthermore, in some gaming jurisdictions, such as those that allow lottery games, a duplicate ticket may be required.
 One method of producing a duplicate transaction record that is used in the credit card industry is to employ a dot matrix printer with two-ply carbon paper. The dot matrix printer mechanically imprints a transaction record on the top sheet, which is transferred to the bottom sheet via the carbon paper. The bottom sheet provides a duplicate record of the transaction. For cashless systems, the process of using two-ply carbon paper with a dot matrix printer to provide a duplicate record is inadequate because the graphic quality, print speed, durability of the printed output and the reliability of the dot matrix printer does not satisfy the printing requirements described above. Thus, in view of the above, it would be desirable to provide printing apparatus and methods for cashless systems that allow durable ticket vouchers with high quality graphics and duplicate tickets to be quickly printed on a reliable and easy to operate printing mechanism.
 This invention addresses the needs indicated above by providing a dual-head thermal printer for duplicate printing of parameter values indicating game play information obtained from playing a gaming machine. The dual-head thermal printer, which may be incorporated into a gaming machine and other gaming devices as well as devices used outside of gaming applications, simultaneously prints an issued ticket voucher and a duplicate ticket voucher. The duplicate ticket voucher may be stored within the gaming machine or another gaming device to provide a paper audit trail of the issued ticket voucher. The issued ticket voucher and the duplicate ticket voucher may be printed from stacks of two-ply thermal printing media stored in a single tray, sheets of thermal printing media stored in a single tray or from two stacks of single-ply thermal printing media stored in separate trays. The issued ticket vouchers and the duplicate ticket voucher may also be generated on a thermal printer with only a single thermal print head where a first issued ticket voucher and its duplicate are printed consecutively on the same thermal printer.
 One aspect of the present invention provides a thermal printer for duplicate printing of parameter values indicating game play information obtained from playing a gaming machine. The thermal printer may be generally characterized as including: 1) an interface for connecting to a master gaming controller of the gaming machine where the interface is adapted to receive the parameter values for printing onto sheets of media where the interface may also communicate with a clerk validation terminal, a wireless validation device or a cashier station, 2) a first thermal printing head arranged to receive first sheets of media and print the parameter values on the first sheets of media, 3) a second thermal printing head arranged to receive second sheets of media and print the parameter values on said second sheets of media; and 4) a mechanism for receiving sheets of media for printing the parameter values and directing the first and second sheets of media to the first and second thermal printing heads, respectively, where the parameter values printed on a first sheet of media using the first thermal printing head are duplicated on a second sheet of media using the second thermal printing head. The parameter values printed on the ticket may include an establishment, a location, a bar code, a ticket type, an issue date, a validation number, an issue time, a ticket number, ticket sequence number, a machine number, a ticket value and other gaming data.
 In particular embodiments, the thermal printer may include: 1) a processor for generating control signals for controlling the printing on the first thermal print head and the second thermal print head and 2) a memory storing the parameter values and storing printing templates. The media may be two-ply thermal printing media. The thermal printer may include a mechanism for separating the two-ply thermal printing media into a first ply and a second ply, where the first ply provides the first sheets of media and the second ply provides the second sheets of media. The sheets of media may also be single sheets of thermal printing media. Prior to thermal printing, the sheets of media may be stored in a single tray or in a first tray and in a second tray. After printing, a routing mechanism may route the second sheet of media to a storage unit for storage.
 Another aspect of the present invention provides a gaming machine for executing game play that issues ticket vouchers as part of a cashless system. The gaming machine may be generally characterized as including: 1) a master gaming controller designed or configured to present a game on the gaming machine and generate printing instructions for printing ticket vouchers, 2) a thermal printer for printing the ticket vouchers where thermal printer comprises: i) an interface for connecting to the master gaming controller of the gaming machine adapted to receive parameter values, which may be contained in the printing instructions from the master gaming controller, for printing onto sheets of media, ii) a first thermal printing head arranged to receive first sheets of media and print the parameter values on the first sheets of media to generate issued ticket vouchers, iii) a second thermal printing head arranged to receive second sheets of media and print said parameter values on the second sheets of media to generate duplicate ticket vouchers; and iv) a mechanism for receiving sheets of media for printing the parameter values and directing the first and second sheets of media to the first and second thermal printing heads, respectively, where the parameter values printed on a first sheet of media using the first thermal printing head are duplicated on a second sheet of media using the second thermal printing head. In particular embodiments, the game presented on the gaming machine may be selected from the group consisting of a video black jack game, a video slot game, a mechanical slot game, a video poker game, a video keno game, a video pachinko game, a video lottery game and a video card game.
 Another aspect of the invention provides a thermal printer for duplicate printing of parameter values indicating game play information obtained from playing a gaming machine. The thermal printer may be generally characterized as including: 1) an interface for connecting to a master gaming controller of the gaming machine adapted to receive the parameter values for printing onto sheets of media, 2) a thermal printing head arranged to receive the sheets of media and print consecutively the parameter values on a first sheet of the media and on a second sheet of the media where the parameter values printed on the first sheet of media are duplicated on the second sheet of media; and 3) a routing mechanism for receiving consecutively the first printed sheet of media and the second printed sheet of media and directing the first printed sheet of media to an issue slot and the second printed sheet of media to a storage unit. Prior to routing the sheets of media which may be thermal printing media, the routing mechanism may also detach the first printed sheet of media from the second printed sheet of media. The second printed sheet of media may be used to provide an audit trail for the first printed sheet of media.
 Another aspect of the present invention provides a gaming machine for executing game play that issues ticket vouchers as part of a cashless system. The gaming machine may be characterized as including: 1) a master gaming controller designed or configured to present a game on the gaming machine and generate printing instructions for printing ticket vouchers, 2) a thermal printer for printing the ticket vouchers where thermal printer comprises: i) an interface for connecting to the master gaming controller of the gaming machine adapted to receive parameter values, which may be contained in the printing instructions from the master gaming controller, for printing onto sheets of media, ii) a thermal printing head arranged to receive sheets of media and print consecutively the parameter values on a first sheet of the media and on a second sheet of the media where the parameter values printed on the first sheet of media are duplicated on the second sheet of media; and 3) a routing mechanism for receiving consecutively the first printed sheet of media and the second printed sheet of media and directing the first printed sheet of media to an issue slot and the second printed sheet of media to a storage unit.
 These and other features of the present invention will be presented in more detail in the following detailed description of the invention and the associated figures.
FIG. 1 is a perspective drawing of a gaming machine having a top box and other devices.
FIG. 2 is a side view of thermal printer with dual thermal print heads.
FIG. 3 is a side view of thermal printer designed to print consecutively an issued ticket voucher and a duplicate ticket voucher.
FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a gaming machine with a thermal printer of the present invention.
FIG. 5 is a block diagram of the components of a cashless system using the EZ Pay™ ticket voucher system including gaming machines with a thermal printer of the present invention.
FIG. 6 is a block diagram of the components of a printed ticket voucher.
 Turning first to FIG. 1, a video gaming machine 2 of the present invention is shown. Machine 2 includes a main cabinet 4, which generally surrounds the machine interior (not shown) and is viewable by users. The main cabinet includes a main door 8 on the front of the machine, which opens to provide access to the interior of the machine. Attached to the main door are player-input switches or buttons 32, a coin acceptor 28, and a bill validator 30, a coin tray 38, and a belly glass 40. Viewable through the main door is a video display monitor 34 and an information panel 36. The display monitor 34 will typically be a cathode ray tube, high resolution flat-panel LCD, or other conventional electronically controlled video monitor. The information panel 36 may be a back-lit, silk screened glass panel with lettering to indicate general game information including, for example, the maximum coin value. The bill validator 30, player-input switches 32, video display monitor 34, and information panel are devices used to play a game on the game machine 2. The devices are controlled by circuitry (See FIG. 4) housed inside the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2. Many possible games, including traditional slot games, video slot games, video poker, video lottery, video blackjack, video pachinko, video keno, general video card games and video games of chance may be provided with gaming machines of this invention.
 The gaming machine 2 includes a top box 6, which sits on top of the main cabinet 4. The top box 6 houses a number of devices, which may be used to add features to a game being played on the gaming machine 2, including speakers 10, 12, 14, a ticket printer 18, such as a thermal printer of the present invention, which may print bar-coded tickets 20, a key pad 22 for entering player tracking information, a vacuum florescent display 16 for displaying player tracking information, a card reader 24 for entering a magnetic striped card containing player tracking information. Further, the top box 6 may house different or additional devices than those shown in FIG. 1. For example, the top box may contain a bonus wheel or a back-lit silk screened panel which may be used to add bonus features to the game being played on the gaming machine. During a game, these devices are controlled and powered, in part, by circuitry (See FIG. 4) housed within the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2.
 Understand that gaming machine 2 is but one example from a wide range of gaming machine designs on which the present invention may be implemented. For example, not all suitable gaming machines have top boxes or player tracking features. Further, some gaming machines have two or more game displays—mechanical and/or video. And, some gaming machines are designed for bar counters and have displays that face upwards. Still further, some machines may be designed entirely for cashless systems. Such machines may not include such features as bill validators, coin acceptors and coin trays. Instead, they may have only ticket readers, card readers and ticket dispensers. Those of skill in the art will understand that the present invention, as described below, can be deployed on most any gaming machine now available or hereafter developed.
 Returning to the example of FIG. 1, when a user wishes to play the gaming machine 2, he or she inserts cash through the coin acceptor 28 or bill validator 30. In addition, the player may use a cashless instrument of some type to register credits on the gaming machine 2. For example, the bill validator 30 may accept a printed ticket voucher, including 20, as an indicia of credit. As another example, the card reader 24 may accept a debit card or a smart card containing cash or credit information that may be used to register credits on the gaming machine. In yet another example, an electronic fund transfer may be used to register credits on the gaming machine. Typically, the information contained on the cashless instrument, including the ticket voucher, smart card or debit card, is validated by a cashless system. The cashless instrument, including the ticket voucher, smart card or debit card, may have been generated at the same property, for example a first casino where the gaming machine 2 is located or the ticket voucher may have been generated at another property for example a second casino. Details of the components of a cashless system and validation methods used in a preferred embodiment of a cashless system are described with reference to FIG. 5.
 The cashless instrument typically contains information used to register credits on the gaming machine, including gaming machine 2, and validate the registration transaction. For example, when a ticket voucher is used as a cashless instrument, the printed ticket voucher may contain information including: 1) a ticket value, 2) a ticket issue date, 3) a ticket issue time, 4) a ticket validation number, 5) a machine ID, 6) a ticket issue location (e.g. the establishment where the ticket was issued), 7) a bar code, 8) a ticket number, 9) ticket sequence number, 10) graphics and 11) a ticket type (e.g. EZ Pay™). Additional gaming data may also be printed on the ticket. Thus, the gaming data is not limited to the 11 items listed in the above example. In addition, when a ticket voucher is issued, a duplicate ticket voucher, including the parameters described above may be printed and stored in the gaming machine and later used for auditing purposes. An example of a printed ticket voucher is described with reference to FIG. 6.
 Information such as the ticket value, the ticket issue date, the ticket issue time, the ticket number and the machine ID may be common to cashless systems that generate and validate tickets issued at a single property. In addition, information such as the ticket issue location may be needed to allow multi-site generation and validation of cashless instruments. Further, other types of information, besides the information listed above, may be stored on the cashless instrument. For example, the ticket may contain information regarding a promotional prize that may be won by the player when the ticket voucher is utilized in the gaming machine 2. The promotional prize may involve multiple properties and particular types of gaming machines.
 The information on the cashless instrument may be recorded on the cashless instrument when the cashless instrument is generated. In the case of the ticket voucher, the generation of the ticket voucher may refer to the actual printing of the ticket voucher parameters on paper or some other medium. For instance, a unique bar-code may be printed on the ticket voucher which may be read with a bar-code scanner to obtain information from the ticket. The ticket voucher, including 20, may be printed from a printer, including printer 18 which may be a thermal printer with duplicate printing capabilities as described with reference to FIGS. 2-4.
 During the course of a game, a player may be required to make a number of decisions, which affect the outcome of the game. For example, a player may vary his or her wager on a particular game, select a prize for a particular game, or make game decisions which affect the outcome of a particular game. The player may make these choices using the player-input switches 32, the video display screen 34 or using some other device which enables a player to input information into the gaming machine. During certain game events, the gaming machine 2 may display visual and auditory effects that can be perceived by the player. These effects add to the excitement of a game, which makes a player more likely to continue playing. Auditory effects include various sounds that are projected by the speakers 10, 12, 14. Visual effects include flashing lights, strobing lights or other patterns displayed from lights on the gaming machine 2 or from lights behind the belly glass 40.
 After the player has completed a game, a cashless instrument may be generated at the gaming machine 2. The cashless instrument may be a printed ticket voucher, a smart card, debit card or other cashless medium. For example, the player may decide to cashout and may receive the ticket voucher 20 from the printer 18, which may be used for further games or to redeem a prize. Further, the player may receive a ticket for food, merchandise, game services or other promotions from the printer 18 that may be used at the gaming property where the gaming machine is located or at other gaming properties. The player may view cashless instrument transaction information on the video display screen 34 or the vacuum florescent display 16. For instance, when a player cashes out from the gaming machine, the value stored on the cashless instrument may be displayed using the video display 34. As another example, when a promotion ticket 20 is printed out from the printer 18 that is valid at a number of other gaming properties, a map may be displayed on the video display screen indicating where the other gaming properties are located.
FIG. 2 is a side view of thermal printer 200 with dual thermal print heads. The thermal printer 200 may be used to print ticket vouchers as described with respect to printer 18 in FIG. 1. In one example, the thermal printer 200 includes two thermal print heads, 270 and 275, that each print a ticket voucher with a number of parameters (e.g. a ticket value, a ticket issue date, a ticket issue time, a ticket validation number, a machine ID, a ticket issue location, a bar code, a ticket number, ticket sequence number and a ticket type). The first thermal print head 270 prints a ticket voucher 260 with some set of parameters that may be issued to a player via the exit slot 255. The second thermal print head 275 may print a duplicate ticket voucher 265 containing the same parameter information printed on the issued ticket voucher 260. The duplicate printed ticket 265 may be used to provide a paper audit trail of the issued ticket voucher 260.
 The thermal print heads, 270 and 275, allow a graphic pattern to be printed on each ticket voucher by thermally activating ink embedded in each unprinted ticket voucher. The ink embedded in each ticket voucher is activated in sections as the ticket voucher is advanced by the feeder mechanisms, 289 and 291, over each thermal print head, 270 and 275. A temperature variation across each thermal print head, 270 and 275, determines the pattern to be printed on each section of the ticket voucher. In one embodiment, the thermal print heads, 270 and 275, as well as other printer elements, may be manufactured by the Seiko Epson Corporation (Long Beach, Calif.).
 In one embodiment, a single ticket voucher may be about six inches long, about 2.5 inches wide and about 0.0045 inches thick. However, ticket vouchers are not limited to these dimensions. The thermal print heads, 270 and 275, may print a single line or multiple lines, each line comprising a series of dots, across a portion of the 2.5 inch ticket width, as the ticket vouchers advance across each of the thermal print heads. The print speed may be about 3 inches per second which allows a single ticket voucher to be printed as quick as 2 seconds. The total print speed may vary according to the ink formulation used on the ticket voucher and the length of the ticket voucher. The width of each line is a function of the resolution capability of the thermal print heads, 270 and 275, which may vary. For example, each line may include a minimum of 500 dots with a resolution of 8 dots per millimeter.
 The ink formulation and activation temperature of the ink on a ticket voucher is variable. As an example, for black and white EZ Pay™ tickets, the ink is initially activated at a temperature of 75° C. and optimally printed at a temperature of 90° C. These variables may change depending on the application. For instance, an unprinted ticket voucher for color printing may include different ink colors with different activation and printing temperatures. Further, different manufactures of the thermal paper may utilize ink formulas with different ink activation temperatures. In one embodiment, the thermally activated paper, for the ticket vouchers, may be provided by MACtac (Stow, Ohio). Other manufacturers of thermally activated paper include Mark Sensing Corporation (Bayswater Victoria, Australia), Nashua Corporation (Merrimak, N.H.) and Kodak (Rochester, N.Y.). For durability, the ticket voucher paper is top coated. The top coat, as well as the ink and paper formulation, may provide resistance to oils, plasticizers, alcohol, solvents, water immersion for a period of time (e.g. 15 hours) and may prevent fading with sun exposure. The durability requirements, which may vary, affect the ink formulation and thus, the activation temperatures of the ink on the paper.
 Control signals for the thermal print heads, 270 and 275, that produce heat patterns on the each print head that thermally activate the ink imbedded in the unprinted ticket vouchers producing a particular print pattern are supplied by the CPU 230 via the print head power lines 295. The CPU 230 may be a microcontroller having firmware or a general purpose microprocessor. The CPU 230 may include a memory that stores one or more printing templates used to print parameter information in a particular format as specified by the printing template contained in printing instructions from a master gaming controller on a gaming machine or printing instructions from another gaming device that generates printed ticket vouchers, such as a lottery gaming device. An example of a printed ticket voucher is described with reference to FIG. 6.
 When the printer 200 receives parameter information in printing instructions from an external device such as a master gaming controller on a gaming machine, the parameter information may be received by the CPU 230 and may be processed in some manner that allows the parameter information to be printed by the thermal print heads on a thermal printing media in a particular format. For instance, the CPU 230 may receive parameter information such as a ticket value, a ticket number and a ticket issue location, in printing instructions from the external device. The CPU 230 may use a printing template to incorporate parameter information into a particular printing format that is printed on a ticket. The printing template may specify the locations on the ticket where specific parameter values are to be printed. The printing instructions corresponding to the particular printing format may be sent to thermal print heads using a thermal control language. In another example, the CPU 230 may receive printing instructions from an external device to print information such as a text character at particular locations on the thermal printing media. The CPU 230 may convert the printing instructions to a printing format used by the thermal print heads for printing on the thermal printing media.
 In one embodiment, the thermal control language and firmware that incorporates the thermal control language is provided by Future Logic Inc. (Glendale, Calif.). The parameter values for printing the issued ticket voucher 260 and the duplicate ticket voucher 265 may be sent to the CPU using a communication protocol such as Netplex, which is a communication format provided by IGT (Reno, Nev.), and incorporated into a printing template. The same parameter values are printed on the issued ticket voucher 260 and the duplicate ticket voucher 265. However, the duplicate ticket voucher may include graphics or text to indicate that it is a duplicate and may not be redeemed for cash or additional game play. In addition, the parameter values printed on the duplicate ticket voucher 265 may be printed in a different format than the duplicate parameter values printed on the issued ticket voucher. The printing process, e.g. creating an issued ticket voucher 260 and an duplicate ticket voucher 265, may be repeated many times with parameter values printed on each issued ticket voucher and duplicate ticket voucher, such as the ticket validation number and issue time, varying each time a new set of tickets is printed.
 The CPU 230 may monitor a number of sensors (not shown) which regulate different status bits for errors and status updates. The sensors are distributed throughout the thermal printer 200, such as a thermal head temperature sensor for each thermal print head, 270 and 275, a paper out sensor, a low paper sensor for the ticket tray 210, a storage unit capacity sensor for the duplicate ticket bin 235 for determining when the storage unit is nearly full and a ticket taken sensor. The CPU 230 may monitor each of these sensors and generate appropriate responses based upon information obtained from each sensor. For instance, when the paper is low in the ticket tray 210, as indicated by the low paper sensor, or when the duplicate ticket bin 235 is nearly full, the CPU 230 may notify the gaming machine so that the gaming machine can perform an appropriate action such as disabling the printing function. As another example, when the CPU 230 detects the paper is out, the CPU 230 may send this information to the gaming machine so that the gaming machine can disable the printing function and notify an attendant.
 The CPU 230 may interface with the master gaming controller or other gaming devices via the ribbon line cable 220 and the connector 215. In one embodiment, the connector 215 may be a ten pin connector. The ribbon line cable 220 via the connector 215 may supply both power and data signals to the CPU 230 and other devices on the printer. For instance, the power voltage supply level may be 24 VDC.
 Two ply-tickets may be stored in a fan fold manner in the ticket tray 210. The ticket tray may store two-ply sheets of ticket media stacks 205 comprised of quantities of two hundred, four hundred and six hundred blank ticket media. The blank ticket media may include pre-printed graphics such as logos and other standard information. Within the ticket media stack, the sheets of blank tickets or pre-printed tickets may be secured to one another via multiple perforations between each blank ticket. The perforations may aid the folding of the ticket media into stacks and may allow a first sheet in the ticket media stack to be detached from the ticket media stack. The burst strength of the perforations maybe between about 0.9 to 1.7 lbs.
 The two-ply ticket media 205 may be separated by the ply separator mechanism 245. From the ply separator mechanism, a first ply of the ticket media may be fed using the feeder mechanism 289 to the thermal print head 270 and guide 287 for printing. After printing, the issued ticket voucher 260 is guided to the exit slot 255. By a applying a particular amount of force, a player may detach the issued ticket voucher 260 and remove it from the thermal printer 200. A second ply of the ticket media may be fed using the feeder mechanism 291 to the thermal print head 275 and the guide 280 for printing of a duplicate ticket voucher. After printing, the duplicate ticket voucher 265 may be routed using one or more guides, including 280, through the exit slot 250 to a storage unit such as the duplicate ticket bin 235. The duplicate ticket vouchers may be refolded into a duplicate ticket stack 240 for storage and later retrieval.
 In one embodiment, blank ticket media may be supplied to each thermal print head, 270 and 275, using single ply ticket media stored in two ticket trays (not shown). The ticket trays may be configured or designed such that each ticket tray stores blank or pre-printed sheets of ticket media. A first tray provides sheets of media to the first thermal print head 270 while a second tray provides sheets of media to the second thermal print head 275. In this embodiment, a ply separator may not be required. In another embodiment, the sheets of ticket media may be stored as stacks sheets not attached to one another. A first sheet may be routed by a routing mechanism to the first thermal print head 270 while a second sheet may be routed by the routing mechanism to the second thermal print head 275.
FIG. 3 is a side view of thermal printer 300 designed to print consecutively an issued ticket voucher and a duplicate ticket voucher. Components that appear in FIG. 2 are identified by common reference numerals. Stacks of blank or pre-printed sheets of ticket media 305 may be stored in the ticket tray 210. The sheets of pre-printed ticket media may be routed to the feeder mechanism 289 for printing at the thermal print head 270. Two sheets of the ticket media may be printed consecutively where parameter values are printed on one of the sheets of media to generate an ticket voucher which is issued to a player. A duplicate set of the parameter values are printed on the other sheet of media to generate a duplicate of the issued ticket voucher. In some embodiments, the parameter information may be rearranged on the duplicate ticket voucher and additional information may be added to the duplicate ticket voucher. For instance, “duplicate” may be printed on a duplicate ticket voucher. The issued ticket voucher or the duplicate ticket voucher, which are printed consecutively, may be generated in either order. Thus, the issued ticket voucher may be generated first followed by the duplicate ticket voucher or the duplicate ticket voucher may be generated first followed by the issued ticket voucher.
 The issued ticket voucher 260 and the duplicate ticket voucher 365 may be directed by a routing mechanism to either the exit slot 255 or the exit slot 250. The issued ticket vouchers, including 260, are directed to the exit slot 255 so that the issued ticket vouchers may be received by the player. The duplicate ticket vouchers, including 365, are directed to the exit slot 250 for storage in a storage unit such as the duplicate ticket bin 235.
 The routing mechanism for directing printed ticket voucher to either of the exit slots, 250 and 255, may include a cutting mechanism 370, various ticket guides, including 380, and one or more feed mechanisms, including 391. When the sheets of ticket media in the ticket stack are attached to one another, the cutting mechanism 370 may be used to separate a printed sheet of ticket media from a next sheet of ticket media in the stack. Once a ticket voucher has been detached from the ticket stack, it may be directed to either the exit slot 255 or the exit slot 250. The guide 380 and the feeder mechanism 391 may be used to guide a plurality of duplicate ticket vouchers to the duplicate ticket voucher bin 235 to form a duplicate ticket stack 340. Tickets in the duplicate ticket stack may be used for auditing purposes. Additional guides and feeder mechanisms may be used to direct the issued ticket vouchers to the exit slot 255 where the issued ticket voucher is issued. Many configurations of routing mechanisms are possible and are not limited to a design or a configuration including the cutting mechanism 370, the feeder mechanism 391 and the guide 380.
 An advantage of the thermal printers described with reference to FIGS. 2 and 3 is that issued ticket vouchers and duplicate ticket vouchers may be printed that satisfy the ticket use requirements of a cashless system. In addition, the duplicate ticket vouchers add the capability of a paper audit trail, which may be desirable or may be required for some users of cashless systems. Further, when the issued ticket vouchers and duplicate ticket vouchers are printed either serially or in parallel, the tickets may be printed significantly faster than using a dot matrix printer. In addition, graphics quality on a thermal printer is higher than on a dot matrix printer. The higher graphics quality may be necessary for validation of the ticket vouchers using a ticket reader of some type, such as a bill validator.
FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a gaming machine with a thermal printer 400 of the present invention. The thermal printer 400 may be of a design or configuration as described with reference to FIGS. 2 and 3. The gaming machine 2 includes a top box 6 and main cabinet 4. The gaming machine 2 may receive power from a source outside the gaming machine 2 such as the AC Power source 420. The AC power source 420 may be connected to the 2 in 1 power supply 422.
 The 2 in 1 power supply supplies two power sources. An interruptible power source, which may be interrupted by the power switch 426 and a continuous power source that may not be interrupted by the power switch 426. The continuous power source may be used to power gaming devices such as a fiber optic card on the main communication board 410. The interruptible power source may be used to supply power to the thermal printer 400 and other gaming devices residing within the gaming machine. When providing maintenance to the thermal printer 400, it is usually necessary to interrupt the power using the power switch 426. Power to various gaming devices on the gaming machine may be routed through the power distribution board 418.
 The mother board 424 includes components such as a master gaming controller 425 that allow a game to be presented on the gaming machine 2. The game presentation may be presented on the display 34. In addition, the master gaming controller 425 may communicate with the thermal printer 400 via the cable harness 420. The cable harness may also carry an interruptible power source to the thermal printer 400.
 To enable printing, the master gaming controller 425 may send printing instructions to the printer 400 and receive printing information from the thermal printer 400. The printing instructions may contain parameters to be printed on a ticket voucher and a duplicate ticket voucher as part of a cashless system such as the EZ Pay™ ticket voucher system, manufactured by IGT (Reno, Nev.). These parameters may be printed according to a printing template accessible to the CPU 402 on the thermal printer 400. An example of a printed cashless ticket voucher is described with reference to FIG. 6. Besides parameter values, the printing instructions may also contain print commands such as “begin printing”, “advance paper”, etc.
 EZ Pay™ tickets are only one example of ticket vouchers and duplicate ticket vouchers that may be generated by the thermal printer 400. For instance, the thermal printer 400 may be used to generate issued ticket vouchers and duplicate ticket vouchers for prizes, promotions, hotel services, lottery games and other applications. Printing templates for these other applications may also be stored on the printer 400.
 In response to the printing instructions from the master gaming controller 425, the thermal printer 400 may send printing information to the master gaming controller 425. For instance, the thermal printer 400 may send information from sensors monitored by the CPU 402. The information may include printer status information such as “low on tickets”, “paper jam” and “duplicate ticket storage bin full” or printing status information such as “initiating printing” and “printing complete.”
 The communication between the thermal printer 400 and the master gaming controller may be implemented using different communication standards and connection schemes. For instance, using a serial Netplex communication protocol, which is an IGT proprietary communication standard, parameter values may be sent to the thermal printer 400 in 255 byte data packets. The Netplex communication protocol allows data to be sent at 19.2K baud rate. As other examples, a Universal Serial Bus (USB) communication protocol or an RS-232 communication protocol may be used for communication between the thermal printer 400 and the master gaming controller 425. USB and RS-232 each allow different data transmission rates.
 The cabling and connection schemes allows data to be transmitted between the thermal printer 400 and the master gaming controller 425. When a Netplex communication protocol is used, a 10 pin connector 404 may be connected to an 8 pin connector 406 via a 7 line Netplex cable 405. When a USB communication protocol is used, standard USB connectors and cabling may be employed. When an RS-232 communication protocol is used, an RS-232 cabling and connection scheme may be utilized.
 Two or three lines from the connector 404 may be connected to a status/error LED's (not shown). The status/error LED's may display printer status information including: 1) unit ready/normal operation, 2) unit in standby, 3) unit flushed, 4) paper out, 5) head up, 6) temperature error, 7) voltage error, 8) print head error, 9) flash memory error, 10) buffer overflow, 11) flash programming, 12) missing black index mark, 13) paper jam, 14) paper low, 15) tray full and 16) printing in progress. The status/error messages may be also sent to the master gaming controller 425. In response to some of the messages, such as paper jam or paper low, the gaming machine 2 may send a maintenance request, via the network interface 414 to an EZ Pay™ server 428, to request service on the gaming machine 2 or an attendant light may be activated on the gaming machine 2.
FIG. 5 is a block diagram of the components of a cashless system using the EZ Pay™ ticket voucher system for one embodiment of the present invention. A cashless system is the hardware components and software components needed to generate and validate cashless instruments. Components of a cashless system may include 1) data acquisition hardware, 2) data storage hardware, 3) cashless instrument generation and validation hardware (e.g. printers, card readers, ticket acceptors, validation terminals, etc.), 3) auditing software, 4) cashless instrument validation software and 5) database software. Many types of cashless systems are possible and are not limited to the components listed above or embodiments such as the EZ Pay™ ticket voucher system. Typically, a cashless system is installed at each property utilizing cashless instruments. To allow multi-site validations of cashless instruments, the cashless systems at each property may be linked to a cashless instrument transaction clearinghouse.
 Returning to FIG. 5, a first group of gaming machines, 565, 566, 567, 568, and 569 is shown connected to a first clerk validation terminal (CVT) 560 and a second group of gaming machines, 575, 576, 577, 578 and 579 is shown connected to a second CVT 570. All of the gaming machines print ticket vouchers which may be exchanged for cash or accepted as indicia of credit in other gaming machines located within the property 505. As described above, a thermal printer mounted in each gaming machine may be used to print an issued ticket voucher and a duplicate ticket voucher. Duplicate printed vouchers generated from the printers in each gaming machine may be stored in a storage unit within the gaming machine. In this example, the ticket voucher serves as a cashless instrument. In addition, the gaming machines may accept ticket vouchers issued at a different property from property 505 where the different property utilizes the same or a different cashless system as compared to property 505.
 The CVTs, 560 and 570, store cashless instrument transaction information corresponding to the outstanding cashless instrument, including ticket vouchers, smart cards and debit cards, that are waiting for redemption. In this embodiment, the CVTs are separate from the gaming machine. However, the cashless instrument information may also be stored within each gaming machine or one gaming machine may functionally act as a CVT for a group of gaming machines eliminating the separate CVT hardware. In addition, cashless instrument transaction information may be stored in a cashless server including the EZ Pay™ server 510. The cashless instrument transaction information may be used when the ticket vouchers are validated and cashed out or redeemed in some other manner. The CVTs 560 and 570 may store the information for the ticket vouchers printed by the gaming machines connected to the CVT. For example, CVT 560 stores ticket voucher information for ticket vouchers printed by gaming machines 565, 566, 567, 568, and 569. When a ticket is printed out, ticket information is sent to the CVT using a communication protocol of some type from the gaming machine. For example, the gaming machine may send transaction information to the CVT which is part of the cashless system using the slot acquisition system manufacture by IGT (Reno, Nev.).
 In this embodiment, when a player wishes to cash out a ticket, the player may redeem vouchers printed from a particular gaming machine at the CVT associated with the gaming machine or any other CVT which is part of the cashless system associated with the CVT. For example, since CVT 560 and CVT 570 are connected as part of a single cashless system to the EZ Pay™ server 510, a player may redeem vouchers or utilize vouchers at the gaming machines, the CVT's (560 or 570), the cashier stations (525, 530, 535, and 540). The CVTs, cashiers, wireless cashiers and gaming machines may be referred to as “cashless validation sites.” To cash out the ticket voucher, the ticket voucher is validated by comparing information obtained from the ticket with information stored within the CVT. After a ticket voucher has been redeemed, the CVT marks the ticket paid in a database to prevent a ticket voucher with similar information from being redeemed multiple times.
 When a ticket voucher is cashed out, a receipt and a duplicate receipt may be generated using a thermal printer of the present invention. The receipt may be received by the person cashing out the ticket voucher while the duplicate receipt may be stored to provide a paper audit trail of the gaming transaction. Ticket vouchers may be cashed out at a CVT, cashier station or using a wireless validation device. Thus, the cashier stations 525, 530 and 535, the CVTs, 560 and 570, and a wireless validation device may use thermal printers with duplicate printing capabilities. Further, the thermal printers may include communication interfaces allowing communications with the cashier stations, CVTs and wireless validation devices.
 In this embodiment using the EZ Pay™ system, multiple groups of gaming machines connected to CVTs are connected together in a cross validation network 545. The cross validation network is typically comprised of one or more concentrators 555 which accepts inputs from two or more CVTs and enables communications to and from the two or more CVTs using one communication line. The concentrator is connected to a front end controller 550 which may poll the CVTs for ticket voucher information. The front end controller is connected to an EZ Pay™ server 510 which may provide a variety of information services for the award ticket system including accounting 520 and administration 515.
 The cross validation network allows ticket vouchers generated by any gaming machine connected to the cross validation network 545 to be accepted by any other gaming machine in the cross validation network 545. Additionally, the cross validation network allows a cashier at a cashier station 525, 530, and 535 to validate any ticket voucher generated from a gaming machine within the cross validation network 545. To cash out a ticket voucher, a player may present a ticket voucher at one of the cashier stations 525, 530, and 535 or to a game service representative carrying a wireless gaming device for validating ticket vouchers. Information obtained from the ticket voucher is used to validate the ticket by comparing information on the ticket with information stored on one of the CVTs connected to the cross validation network. In addition, when the ticket voucher was issued at another property, the information on the ticket may be stored at the other property. Thus, to validate the ticket voucher, the EZ Pay™ server may have to communicate with a cashless instrument transaction clearinghouse via the remote connection 511 to obtain the information necessary to validate the ticket voucher.
 As tickets are validated, this information may be sent to audit services computer 540 providing audit services, the accounting computer 520 providing accounting services or the administration computer 515 providing administration services. In another embodiment, all of these services may be provided by the cashless server including the EZ Pay™ server 510. Examples of auditing services, which may be provided by cashless system software residing on the auditing computer 540 include 1) session reconciliation reports, 2) soft count reports, 3) soft count verification reports, 4) soft count exception reports, 5) machine ticket status reports and 5) security access report. Examples of accounting services, which may be provided by cashless system software residing on the accounting computer 520 include 1) ticket issuance reports, 2) ticket liability reports, expired ticket reports, 3) expired ticket paid reports and 4) ticket redemption reports. Examples of administration services, which may be provided by cashless system software residing on the administration computer 515 include 1) manual ticket receipt, 2) manual ticket report, 3) ticket validation report, 4) interim validation report, 5) validation window closer report, 6) voided ticket receipt and 7) voided ticket report. The duplicate ticket vouchers generated by the thermal printers in each gaming machine or duplicate receipts generated at the CVT's (560 and 570), cashier stations and wireless validation devices may be used to verify aspects of the auditing service reports, the accounting services reports and the administration services reports.
 The thermal printers of the present invention have been primarily described in the context of providing issued and duplicate tickets for gaming machines. However, the thermal printers may also be used with other gaming devices. For instance, an issued ticket and duplicate ticket may be generated when tickets are redeemed at a CVT, cashier station or a wireless validation. In these examples, an external gaming device used at the CVT, cashier station or wireless validation device may provide parameter information to the thermal printer for printing on a blank ticket media. The thermal printers may also be used with devices outside of gaming applications where issued and duplicate documents printed on blank thermal media are required. For instance, an issued receipt and a duplicate receipt may be created with the thermal printers of this invention.
FIG. 6 is a block diagram of the components of a printed ticket voucher 600. The format of the ticket voucher 600 may be generated from a template stored within the thermal printer. The printing templates allow parameter values sent from the master gaming controller on a gaming machine or from another gaming device such as a CVT (see 560 and 570) or a cashier station (see 525, 530 and 535) to be printed in the format of a ticket voucher 600, a receipt or some other format. Examples of parameter values that may be printed on a ticket voucher include: 1) an establishment 602, a location 604 (e.g. city, state and zip code), 3) a ticket type 606 (e.g. cashout, receipt, duplicate, duplicate receipt, etc.), 4) a bar code 608, 5) a ticket validation number 610, 6) an issue date and issue time 612, 7) a ticket number 613, 8) a textual ticket value 614, 9) a numerical ticket value 616, 10) an expiration date 618 and 11) a machine number 620. In addition, preprinted graphics or text, including “INSERT THIS SIDE UP” 611, may be printed on each ticket.
 A duplicate ticket voucher for the issued ticket voucher may use a similar template for printing the duplicate ticket voucher. However, the duplicate ticket voucher may include a few additional pieces of information to identify it as a duplicate. For instance, the duplicate ticket may say duplicate ticket instead of cashout ticket in 606. As another example, the duplicate ticket voucher may contain additional preprinted information such as “void” or “not valid for redemption” to distinguish it from a cashout ticket.
 Although the foregoing invention has been described in some detail for purposes of clarity of understanding, it will be apparent that certain changes and modifications may be practiced within the scope of the appended claims. For instance, while the gaming machines of this invention have been depicted as having top box mounted on top of the main gaming machine cabinet with a thermal printer, the use of gaming devices in accordance with this invention is not so limited. For example, gaming machine may be provided without a top box and the thermal printer may be installed within the main cabinet of the gaming machine.
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|Cooperative Classification||G07F17/3202, G07F17/32, G07F17/3248|
|European Classification||G07F17/32K4, G07F17/32C, G07F17/32|
|Feb 27, 2001||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGY, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:SAFFARI, ALI M.;SULLIVAN, GARY H.;IKEHARA, CLYDE S.;REEL/FRAME:011579/0265;SIGNING DATES FROM 20010213 TO 20010214
|Feb 10, 2003||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: IGT, NEVADA
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGY;REEL/FRAME:013728/0785
Effective date: 20021014