|Publication number||US20040142750 A1|
|Application number||US 10/349,874|
|Publication date||Jul 22, 2004|
|Filing date||Jan 22, 2003|
|Priority date||Jan 22, 2003|
|Also published as||CA2442388A1, US7704145, US20070015587|
|Publication number||10349874, 349874, US 2004/0142750 A1, US 2004/142750 A1, US 20040142750 A1, US 20040142750A1, US 2004142750 A1, US 2004142750A1, US-A1-20040142750, US-A1-2004142750, US2004/0142750A1, US2004/142750A1, US20040142750 A1, US20040142750A1, US2004142750 A1, US2004142750A1|
|Inventors||Floyd Glisson, Vincent Manfredi, R. Jeffrey Jordan|
|Original Assignee||Acres Gaming Incorporated|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (49), Referenced by (80), Classifications (16), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
 This invention incorporates by reference U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/843,411, filed Apr. 15, 1997, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,319,125, issued Nov. 20, 2001, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/322,172, filed Oct. 12, 1994, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,655,961, issued Aug. 12, 1997, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/134,285, filed Aug. 14, 1998, now pending, and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/694,065, filed Nov. 19, 2000, now pending.
 This invention pertains to gaming, and more particularly to the use of external networks by players.
 Not so long ago, casinos were places you visited to gamble. Las Vegas, Nev., began with an image of dark, smoke-filled rooms where people went to engage in sinful activities. The moniker “Sin City,” while no longer used with vehemence, still sticks to Las Vegas, Nev.
 Over time, casinos have shed their old images. Now, casino floors are brightly lit, welcoming places. The hotels have taken into account the need to entertain families and not just adult gamblers. Ventilation systems help reduce the smell of smoke, once a prominent feature of the casinos.
 To keep current in the competitive market, casinos have been using player clubs to entice players into being “loyal” to a casino. When playing, the players use a card to identify themselves. This lets the casinos know how much money the player is spending at the casino. In return, the casinos provide bonuses to the players.
 The advent of the Internet presents new opportunities for casinos to develop. Internet gaming, that is, the capability to gamble using the Internet, allows casinos to reach players who are not physically present on the casino floor. Players who, for one reason or another, cannot physically travel to the casino are still able to participate. But the use of the Internet is one-way: revenue flows in to the casino from the Internet, but nothing flows back to the player.
 Some on-line casinos (that is, casinos that exist only in cyberspace) offer player clubs similar to those offered by casinos that players can visit. These on-line casinos can track their players' activities.
 Some regular casinos have begun to allow players to access information about their accounts. For example, some casinos upload information about play to their player tracking databases at pre-selected times. This allows the casinos (and the players) to track information about in-house gaming, even when the users of the database are remote from the casino. But because the uploads occur at pre-selected times (e.g., once a day), the player cannot access current information about his gaming activities immediately. For example, the player might go onto the casino floor and participate in gaming activities, then return to his room and try to access his account. Because the information is only uploaded infrequently, the player will not be able to access the most current information about his account.
 A need remains for a way to allow casinos to utilize networks that addresses these and other problems associated with the prior art.
 The invention is a method and apparatus for using a network to benefit a player. In-house and on-line gaming activity is combined in a single account for the player. The combined activity can then be used to benefit the player. For example, benefits can include (but are not limited to) giving the player promotions, bonuses, coupons, or comps. These can be sent to the user via e-mail, direct mail, or any other means, and can be spontaneous on the part of the casino or responsive to a request from the player. The player can redeem the benefit by bringing in a copy to the casino, or by identifying himself to an attendant, who can verify electronically that the player is to receive the benefit.
 The foregoing and other features, objects, and advantages of the invention will become more readily apparent from the following detailed description, which proceeds with reference to the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1A shows a casino offering both in-house and on-line (over a network) gaming, according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 1B shows the on-line gaming of FIG. 1A on a web site hosted by a server separate from the casino, according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 2 shows a player communicating through the server of the casino of FIG. 1A, according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 3 shows the casino of FIG. 1A combining the in-house and on-line activity by the player, according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 4 shows the casino of FIG. 1A delivering a benefit to the player, according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 5 shows a display used by the casino of FIG. 1A to verify electronically that a player is entitled to a benefit, according to an embodiment of the invention.
 FIGS. 6A-6D show player data generated from in-house and on-line activity by a player at the casino of FIG. 1A, according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 7 shows a display of a player's combined activity generated by the casino of FIG. 1A, according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 8 shows the player utilizing the player's combined activity generated by the casino of FIG. 1A, according to an embodiment of the invention.
 FIGS. 9A-9D show a flowchart of the procedure combining in-house and on-line activity of a player by the casino of FIG. 1A, according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 1A shows a casino offering both in-house and on-line (over a network) gaming, according to an embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 1A, casino 105 includes various gaming devices, such as slot machine 110 and blackjack 115. (A person skilled in the art will recognize other games casino 105 might offer.) Casino 105 also includes server 120, which tracks a player's activity within the casino. Thus, as the player uses slot machine 110 or blackjack table 115, the player's coin-in, winnings, etc. is all tracked via server 120. The tracked data can be stored locally on server 120, or it can be stored in a secure server offsite (see FIG. 2 below). In addition, server 120, although shown as physically within the confines of casino 105, can be located outside casino 105.
 Casino 105 also offers on-line gaming web site 125. Web site 125 offers Internet gaming similar to that offered in-house at casino 105, but without using the physical devices available in-house. For example, web site 125 might offer on-line versions of slot machine game 130 or blackjack game 135. The credits used by the player in Internet gaming can come from any desired source. For example, the player can input a credit card number to web site 125, which then issues the player a number of credits in exchange for a charge to the player's credit card. Or the player can use credits associated with the player's account. Systems for transferring credits from a player's account to a gaming device are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/134,285, filed Aug. 14, 1998, now pending, and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/694,065, filed Nov. 19, 2000, now pending, which are hereby incorporated by reference. A person skilled in the art will recognize how the systems can be modified to transfer credits to a web site offering Internet gaming.
 To use web site 125, a user connects to web site 125 from a computer, such as computer system 140, across network 145. Computer system 140 conventionally includes computer 145, monitor 150, keyboard 155, and mouse 160. A person skilled in the art will recognize that although computer system 140 is shown as a desktop personal computer, the invention is not limited to any specific type of computer. For example, computer system 140 can also be an Internet appliance, with monitor 150, keyboard 155, and mouse 160 integrated into the housing of computer 145. Computer system 140 can also take other forms: for example, a personal digital assistant (PDA) or other handheld device, or even a cellular telephone. Optional equipment not shown as part of computer system 140 in FIG. 1A are other input/output devices, such as a printer. Also not shown in FIG. 1A are the conventional internal components of computer system 140: e.g., a central processing unit, memory, file system, etc. Similarly, network 145 can be any variety of network, such as a local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), wireless network, or global network (such as the Internet), among others. Network 145 can also be any combination of the above networks used to connect computer system 140 and web site 125.
 Although FIG. 1A shows web site 125 as being stored on server 120 within casino 105, a person skilled in the art will recognize that web site 125 can be stored on other servers. Similarly, web site 125 can be accessible through server 105 or can be totally separate, so that connecting to web site 125 does not require a path through server 120. For example, FIG. 1B shows an alternative embodiment. In FIG. 1B, web site 125 is hosted by server 150, which is separate from casino 105. Server 150 can be owned by casino 105, but physically separate from server 120. In this embodiment, where server 150 and server 120 are separate devices, typically server 150 does not store any player tracking information, which is preferably stored on server 120. Server 150 can also be located in a different environment, outside casino 105. Or server 150 can be a third party server, operated by a third party instead of casino 105 (but perhaps with direction from casino 105). A person skilled in the art will recognize other possible variations.
 Even if casino 105 does not own or operate server 150, casino 105 will want to be able to track the player's activity on web site 125. To enable this tracking, server 150 can report the player's activities to casino 150. Connection 155 enables server 150 to report a player's activities to casino 105. A person skilled in the art will recognize that connection 155 does not have to be a direct physical connection. Instead, server 150 can connect to casino 105 via network 145.
 Although FIGS. 1A and 1B show web site 125 as providing the on-line equivalent of gaming in-house at the casino, web site 125 can provide other forms of entertainment to players. For example, rather than playing for money, web site 125 can offer players a play-for-fun site. In this configuration, when players use web site 125, they are not risking their own money. Nevertheless, casino 105 might want to track the player's activities, to reward the player for loyalty. For example, the player might earn points that are redeemable at the casino. Thus, even though the casino does not directly profit from the player's activities, there is an indirect profit motive, as the player will eventually visit the casino to redeem the points accrued, and hopefully spend money gambling at the casino. In addition, if the casino offers multiple web sites to players, some of the web sites can be configured for on-line gaming, and others can be configured for play-for-fun.
 Returning to FIG. 1A, as the player plays in-house at casino 105, playing for example slot machine 110 or blackjack table 115, information about the player's activity is tracked. Similarly, as the player plays on-line at web site 125, playing for example slot machine game 130 or blackjack game 135, information about the player's activity is tracked. In a preferred embodiment, the combined data is stored offsite in a secure server (as shown in FIG. 2 below). In a second embodiment the combined data is stored in server 120. Regardless of where the data is stored, the combined data gives the casino more information about the player that it might otherwise have had.
 Although FIGS. 1A and 1B only show a single casino, a person skilled in the art will recognize that the invention can be generalized to multiple casino properties. For example, a single web site can track on-line gaming activity for players registered with more than one casino property. In addition, a single casino can have more than one web site (hosted on one or more servers, all of which can be distinct from server 120), with player tracking data being reported to server 120. A person skilled in the art will recognize other possible variations.
FIG. 2 shows a player communicating through the server of the casino of FIG. 1A, according to an embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 2, computer system 140 is shown communicating with server 120. Server 120, in turn communicates with ASP server 205, which in turn communicates with secure server 210 behind firewall 215. Secure server 210 can be used to store sensitive data: for example, a player tracking data storing data about a player's activities and his personal information, among other possibilities. More information about how such a system can be implemented is described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/843,411, filed Apr. 15, 1997, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,319,125, issued Nov. 20, 2001, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/322,172, filed Oct. 12, 1994, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,655,961, issued Aug. 12, 1997, which are hereby incorporated by reference.
 ASP server 205 is responsible for managing secure communications between server 120 and secure server 210. In a preferred embodiment, server 120 sends eXtensible Markup Language (XML) requests to ASP server 205, which is the only device permitted to access secure server 210 behind firewall 215. But a person skilled in the art will recognize that server 120 can communicate with ASP server 205 other than by using XML. By having secure server 210 communicate with ASP server 205 rather than secure server 210, sensitive data can be kept secure on secure server 210 but still accessible from outside firewall 210 if the request is transmitted in the correct manner. ASP server 205 can then communicate with secure server 210 to obtain the response to the requests, which can be securely transmitted back to server 120, preferably using XML. Server 120 can then transform the XML response into HyperText Markup Language (HTML) using an eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) Transformation (XSLT). The resulting HTML can then be displayed to the player on computer system 140.
 Communication between server 120 and ASP server 205 is preferably encrypted. Any encryption scheme can be used: the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption protocol used on the Internet is a standard that can be applied to encrypt the communication. Similarly, communication between ASP server 205 and secure server 210 is preferably encrypted.
 As an example of how the communications scheme of FIG. 2 can be used, consider the situation in which the player wants to update his personal information. (In this example, encrypted communications are not described, but a person skilled in the art will recognize how to introduce encrypted communications into the example.) Since personal information is sensitive (the player would not want it publicly available), the data would be stored on secure server 210, behind firewall 215. So, using server 120 the player can request to view his player data. (It is assumed at this point that the player has identified himself to the system.) The browser request made of server 120 is translated into an XML request of ASP server 205, which is forwarded to secure server 210. Secure server 210 responds with the personal information, which is formed into XML and forwarded to server 120. Server 120 uses XSLT to transform the XML data into an HTML page, which can then be presented to the user. Using a form, the player can update his personal data. XML form data can then be posted to ASP server 205, which can update the database on secure server 210. ASP server 205 sends an XML confirmation message back to server 120, which again uses XSLT to transform the XML confirmation message into HTML, which can be presented to the user.
FIG. 3 shows the casino of FIG. 1A combining the in-house and on-line activity by the player, according to an embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 3, activity by the player is tracked by tracking unit 305, part of server 120. For example, in-house activity 310, such as use of slot machine 110 by the player, is received by tracking unit 305, as is on-line activity 315, such as use of blackjack game 135. The activities are combined, enabling the casino to track all of the player's activities in a single account.
 Server 120 also includes point awarding unit 320. Point awarding unit 320 is responsible for awarding points to the player, based on activity in the player's account. For example, if the player has gambled enough (say, $1000), point awarding unit 320 can award the player points. These points, in turn, can be used to give benefits to the player: for example, with enough points, the player can be awarded a complimentary visit to the casino buffet.
 Although FIG. 3 shows point awarding unit 320 as included in server 120, other implementations are possible. For example, points can be awarded by gaming devices as the player plays, and by the gaming web site as the player plays on-line. In that case, server 120 simply merges points awarded by individual gaming devices, rather than awarding points based on play. A person skilled in the art will recognize other possible configurations.
 In FIG. 3, in-house activity 310 and on-line activity 315 are uploaded to server 120 in real-time. That is, as the activities occur, the information about the activities is communicated to server 120. This communication allows server 120 to accumulate information about a player's activities as quickly as possible, so that the player information stored on server 120 can stay current.
FIG. 4 shows the casino of FIG. 1A delivering a benefit to the player, according to an embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 4, server 120 of the casino is shown sending electronic message 405 to computer system 140. Message 405 originates within message unit 410, which generates the message. Message 405 can be anything: a special offer to club members, a menu for the buffet, or an announcement about an event. But more likely, message 405 is a special offer for the player, determined by his activities (both in-house and on-line). As such, message 405 can include promotion 415, bonus 417, coupon 420, both offering some sort of benefit to the player. According to the present invention, a bonus is a prize are awarded in addition to any jackpot and is based on a separate set of payout tables or criteria. Essentially, a bonus is any prize paid out above and beyond awards from a gaming device pay table. A bonus prize can be in the form of cash, credits or non-monetary awards, such as a car, or any combination thereof. The bonus prize can also be tiered into a main bonus prize and multiple secondary bonus prizes, plus optional consolation prizes, and similar combinations. A list of possible bonuses is shown in Table 1, and their marketing techniques and advantages are shown in Table 2.
TABLE 1 Title Objective Description 2 for 1 offer Increase headcounts. Stimulate Customers receive free offer with purchase of a new trial. qualifying item. Bounce Back Increase occupancy and average Guests are given a bound back coupon with value Discount daily rate, especially in periods added hotel offer, usually framed within period of of slack demand. slack demand. Brand Product Co- Increase play. Heightened Player is rewarded with brand product when meeting Op Giveaways brand awareness. gaming criteria. In a variation, product is given when player shows up without any qualification. Cash Letters Stimulate a visit. Instigate play. Tiered cash offers based on financial value of player Build customer loyalty. Pre- group to casino. Letters are sent to the player and then empt players from migrating to redeemed in the casino. competitor's casino. Club Develop and grow player Players earn points and other value added incentives by database. Maximize value of using tracking mechanism when playing slots. Similar marketing dollar using direct to the frequent flyer model used by airlines. Typically, marketing techniques as points are earned in conjunction with coin-in that can opposed to media. Generate be redeemed for cash and/or comps. A rating brand loyalty. methodology is typically implemented to tier player classes based on financial value to casino. Comps Build customer loyalty. Keep Complimentary food/beverage/hotel/amenities are customers in the casino. earned through casino play. In some cases points are Provide value added. Increased liquidated or redeemed for complimentary offer. In perceived value as compared others, player accrues a “comp value” in addition to with actual cost. points earned that he may or may not be aware of. Defected Bring back players who have Notification and incentive offer to club members who Customer not been in the casino since a have not had rated system play for the previous X Programs prescribed period of time. months. Demand Driven Increase occupancy and average Qualified players are sent tiered offers that include Rate Offer daily rate. Maximize property complimentary room accommodations, either in revenue by filling rooms with advance of low demand or special citywide event. highest-level players. Rate or comp status can be determined by player's value to casino. Drawings Stimulate gaming. As indicated below in “Life Changing Drawings,” a segregated drawing can be mounted for players meeting specific criteria (e.g., all blackjack players). For example, earn a ticket with every blackjack dealt. Prize drawing is held at conclusion of a promotional period. The prize can be anything: e.g., a vehicle. Free Ace Stimulate blackjack play. Coupon can serve as player's Ace when presented to dealer before the hand is dealt. A rule can be used to require the player to make a maximum bet. Free drink or food Increase headcounts. Stimulate Customers receive free offer with purchase. component with new trial. purchase Free Football Increase visits. Stimulate new Players register for weekly football contest to pick Parlay trial. winners of each weekend's games. Weekly winners are awarded cash. Gift of the Month Increase play during specific Gifts given to players who accumulate the qualifying time frame. Increase spending point amount during the month. Gifts can be tiered per visit. Build customer during same time frame to increase perception of value loyalty. Stimulate new trial. across broad spectrum of players. Gift with Game Increase coin-in. Build Player's Players meeting game outcome requirements receive a Outcome or X Club awareness and generate gift. The gift can be anything: from stuffed animals to Points Earned new accounts. Increase vacations, from boxes of candy to liquor. playtime and spend per session. Gift with new Increase awareness and Gift or value added is offered in conjunction with new product launch stimulate trial of new game or game/product roll out on casino floor. Usually casino amenity. facilitated by live attendants. Gift with Purchase Increase spending. Increase Players receive a themed gift with purchase/coin-in. play during slack demand. Build customer loyalty. Stimulate new trial. Holiday Drawings Keep regulars focused on Drawings are held periodically throughout the holiday property as an agenda item period. Chances are earned with purchases. In one during the holiday period. variation, chances can also be earned during the period Maintain/increase customer preceding the holiday. counts, increase coin-in. Hot Ball Build customer loyalty. A hot ball (one numbered ball) is a randomly chosen Stimulate new play. ball prior to each session. Players hitting B-I-N-G-O with the hot ball wins additional cash. Life Changing Stimulate trial, improve A large prize drawing is held after some time frame Giveaways customer counts and coin-in. during which any purchase qualifies the player for a chance. The prize can include any gaming, resort or retail activity. Drawings can also be game-specific. For example, the player can earn chances with every blackjack dealt to win prize. Loss Leader Increase property headcounts. Popular food offerings are made at break-even or loss Pricing Stimulate trial. price points. Marathons Increase coin-in. Give known Participants are given X amount of time to accumulate players opportunity to earn as many credits (or points) as possible. Winners recognition and added prizes for receive cash prizes. Typically, the operator will try to play. Particularly valuable pay as many places as possible. Sometimes during periods of slack demand. banquets/parties are packaged in conjunction with Add value to Player's club card. event. Increase room occupancy. Match Play Stimulate play. Player uses match play coupon, usually to double or increase value of actual wager. This bonus is often used with blackjack and craps table games. Multiple Point Increase coin-in during periods Players earn X times the regular number of points Promotions of slack demand. Generate during a prescribed time frame. improved perception of value for player's club. Music and Add excitement to casino floor Any entertainment event from a lounge act to a stage Entertainment and drive traffic. spectacular or “star in showroom” is utilized to Events generate awareness, improve positioning and drive non-qualified pedestrian traffic. Packages Increase occupancy and average Guests are sent offers that package hotel rooms with daily rate, especially in periods food offerings or other amenities. of slack demand. Parties/Celebrity Increase brand awareness. Usually, a minimum charge or wager allows access to Event Stimulate new trial. Increase the event. Food and beverage are available with play during slow periods. purchase. Sometimes a co-op sponsor will provide free Increase customer trips. product samples or the like in conjunction with event. Paycheck Cashing Increase traffic. Get players in Player is rewarded with gift, free game of chance, casino with cash to spend. Pre- match play, or other value added offer when paycheck empt player from cashing at is cashed at casino. competitors' casinos. Points Build player database. Generate Points are earned through casino play as an incentive. customer loyalty and new club membership. Competitive advantage. Purchase Upgrade Increase play, especially during Customer receives one level higher than actual slow periods. purchase price for free. Senior Program Cultivate and develop loyal, Various value added discounts and special events productive “senior” customers targeted specifically at seniors. (age 55+). Special Event Add value, reward and Upper tiered players are invited to entertainment or recognize good players for sporting events, sometimes off the resort's property. continued support of casino. Typically, a pre- or post-party will be scheduled on the property in an effort to get players to play. Tournaments Build customer loyalty. Create Participants play, usually against each other and the excitement and energy on clock, in a variety of “tournament” style rounds. Prizes gaming floor. Stimulate play are rewarded to the top winner(s) of each round and from onlookers. Add value to final round. Some tournaments require a buy-in, others Player's Club Card. Increase are free based on player qualifying through previous traffic during slow periods. play. Sometimes banquets/parties packaged in Increase room occupancy. conjunction with event. Visit and Win Build value to Player's Club Off line system used to allow club members to swipe Card. Generate new player's once each day to earn instant prizes. club members. Impact loyalty and coin-in.
TABLE 2 Traditional Marketing Title Technique Internet Marketing Technique Internet Advantage 2 for 1 offer Media, internal Advertised in Restaurant section of Increased awareness. Coupons signage, web site. E-mail coupons (e.g., used to increase headcounts. newsletter. food upgrades) could be given for value added. Bounce Back Coupon at Advertised in appropriate section of Increased awareness. Reduced Discount check out, web site. E-mail offers. Content marketing expense. direct mail. pushed to web site visitors. Brand Product Media, Internal Promote via web site with co-op Cross-promotion via product's Co-Op Giveaways signage, point- brand. Product web site could also web site adds synergy- of-sale display be utilized for cross-promotion. E- prospecting element. Value in conjunction mail coupons for casino and added coupon could increase with product brand's products can be given for visits. Improved perception of retailer. value added. Player's Club. Cash Letters Direct mail. Cash offers are e-mailed to players. Increased awareness. Postage Offers are given a security number and printing costs for qualified to eliminate copies/forgeries. direct mail minimized. Club Media, internal Advertised in the Player's Club Increased registration. Identify signage, section of web site. On-line “Internet” market segment. newsletter, registration. Incentives can be e- Lower marketing costs per direct mail, slot mailed to users for value added. sign-up. Grow market of system display. potential Internet players if/when Internet gaming is legalized. Tiered customers can be communicated to using tiered e-mail offering. Comps Media, internal Advertised in the Player's Club Labor efficiency. Casino hosts signage, section of web site. Users can look will have more time pressing newsletter, up points and other information and flesh with players instead of direct mail, slot redeem comps on-line. processing administrative system display. paperwork. On-line comp redemption/point totals will generate ongoing awareness. Defected Direct mail is E-mail could be used as on-going Greater potential message Customer utilized with a communication tool using a frequency and fractional Programs “We miss you” structured and tailored series of marketing cost. and incentive messages intended to entice the based on player back into the fold. player's previous value to casino. Demand Driven Direct mail. Advertise in appropriate section of Increased awareness. Reduced Rate offer web site. E-mail offer and push on- marketing expense. going communication. Drawings Advertising, E-coupons could be used to Increased level of ongoing newsletter, stimulate additional visits. E-mail communication. Improve direct mail, communication can remind effectiveness of promotion. internal contestant that he already has X signage. chances to win. Free Ace Coupons E-coupons can be tiered and Broadens value of promotion. distributed administered with frequency based Increased appeal to known through various on quality of player. players and pedestrians. Lower outlets and distribution costs. media. Free drink or food Internal Advertised in Restaurant section of Increased awareness. Coupons component with signage, web site. E-mail coupons (e.g., used to increase headcounts. purchase newsletter. food upgrades) could be given for value added. Free Football Media, internal Advertised in Events Calendar Heightened awareness. Parlay signage, section of web site. E-mail Reduced media expense. newsletter. coupons (e.g., beverage offer with purchase) could be given for value added. Gift of the Month Media, internal Advertised in the Player's Club and Heightened awareness. signage, Events Calendar sections of web Improved results. Lower newsletter, site. Value added via coupon. overall marketing costs. direct mail. Gift with Game Media, internal Advertised in Events Calendar of Increased awareness. Postage Outcome or x signage, web site. E-mail coupon could be and printing costs for qualified Points Earned newsletter. given for value added. direct mail minimized. Gift with new Internal Play for Fun game could be posted Player could “test drive” product launch signage, on web site in conjunction with product on-line. Increased newsletter, product rollout. Advertised in awareness. Postage and direct mail Events Calendar section of web printing costs for qualified invitation, site. E-mail coupon could be given direct mail minimized. media, for value added. publicity. Gift with Media, internal Advertised in Events Calendar Heightened awareness. Purchase signage, section of web site. E-mail Reduced media expense. newsletter. coupons could be used for value added. Play for Fun game outcome could dictate amount of value added. Holiday Drawings Media, Internal Promotion advertised in current Postage and printing costs for signage, Events Calendar section of web qualified direct mail newsletter and site. Qualified players receive extra minimized. On-line private offers chances via e-mail. Extra chances tournament could improve via direct mail could also be earned with on-line attendance and return on with extra tournaments. investment. Improved value chances for perception of Player's Club. qualified players. Hot Ball Media, internal Advertised in Events Calendar Increased awareness. Lower signage, section of web site. E-mail marketing costs. newsletter. coupons (e.g., bingo upgrade) could be used for value added. Play for Fun game outcome could dictate amount of value added. Internet- only coupon bonus hot ball award. Life Changing Media, internal Promotion advertised in current Postage and printing costs for Giveaways signage, events. Qualified players receive qualified direct mail publicity, extra chances via e-mail. minimized. Improve value newsletter and perception of Player's Club. private offers via direct mail with extra chances for qualified players. Loss Leader Media, internal Additional advertising opportunity. Pricing signage, E-mail discount coupons can be newsletter. awarded based on Play for Fun outcome. Marathons Internal Advertised in Events Calendar of Labor savings of on-line signage, web site. Players could register on- registration. On-line marathon newsletter, line. E-mail reminder prior to add value to the website. direct mail marathon. On-line marathon style Permission marketing improves invitation, tournament could be used to pre- results. Lower costs of overall specialty qualify and promote. E-mail marketing effort. media. coupon could also given for value added. Match Play Coupons E-coupons can be tiered and Broadens value of promotion. distributed administered based on quality of Increased appeal to known through various player. players and pedestrians. Lower outlets and distribution costs. media. Multiple Point Media, internal Advertised in the Player's Club and Heightened awareness. Promotions signage, Events Calendar sections of web Improved results. Lower newsletter, site. Value added via coupon. overall marketing costs. direct mail. Music and Media, internal Entertainment events publicized in More compelling on-line Entertainment signage, Events Calendar section of web promotion. Postage and Events publicity, site. Advertising presentation could printing costs for direct mail newsletter, include video/music clip etc. Value minimized. Improve value added electronic discounts could be perception of Player's Club. offered via permission marketing to Potential savings in regular qualified players. Tickets can be scheduled media. awarded as prize for on-line Play for Fun tournaments. Packages Coupon at Advertise in appropriate section of Increased awareness. Reduced check out, web site. E-mail offer and push on- marketing expense. direct mail, in- going communication. room materials. Parties/Celebrity Media, internal Advertise in Events Calendar Heightened awareness. Event signage, section of web site. E-mail value Reduced media expense. newsletter, added e-coupon. Coupons could be direct required for party. marketing. Paycheck Cashing Media, internal Player can be reminded via e-mail a Minimize time at cage during signage, day or two before paycheck is due. first check cashing procedure. newsletter. Player can register at Cage via Improve traffic. Internet connection. E-mail coupon (gaming incentive) could also be given for Internet value added. Points Media, internal Advertised in Player's Club section Convenience/labor savings signage, of web site. Player point totals through on-line redemption. newsletter, available on-line. Points can be Value added offers exclusively direct mail, slot earned through web site for Internet redemptions system display. interactivity. Comps can be (airline model). Player access generated on-line. to accounts maintains higher level of awareness. Purchase Upgrade Media, internal Advertise in Events Calendar Increased awareness. Lower signage, section of web site. E-mail marketing costs. newsletter. coupons could be required. Play for Fun game outcome could dictate amount of value added. Senior Program Media, internal Advertised in appropriate section of Increased awareness. Ability to signage, web site. E-mail reminders prior to provide ongoing newsletter, events. Special “Seniors Only” commnunication. Reduced direct mail, Play for Fun tournaments with marketing costs. buttons, special value added coupon payoffs. slot card. Special Event Direct mail E-mail program can be used to Increased awareness. Ability to invitation. strengthen communication and provide ongoing “tease” the event with multiple communication. messages rather than just one invitation. Reminder notice X days before event can be used to minimize no-show factor. Tournaments Internal Advertised in Events Calendar Convenience/labor savings of signage, section of web site. Players could on-line registration. On-line newsletter, register on-line. E-mail reminder tournaments add value to the direct mail prior to tournament. E-mail coupon website. Permission marketing invitation, could also given for value added. improves results. Lower costs specialty On-line slot tournaments could be of overall marketing effort. media. staged as pre-qualifier with discount on registration. Visit and Win Media, internal Promote via e-mail. Daily swipe Improve number of visits. signage, could be facilitated via Internet. newsletter. Customer would be required to visit casino for fulfillment. Value added could be awarded exclusively via internet.
 Once received, the player can take advantage of the benefit. Note that the benefit is electronically linked to the player's account, meaning that the player does not need to bring in any physical evidence of the benefit: he can redeem the benefit simply by identifying himself to the appropriate attendant. This is explained further below with reference to FIG. 5.
 In FIG. 4, message 405 can be generated automatically by message unit 410. But message 405 can also be generated responsive to an inquiry by the player. For example, the player might inquire of the system whether he is entitled to any benefits, at which point the system checks his account and responds with any benefits to which the player is entitled. This is represented by inquiry 425 (shown as a dashed line to indicate that inquiry 425 is not required).
FIG. 5 shows a display used by the casino of FIG. 1A to verify electronically that a player is entitled to a benefit, according to an embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 5, monitor 505 is a display manned by a casino attendant. Monitor 505 is shown as a touch screen display, in which case no additional parts are required. But a person skilled in the art will recognize that monitor 505 can be any variety of display: for example, a cathode ray tube (CRT) or liquid crystal display (LCD) monitor, combined with some way to select a benefit, such as a mouse or keyboard. (The computer sending signals to the display can be a workstation connected to the server using some variety of network, or monitor 505 can be a dumb terminal, in which case the computer communicates with monitor 505 across some sort of cabling or network.) A person skilled in the art will also recognize that, if the system is sufficiently secure, the player can cash the benefit electronically, without the aid of an attendant.
 The attendant uses monitor 505 to verify the player's identity. This can be done in any number of ways: for example, by placing the player's card in card reader 510, or by typing the player's driver license number into the system. A person skilled in the art will recognize other ways in which the player's identity can be verified. Once the system has some way to identify the player, information about the player's account is displayed, as shown in screen 515. For example, screen 515 shows a picture of the player's face, along with his driver's license number, which the attendant can use to verify the player's identity.
 Screen 515 also shows the benefit to which the player is entitled. In FIG. 5, the player's account is linked to two benefits: a complimentary visit to the buffet, and two tickets to a show. The attendant has selected the complimentary buffet (shown by screen press 520). Presumably, the attendant is the cashier at the buffet, but the attendant could also be redeeming the benefit at a different station and giving the player a printout of the coupon, which could then be used at the buffet.
 Of course, before a player can receive a benefit according to FIGS. 4 and 5, the player must be registered with the casino. The most traditional way for a player to register with the system is to have the player come in to the casino to register. A casino employee enters player data (either from a form prepared by the player or live as the player provides the data) into a computer and gives the player a player card. Then, when the player uses the player card at any gaming device, the system can track the player's activity. The player card can also have a number imprinted on it that is unique to that player card: the player can then use that number to identify himself for on-line gaming.
 Instead of having players come to the casino in person to register an account, there are other ways in which players can be registered with the system. For example, the player can fill out an electronic form, over the Internet. The player can then be mailed the player card, and/or can be issued electronically an identification number that can be used for on-line gaming.
 Other ways can also be used to register the player. For example, software exists that allow the Internet Protocol (IP) address of a computer to be located geographically. Using such software, a player can be located without having to type any information. When the player first sets up his account, the system can determine the player's location based on his IP address. But IP addresses identify computers, not persons: it is not possible to determine who is using the computer from the IP address. Further, if IP addresses are dynamically assigned, they do not even uniquely identify a computer.
 Instead of assigning the player an identification number, an existing ID for the player can be used. For example, each state assigns persons in the state a unique driver's license number. The combination of the issuing state and the ID number can uniquely identify a player. The player can input this information to the system, and the system can forward the information to a third party database. The third party database can then return information about the player. The combination of issuing state and ID number can be used both to obtain information about a player for registration purposes (in setting up the player's account) and for identification purposes (for using the account).
 In a preferred embodiment, a combination of methods is used to register a player. First, the IP address of the computer is checked to determine the player's location. Then the player is prompted for his ID number and issuing agency. The ID number and issuing agency are forwarded to the third party database, both to verify the player's location as determined by IP address and to obtain player demographic information. If the player's location is verified, the account is registered using the player's IP address, ID number, and issuing agency. But if the player's location is not verified, then the player is requested to telephone the casino or come in personally, and have a casino employee register the player's account.
 FIGS. 6A-6D show player-data generated from in-house and on-line activity by a player at the casino of FIG. 1A, according to an embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 6A, basic player information is shown on monitor 605 in screen 610. Screen 610 is preferably generated using patron management software, which enables the casino to monitor a patron's (i.e., player's) demographics, gaming activities (both land-based and on-line), trips, promotions, bonuses, and comps, etc. For example, FIG. 6A shows a picture of the player, the player's name and address, any promotions being offered to the player, and any accounts linked to the player's account.
 Forms can be used, with screens similar to screen 610, to input player information for new players. This allows the casinos to add new players to their databases. By linking players together (for example, husband and wife), the players can combine their activities, both for tax purposes and to increase the rate at which they earn points.
FIG. 6B shows statistically significant data for a player. For simplicity, FIG. 6B does not show monitor 605, but a person skilled in the art will recognize that screen 615 is typically displayed on monitor 605. In screen 615, each column stores information about various trips the player has made to the casino, and each row stores a particular type of data. For example, the column titled “Current Trip” stores data generated by the player during his current play at the casino. Similarly, the columns titled “Avg. Day,” “MTD” (Month to Date), and “YTD” (Year to Date) storage data about the player's average day, month to date, and year to date, respectively, activity at the casino. Some of the data shown include the player's coin in to the slot machines, the player's coin out (that is, amount received back from the slot machines), any jackpots won, the casino's actual profits from the player (before factoring in any comps the player has received), the casino's theoretical profits from the player (after factoring in comps), and so on.
 A person skilled in the art will recognize that the information presented in screen 615 of FIG. 6B represents only some of the data the casino might be interested in, and that the form of presentation shown in screen 615 is not the only form that can be used. For example, the partially obscured column at the right of screen 615 shows statistics about the player over his entire lifetime. In addition, the information shown on screen 615 can include statistics generated by all players linked to an individual account or just a subset of players, can include all properties owned by the casino or just a subset of properties, can be limited to specific revenue sources (for example, just slot machines or just table games), etc.
FIG. 6C shows a screen whereby the casino can calculate how close a player is to receiving a comp from the casino. As with FIG. 6B, monitor 605 is not shown in FIG. 6C. For example, in screen 620 the casino can see statistics from the player's current trip. To determine how close the player is to receiving a comp, the casino can enter the desired comp in shaded area 625. The system can then determine whether the player is entitled to the comp, and if not, how much additional activity the player will need before being entitled to the comp. By using screen 620, the casino can consider “what if” scenarios with the player.
 As with screen 615 of FIG. 6B, screen 620 of FIG. 6C shows neither all the information that could be presented to the casino, nor all possible variations of presentation. For example, rather than considering the current trip, the casino can use screen 620 to consider what comps the player might be entitled to considering his activity during the current month or year, or over his entire lifetime, among others. Or the statistics of screen 620 can be limited to individual players, rather than linked accounts. The data can also be broken down to separate in-house gaming from on-line gaming. In addition, various combinations of the above presentation forms are possible. For example, the casino can use screen 620 to display the player's on-line gaming for the current year.
FIG. 6D shows a screen whereby the casino can view the player's current trips, along with any promotions available to the player. In section 635, screen 630 shows the trips the player has registered for. Some of the trips have been completed (with a status of “Complete”); others have not yet begun (with a status of “Pending”). The player is currently in town on trip number 3, and failed to show at all for one trip earlier in the August.
 Although screen 630 shows the trips in reverse chronological order, a person skilled in the art will recognize that trip information can be presented to the casino in other formats. For example, screen 630 can show a portion of a calendar (such as the current week or the current month) and display the trips across the calendar.
 Section 640 shows information about promotions offered by the casino. Various promotions are shown. Casino employees can add or modify the promotions, and can make certain promotions available to the player.
 There are other uses possible for the information shown in FIGS. 6A-6D. For example, this information can be used to design new promotions, which might increase player activity. Or the information can be used to improve the gaming opportunities offered to the player, either in the casino or on-line. A person skilled in the art will recognize other possible uses for information about a player's account.
FIG. 7 shows a display of a player's combined activity generated by the casino of FIG. 1A, according to an embodiment of the invention. Since the server stores both in-house and on-line activity in the account, the server can generate a tax statement for the player at any time, summarizing all of the player's activity. The player can connect to the server across the network and authenticate himself (for example, using his player's card number, driver's license, or any other desired form of identification). Screen 705, displayed on monitor 155 (part of computer system 140 of FIG. 1A), shows the player's current statistics, allowable deduction (based on the current tax regulations), and any carry-over deduction for next year.
FIG. 8 shows the player utilizing the player's combined activity generated by the casino of FIG. 1A, according to an embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 8, screen 805 is shown. Screen 805 can be displayed on monitor 155, as shown in FIG. 7. In section 810 of screen 805, the player can specify arrival and departure dates for the desired reservation, along with the number of guests. This includes searching for any promotions or comps the player might be entitled to. Then, when the player presses search button 815, the system searches to find all available rooms that might satisfy the reservation. These are shown in list 820. For example, the player might select row 825, which indicates that the player can receive a complimentary room (although more expensive room types are not offered as comps).
 FIGS. 9A-9D show a flowchart of the procedure combining in-house and on-line activity of a player by the casino of FIG. 1 A, according to an embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 9A, at step 905, the casino receives in-house activity by the player, and at step 910, the casino receives on-line activity the player. A person skilled in the art will recognize that steps 905 and 910 can be performed in either order, and can be repeated as needed. At step 915, the in-house and on-line activities are combined in the player's account, which is stored in step 920. At step 925, the system determines if the player is entitled to any points. If so, then at step 930, the player is awarded points based on the player's activity.
 At step 935 (FIG. 9B), the system determines if the player has requested a benefit. If so, then at step 940 the system determines if the player is entitled to a benefit. If so, then at step 945 the system sends the player a benefit, responsive to the player's request. If the player did not request a benefit, the system can check on its own to see if the player is entitled to a benefit, as shown at step 959. If the player is entitled to a benefit, then at step 955 the system can send the benefit to the player automatically. Otherwise, if the player is not entitled to the benefit, then at step 960 the benefit is not sent.
 At step 965 (FIG. 9C), the system determines if the player is trying to cash the benefit electronically. If so, then at step 970 the player is identified at a second computer (this can be done with or without an attendant). At step 975, the system verifies that the player is entitled to the benefit. At step 980, the benefit is awarded to the player, and at step 985 the benefit is canceled from the player's account.
 At step 990 (FIG. 9D), the system checks to see if the player is requesting a display of the account activity. If so, then at step 992 the system displays the account activity to the player. At step 995, the system determines if the player is requesting a tax statement. If so, then at step 997 the system prepares and presents to the user a tax statement based on the player's activity.
 A person skilled in the art will recognize that an embodiment of the invention described above can be implemented using a computer. In that case, the method is embodied as instructions that comprise a program. The program may be stored on computer-readable media, such as floppy disks, optical discs (such as compact discs), or fixed disks (such as hard drives). The program can then be executed on a computer to implement the method. The program, or portions of its execution, can be distributed over multiple computers in a network.
 Having illustrated and described the principles of the invention in a preferred embodiment thereof, it should be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that the invention can be modified in arrangement and detail without departing from such principles. All modifications coming within the spirit and scope of the accompanying claims are claimed.
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|International Classification||G06Q40/00, G06Q20/20, G07F17/32|
|Cooperative Classification||G07F17/3255, G07F17/3232, G07F17/3239, G06Q40/123, G07F17/32, G06Q20/207|
|European Classification||G07F17/32, G07F17/32E6, G07F17/32K10, G07F17/32E6D2, G06Q40/103, G06Q20/207|
|Jan 22, 2003||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: ACRES GAMING INCORPORATED, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:GLISSON, FLOYD W.;MANFREDI, VINCENT S.;JORDAN, R. JEFFREY;REEL/FRAME:013698/0874;SIGNING DATES FROM 20021231 TO 20030110
|May 24, 2006||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: IGT,NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:ACRES GAMING INCORPORATED;REEL/FRAME:017663/0341
Effective date: 20060515