Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20040178579 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/698,862
Publication dateSep 16, 2004
Filing dateNov 3, 2003
Priority dateJan 29, 2002
Also published asWO2005043352A2, WO2005043352A3
Publication number10698862, 698862, US 2004/0178579 A1, US 2004/178579 A1, US 20040178579 A1, US 20040178579A1, US 2004178579 A1, US 2004178579A1, US-A1-20040178579, US-A1-2004178579, US2004/0178579A1, US2004/178579A1, US20040178579 A1, US20040178579A1, US2004178579 A1, US2004178579A1
InventorsMark Lowell, Deborah Leake, Michael Hartman, Calvin Nicholson, Brett Keaton, Hilary Keeton
Original AssigneeGametech International, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Enhanced bingo game method, apparatus, and computer program product
US 20040178579 A1
Abstract
A method, apparatus, and computer program process for playing an enhanced bingo game. A first set of indicators may be selected, with each of the first set of indicators associated with a win enhancement value, or bonus value, and at least one of the first indicators can be assigned to at least one column of a bingo card. A second set of indicators can also be selected, with each of the second set of indicators associated with bonus value, and at least one of the second indicators can be assigned to at least one row on the bingo card. At least one number from the set of numbers associated with each column of the bingo card can be designated as a diamond symbol number. A player winning a bingo game by matching a column or row of called numbers may be eligible for the bonus prize associated with the column or row if the column or row contains a predetermined number of diamond symbol numbers. Indicator and diamond symbol assignments may happen after game play begins, to enhance the overall excitement associated with the game.
Images(9)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(79)
What is claimed is:
1. A method of enhancing the play of a game of bingo, comprising:
designating a set of potential numbers for the game;
designating a plurality of subsets of the potential numbers for the game;
associating each of the plurality of subsets with a bingo card column;
providing at least one bingo card to at least one player, the at least one bingo card including a plurality of spaces, the spaces being arranged in a matrix of rows and columns, wherein each of the spaces contains either a number from the subset of numbers associated with the column in which the space appears or a free space designator;
designating at least one pattern of spaces as determinative of a winner of the game;
providing at least a first set of indicators;
associating each of the first set of indicators with a win enhancement value;
electing whether the first set of indicators should be associated with columns or rows on the at least one bingo card;
associating at least one of the first set of indicators to at least one of the elected at one columns or rows;
repeating the process of selecting numbers at random from the set of potential numbers for the game until the game ends;
paying the at least one player if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the at least one pattern designated as a winning pattern; and,
paying the at least one player the win enhancement value if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the at least one pattern designated as a winning pattern.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
selecting at least one number at random from each of the subsets to serve as a win enhancement activator; and
paying the at least one player the win enhancement value only if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number.
3. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
providing a second set of indicators;
associating each of the second set of indicators with a win enhancement value; and
associating at least one of the second set of indicators to the other of columns or rows.
4. The method of claim 3, further comprising:
selecting at least one number at random from each of the subsets to serve as a win enhancement activator; and
paying the at least one player the win enhancement value only if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein the first set of indicators includes colors.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the first set of indicators includes graphics.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the pattern of spaces includes a pattern of contiguous spaces on the bingo card.
8. The method of claim 7, wherein the pattern includes a vertical column of spaces on the bingo card.
9. The method of claim 7, wherein the pattern includes a horizontal row of spaces on the bingo card.
10. The method of claim 7, wherein the pattern includes a diagonal pattern of contiguous spaces on the bingo card.
11. The method of claim 1, wherein the pattern of spaces includes noncontiguous spaces on the bingo card.
12. The method of claim 1, wherein the random numbers are generated by selecting a ball having a number printed on it from a plurality of balls.
13. The method of claim 12, wherein the at least one bingo card is maintained and displayed electronically by a card tending device.
14. The method of claim 13, wherein the number associated with the randomly selected ball is manually entered into the card tending device by the player.
15. The method of claim 13, wherein the at least one bingo card is marked by the player interacting with the card tending device.
16. The method of claim 1, wherein the at least one bingo card is maintained and displayed electronically by a card tending device.
17. The method of claim 16, wherein the random numbers are generated by a computing device and communicated to the card tending device.
18. The method of claim 1, wherein the win enhancement value is a progressive prize.
19. The method of claim 18, wherein the progressive prize is incremented at an accelerated rate.
20. The method of claim 18, wherein the progressive prize is incremented to reflect live updating of the prize amount.
21. The method of claim 18, wherein the progressive prize is based on earnings from the prior day.
22. The method of claim 1, wherein each of the columns or rows is assigned a unique indicator.
23. The method of claim 1, wherein at least three of the columns or rows to which the at least one indicator is assigned contain the same indicators.
24. The method of claim 1, wherein the column closest to the middle of the matrix is assigned a unique indicator.
25. The method of claim 1, wherein the row closest to the middle of the matrix is assigned a unique indicator.
26. A method of displaying a progressive cash prize during a gaming session to a player comprising:
calculating a progressive prize amount from a previous gaming session;
showing on a display an unincremented prize amount; and,
incrementing the prize shown on the display at an accelerated rate until the displayed amount is at least equal to the progressive prize amount.
27. A method of playing a game of bingo comprising:
designating a set of potential numbers for the game;
designating a plurality of subsets of the potential numbers for the game;
associating each of the plurality of subsets with at least one bingo card column;
providing at least one bingo card to at least one player, the bingo card including a plurality of spaces, the spaces being arranged in a matrix of rows and columns, wherein each of the spaces contains either a number from the subset of numbers associated with the column in which the space appears or a free space indicator;
selecting at least one number at random from each of the subsets of the potential numbers for the game as a diamond symbol number;
designating at least one first pattern of spaces on a bingo card as determinative of a winner of the game, wherein the pattern includes at least a column of spaces on the bingo card;
providing at least a first set of colors;
associating each of the first set of colors with a win enhancement value;
associating at least one of the first set of colors to at least one column;
repeating the process of selecting numbers at random from the set of potential numbers for the game until the game ends;
paying the at least one player if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the at least one first pattern designated as a winning pattern; and,
paying a first bonus to the at least one player if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the at least one first pattern designated as a winning pattern, wherein the value of the first bonus equals the win enhancement value associated with the color associated with the column in which the win occurs.
28. The method of claim 27, further comprising:
selecting at least one number at random from each of the subsets to serve as a win enhancement activator; and
paying the at least one player the first bonus only if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number.
29. The method of claim 27, further comprising:
designating at least one second pattern of spaces on a bingo card as determinative of a winner of the game, wherein the second pattern includes at least a row of spaces on the bingo card;
providing a set of graphics;
associating each of the set of graphics with a win enhancement value;
associating at least one of the set of graphics to rows on the bingo card; and
paying a second bonus to the at least one player if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the at least one second pattern designated as a winning pattern, wherein the second bonus equals the win enhancement value associated with the graphic associated with the row in which the win occurs.
30. The method of claim 29, further comprising:
selecting at least one number at random from each of the subsets to serve as a win enhancement activator; and
paying the at least one player the second bonus only if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number.
31. The method of claim 29, further comprising:
selecting at least one number at random from each of the subsets to serve as a win enhancement activator;
paying the at least one player the first bonus only if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number; and
paying the at least one player the second bonus only if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number.
32. The method of claim 27, wherein the first pattern of spaces includes a pattern of contiguous spaces on the bingo card.
33. The method of claim 32, wherein the first pattern includes a column of spaces on the bingo card.
34. The method of claim 29, wherein the second pattern includes a pattern of contiguous spaces on the bingo board.
35. The method of claim 34, wherein the second pattern further includes a horizontal row of spaces on the bingo board.
36. The method of claim 29, wherein the first pattern or the second pattern includes a diagonal pattern of contiguous spaces on the bingo card.
37. The method of claim 27, wherein the first pattern includes noncontiguous spaces on the bingo card.
38. The method of claim 27, wherein the random numbers are generated by selecting a ball having a number printed on it from a plurality of balls.
39. The method of claim 38, wherein the bingo card is maintained and displayed electronically by a card tending device.
40. The method of claim 39, wherein the number associated with the randomly selected ball is manually entered into the card tending device by the player.
41. The method of claim 39, wherein the at least one bingo card is marked by the player interacting with the card tending device.
42. The method of claim 27, wherein the at least one bingo card is maintained and displayed electronically by a card tending device.
43. The method of claim 29, wherein the random numbers are generated by a computing device and communicated to the card tending device.
44. The method of claim 27, wherein the win enhancement value is a progressive prize.
45. The method of claim 44, wherein the progressive prize is incremented at an accelerated rate.
46. The method of claim 44, wherein the progressive prize is incremented to reflect live updating of the prize amount.
47. The method of claim 27, wherein each of the columns is assigned a unique color.
48. The method of claim 27, wherein at least three of the columns are assigned the same color.
49. The method of claim 27, wherein at least the column closest to the middle of the matrix is assigned a unique color.
50. The method of claim 29, wherein each of the rows is assigned a unique graphic.
51. The method of claim 29, wherein at least three of the rows are assigned the same graphic.
52. The method of claim 29, wherein at least the row closest to the middle of the matrix is assigned a unique indicator.
53. A computer program product containing instructions which, when executed by a computer, performs the steps of:
designating a set of potential numbers for the game;
designating a plurality of subsets of the potential numbers for the game;
associating each of the plurality of subsets with a bingo card column;
providing at least one bingo card to at least one player, the at least one bingo card including a plurality of spaces, the spaces being arranged in a matrix of rows and columns, wherein each of the spaces contains either a number from the subset of numbers associated with the column in which the space appears or a free space designator;
designating at least one pattern of spaces as determinative of a winner of the game;
providing at least a first set of indicators;
associating each of the first set of indicators with a win enhancement value;
electing whether the first set of indicators should be associated with columns or rows on the at least one bingo card;
associating at least one of the first set of indicators to at least one of the elected at one columns or rows;
repeating the process of selecting numbers at random from the set of potential numbers for the game until the game ends;
paying the at least one player if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the pattern designated as a winning pattern; and,
paying the at least one player the win enhancement value if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the pattern designated as a winning pattern.
54. The method of claim 53, further comprising:
selecting at least one number at random from each of the subsets to serve as a win enhancement activator; and
paying the at least one player the win enhancement value only if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number.
55. A method of playing a bingo game, comprising:
designating a set of potential numbers for the game;
designating a plurality of subsets of the potential numbers for the game;
associating each of the plurality of subsets with at least one bingo card column;
providing at least one bingo card to at least one player, the bingo card including a plurality of spaces, the spaces being arranged in a matrix of rows and columns, wherein each of the spaces contains either a number from the subset of numbers associated with the column in which the space appears or a free space indicator;
selecting at least one number at random from each of the subsets of the potential numbers for the game as a diamond symbol number;
designating at least one first pattern of spaces on a bingo card as determinative of a winner of the game, wherein the pattern includes at least a column of spaces on the bingo card;
providing at least a first set of colors;
associating each of the first set of colors with a win enhancement value;
associating at least one of the first set of colors to at least one column;
designating at least one second pattern of spaces on a bingo card as determinative of a winner of the game, wherein the second pattern includes at least a row of spaces on the bingo card;
providing a set of graphics;
associating each of the set of graphics with a win enhancement value;
associating at least one of the set of graphics to rows on the bingo card; and
selecting at least one number at random from each of the subsets to serve as a win enhancement activator;
repeating the process of selecting numbers at random from the set of potential numbers for the game until the game ends;
paying the at least one player if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the at least one first pattern designated as a winning pattern;
paying a first bonus to the at least one player if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the at least one first pattern designated as a winning pattern, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number, wherein the value of the first bonus equals the win enhancement value associated with the color associated with the column in which the win occurs; and
paying a second bonus to the at least one player if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the at least one second pattern designated as a winning pattern, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number, wherein the value of the second bonus equals the win enhancement value associated with the graphic associated with the row in which the win occurs.
56. Apparatus for playing an enhanced game of bingo, comprising:
a random number generator that selects numbers at random from within a set of numbers associated with a bingo game, the set of numbers also corresponding to at least one bingo card having a plurality of numbered spaces arranged in a matrix of rows and columns, wherein the set of numbers is comprised of a plurality of subsets of numbers and each of the subsets is assigned to a column or row;
at least a first set of indicators;
at least one configuration of at least one pattern of at least one numbered space on the bingo card, the configuration determining a winner of the game; and,
a selection means for determining the winner, wherein the selection means iteratively generates a random number using the random number generator, matches the number to its corresponding numbered space, if present, on the bingo card, and if the column or row with which the random number is associated is not matched to an indicator, selects an indicator at random and matches it to the column or row with which the random number is associated, and then generates additional numbers and matches them to corresponding numeric spaces on the bingo card until the game has ended.
57. The apparatus of claim 56, wherein each column or row is assigned a unique indicator.
58. An overlay to a bingo game, comprising:
designating at least one pattern of spaces on a bingo card as determinative of a winner of the game;
providing a first set of indicators;
associating each of the first set of indicators with a win enhancement value;
electing whether the first set of indicators should be associated with bingo card columns or bingo card rows;
associating at least one of the first set of indicators with at least one of the elected columns or rows on the bingo card;
repeating the process of selecting numbers at random from the set of numbers associated with the bingo game and advising at least one player of the selected numbers until the game ends;
paying the at least one player if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the pattern designated as a winning pattern; and,
paying the at least one player the win enhancement value if the at least one player has a bingo card with numbers matching those selected from the set of potential numbers, if the pattern formed by the matching numbers matches the pattern designated as a winning pattern, and if the pattern formed by the matching numbers contains at least one win enhancement activator number.
59. The method of claim 58, further comprising:
providing a second set of indicators;
associating each of the second set of indicators with a win enhancement value; and
associating at least one of the second set of indicators to the other of columns or rows.
60. The method of claim 58, wherein the first set of indicators includes colors.
61. The method of claim 58, wherein the first set of indicators includes graphical images.
62. The method of claim 58, wherein the pattern of spaces includes a pattern of contiguous spaces on the bingo card.
63. The method of claim 62, wherein the pattern of spaces includes a vertical column of spaces on the bingo card.
64. The method of claim 62, wherein the pattern of spaces includes a horizontal row of numbered spaces.
65. The method of claim 62, wherein the pattern of spaces includes a diagonal pattern of contiguous numbered spaces on the bingo card.
66. The method of claim 58, wherein the pattern of spaces includes noncontiguous spaces on the bingo card.
67. The method of claim 58, wherein the random numbers are generated by selecting a ball having a number printed on it from a plurality of balls.
68. The method of claim 67, wherein the bingo card is maintained and displayed electronically by a card tending device.
69. The method of claim 68, wherein the number associated with the randomly selected ball is manually entered into the card tending device by the player.
70. The method of claim 68, wherein the bingo card is marked by the player interacting with the card tending device.
71. The method of claim 58, wherein the bingo card is maintained and displayed electronically by a card tending device.
72. The method of claim 71, wherein the random numbers are generated by a computing device and communicated to the card tending device.
73. The method of claim 58, wherein the win enhancement value is a progressive prize.
74. The method of claim 73, wherein the progressive prize is incremented at an accelerated rate.
75. The method of claim 73, wherein the progressive prize is incremented to reflect live updating of the prize amount.
76. The method of claim 58, wherein each of the columns or rows to which the at least one first indicator is assigned contains a unique indicator.
77. The method of claim 58, wherein at least three of the columns or rows to which the at least one first indicator are assigned contain the same indicators.
78. The method of claim 58, wherein the column closest to the middle of the matrix is assigned a unique indicator.
79. The method of claim 58, wherein the row closest to the middle of the matrix is assigned a unique indicator.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/060,871, entitled “Enhanced Bingo Game Method, Apparatus, and Computer Program Product”, filed Jan. 29, 2002, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. This application is also related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/244,039, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Remote Game Device with Failure Fallback and Restoration”, filed Sep. 13, 2002, and to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/244,098, entitled “Method and Apparatus for RF Transmitter Layout in a Gaming Hall”, filed Sep. 13, 2002, which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to the field of gaming, and more specifically provides an enhancement to the game of bingo by including an additional level of entertainment and complexity to the existing game.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] States face ever-increasing costs just to maintain essential services, but residents are typically unwilling to pay higher taxes to fund these services. Some states have begun to recognize gaming as a potential revenue source which can help generate funds for the state, thereby offsetting the need for increased taxes. For example, most states now sponsor lotteries or the like, the proceeds of which typically go toward educational or other programs. In addition, more and more states are legalizing, albeit under heavy regulation, certain other types of gaming, such as slot machines.

[0004] One of the first games which is typically legalized by states, especially for non-profit fundraising activities, is bingo. Bingo is a game that has been widely played for generations. As described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,857,911 to Fioretti (“Fioretti”), the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety, a traditional bingo game is played by a game operator, or “ball caller”, selecting at random from a set of seventy-five numbered balls stored in a hopper. In a traditional game, the numbers are divided into five subsets, with the numbers 1 through 15 associated with the letter “B”, the numbers 16 through 30 associated with the letter “I”, the numbers 31 through 45 associated with the letter “N”, the numbers 46 through 60 associated with the letter “G”, and the numbers 61 through 75 associated with the letter “O”. As the ball caller selects a ball, he or she typically calls out the number on the ball and the letter associated with the numbers. Each player then reviews his or her bingo card or cards to determine whether his or her bingo card has a corresponding entry.

[0005] Bingo cards typically consist of a matrix of six rows and five columns of spaces, with the top row of spaces filled with the letters “B”, “I”, “N”, “G”, and “O”, respectively, as illustrated in FIG. 1. The remaining five-by-five matrix of spaces on the bingo card is filled with numbers chosen at random from the subset of numbers associated with the letter appearing at the top of the column in which a space appears. Thus, for example, all spaces in the “B” column are filled with numbers chosen randomly from the subset of numbers between 1 and 15, and the spaces in the “G” column are filled with numbers chosen randomly from the subset of numbers between 46 and 60.

[0006] As the ball caller calls out the number on a selected ball, players mark the called number with a dauber, marker, or other indicator if the number appears on the bingo cards being played that game. If the indicators on a bingo card form one or more pre-specified pattern, the player to whom the card belongs, or to whom the card has been assigned, wins a prize. For example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,398,645 to Yoseloff (“Yoseloff”), the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety, the shapes may include an “X”, a plus, a “T”, a horizontal line, a vertical line, or other alternative shapes. When the marks on a player's scorecard match a pre-specified pattern, the player has a “bingo” and can win the pot for that game, a prize associated with a specific shape, or the like.

[0007] Although typically associated with fundraisers for churches and other non-profit groups, bingo has become so popular that casinos have begun to offer bingo to their patrons. This has spurred the development of a variety of technological advancements and alternative bingo games, from the bingo-like slot machines taught by Yoseloff, above, and by U.S. Pat. No. 5,935,002 to Falciglia, the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety, to televised and Internet-based bingo games, such as those taught by U.S. Pat. No. 5,951,396 to Tawil, U.S. Pat. No. 6,012,984 to Roseman, U.S. Pat. No. 6,186,892 to Frank et al., U.S. Pat. No. 6,280,325 to Fisk, U.S. Pat. No. 6,306,038 to Graves et al., and U.S. Pat. No. 6,354,941 to Miller et al., the teachings of each of which are incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.

[0008] As bingo becomes more popular, casinos and others offering the game are searching for new variations on the game in an attempt to attract and maintain more customers. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,482,289 to Weingardt (referred to herein as the Weingardt '289 reference), the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety, teaches expanding a bingo card from a traditional five-by-five matrix to a seven-by-seven matrix, with the added columns and rows shaded in an alternate color. The Weingardt '289 reference teaches that players can win a base prize by obtaining a five number bingo within the traditional five-by-five region, and that players can also win a larger prize by obtaining a seven number bingo. A seven number bingo falling completely within the added columns or rows is eligible for an even larger prize. The Weingardt '289 reference also teaches separately and distinctly marking some of the bingo balls to differentiate those bingo balls from other bingo balls. The Weingardt '289 reference discloses that such designations must be made prior to initiating the game. The Weingardt '289 reference further discloses varying the payouts made to a player depending on whether the player achieves a bingo made from randomly marked balls, or if the bingo is made from balls with a specific marking. The Weingardt '289 reference also discloses a bingo game with a progressive jackpot. In this aspect of the reference, a separate wager is made for the player to become eligible to win the progressive jackpot prize, which is awarded to the player who achieves the winning combination for the progressive jackpot.

[0009] U.S. Pat. No. 5,727,786 to Weingardt (referred to herein as the Weingardt '786 reference), the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety, teaches randomly selecting a predetermined group of bingo numbers, located on a conventional bingo flash board, to be “blue” numbers, “green” numbers, and “red” numbers, with the remaining numbers being “yellow” numbers. When a player achieves a bingo, the player wins certain preestablished payouts depending upon whether the player has a bingo consisting of numbers that are all the same color, or if the player's bingo consists of all but one number of the same color.

[0010] U.S. Pat. No. 6,565,091 to Weingardt (referred to herein as the Weingardt '091 reference), the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety, teaches assigning the bingo numbers located on a conventional bingo flash board to at least five groups, with the groups identified by color. The size of each of the groups varies, with the result that a bingo consisting of a combination of numbers from the smallest group will be harder to achieve than a bingo consisting of a combination of numbers from a larger group. A player achieving a bingo of a single color group is paid a jackpot, wherein the jackpot sizes vary in relation to the difficulty of achieving a particular bingo. Players are awarded varying amounts depending on whether the bingo occurs with numbers assigned to a single color or multiple colors and, if a single color, the color of the bingo.

[0011] U.S. Pat. No. 5,624,119 to Leake (referred to herein as the Leake '119 reference), the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety, teaches a bingo-like game in which colors or other elements are randomly assigned to each space on a card, although the Leake '119 reference teaches that colors should not repeat within a given column. Unlike traditional bingo, the set of numbers assignable to a given column is not limited, and numbers can be repeated across columns (although the Leake '119 reference teaches that numbers should be unique within a column). Thus, the letter designation at the top of a column becomes significant in the game taught in the Leake '119 game, as the column would be otherwise indistinguishable. According to the Leake '119 reference, a caller uses a random selection apparatus to randomly select and call a column, a color, and a number to be marked or covered within the spaces on a player's card face.

[0012] Although the references discussed above offer variants on traditional bingo games, none offer the unique, easily understood, and exciting playing characteristics of the present invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0013] Accordingly, the present invention is directed to an apparatus, method, and computer program process for playing an enhanced bingo game that substantially obviates one or more of the limitations or disadvantages of the related art.

[0014] It is an object of an embodiment of the present invention to provide a novel bingo game having an improved level of excitement and attraction such that the game is more appealing and can better attract players.

[0015] It is a further object of an embodiment of the present invention to provide a bingo game which functions to present improved visual appeal.

[0016] It is still a further object of an embodiment of the present invention to add an overlay, or secondary game, to a traditional bingo game.

[0017] Another object of an embodiment of the present invention is to provide an overlay game that can be played independent of traditional bingo, without requiring changes to the traditional bingo rules, such that bingo players who are comfortable with, or have no desire to play anything but, traditional bingo can still participate in a game.

[0018] Additional features and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description which follows, and in part will be apparent from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The objectives and other advantages of the invention will be realized and attained by the structure particularly pointed out in the written description and claims hereof as well as the appended drawings.

[0019] A preferred embodiment of the present invention provides an overlay game, or secondary game, which can be played along with or in addition to traditional bingo. In one embodiment, a player must concurrently win both a traditional bingo game and the overlay game to collect winnings. In an alternative embodiment, the games may be played separately, such that a player may win the overlay game without causing the underlying bingo game to halt.

[0020] The overlay game of the present invention includes the definition of a set of colors, and the association of a win-enhancement value, or bonus, with each color. The win enhancement values are preferably fixed or progressive prize values, although it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that alternative prizes, including automobiles, vacations, jackpot multipliers, or the like, can be substituted therefor without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. The set of colors preferably includes at least four colors, although it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that an alternative number of colors can be substituted therefor without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. The colors and associated win-enhancement values are preferably made known to players prior to initiation of an individual game, thereby increasing the sense of excitement associated with a game.

[0021] Game play preferably begins with the selection of a set of numbers to be included in the game (e.g. 1-75), and the division of this set into a plurality of subsets, as with traditional bingo. At least one number in each subset of numbers (e.g. 1-15, 16-30, 31-45, etc.) is then preferably randomly associated with a “diamond symbol” or other identifier. Although the term diamond symbol number is used herein to refer to the numbers within each subset which have been associated with a “diamond symbol”, the term should not be construed as limiting the identifier associated with a number to a specific identifier type. Although diamond symbol numbers preferably vary from game to game, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that diamond symbol numbers can remain the same through a plurality of games, an entire session, a plurality of sessions, or the like.

[0022] Bingo cards are preferably distributed to players as with traditional Bingo, and game play can begin. Although a preferred embodiment of the present invention is directed to use with electronic bingo cards, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that traditional paper cards can be substituted therefor without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention.

[0023] Game play traditionally begins with the drawing of a number from the set of numbers included in the game. Once a first number is drawn, each column of the bingo card is then preferably assigned a color from the set of colors. In a preferred embodiment, implemented using a five-by-five playing matrix bingo card, a player who wins a game by obtaining a bingo consisting of five matching numbers in a given column, wherein one of the numbers in the column is the “diamond symbol” number for that subset of numbers, is awarded not only the prize associated with a traditional bingo, but also the prize associated with the color of the column and the corresponding win enhancement value.

[0024] Although a preferred embodiment of the present invention requires that the player have a column bingo with at least one diamond symbol number in the column for the player to be awarded the win enhancement value, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that such a requirement is not necessary. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, in an alternative embodiment of the present invention, not all columns may be assigned a color, thereby altering the odds that a player will win the win enhancement value.

[0025] In addition to assigning win enhancement values to bingo card columns, and thus to bingos won within the columns, a preferred embodiment of the overlay game also assigns win enhancement values to bingo card rows. In such an embodiment, column colors are assigned as described above, and graphic symbols, such as, but not limited to, gem stones, sea shells, or the like, are preferably assigned to each row, wherein each row graphic preferably has an associated win enhancement value. As with column bingos, a player who wins a traditional bingo by matching all five numbers in a given bingo card row is also eligible for the win enhancement value associated with that row. In a preferred embodiment, to win the win enhancement value, the row must contain at least three “diamond symbol” numbers, although one skilled in the art will appreciate that the requisite number of “diamond symbol” numbers may be varied without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. Furthermore, in an alternative embodiment of the present invention, not all rows may be assigned a graphic symbol, thereby altering the odds that a player will win the win enhancement value.

[0026] Although the preferred embodiment of the present invention described herein associates specific indicators with specific aspects of the game, such as the colors associated with columns, graphics associated with rows, and diamond symbols associated with numbers within number subsets, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that alternative indicators, including, but not limited to, graphics based on the time of year (e.g. Christmas trees, wreathes, snow men, hearts, bows and arrows, cherubs, or the like), graphics based on the location (e.g. palm trees, sea shells, sun glasses, suntan lotion bottles, skis, ski boots, ski poles, or the like), graphics consistent with a given theme (e.g. gem stones, gold coins and treasure chests, Asian language characters, Greek language characters, player photographs, celebrity photographs, or the like), crosshatching or other shading, and audio or video clips, may be substituted therefor without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention.

[0027] While the description above focuses primarily on column and row bingos, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention is readily adaptable to any winning bingo pattern. By way of example, without limiting the present invention, a plurality of winning bingo patterns may be defined. An overlay can then be created by assigning a win enhancement value to each of the plurality of bingo patterns, preferably along with a minimum number of “diamond symbol” numbers necessary to activate payment of the win enhancement value. Still further, players may elect to participate in, and may win, the overlay game of the present invention separately from the underlying bingo game. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, a first set of patterns necessary to win the underlying bingo game may be defined, and a second set of patterns associated with the overlay game may be defined. The patterns in the pattern sets may be mutually exclusive, or there may be patterns in common within the pattern sets. In such an embodiment, players may win the overlay game without causing the underlying bingo game to be halted.

[0028] As described above, one object of the present invention is to enhance the suspense associated with playing bingo, and a preferred embodiment of the present invention achieves such heightened suspense by waiting until a game begins to determine and/or disclose to players the “diamond symbol” numbers and the indicators to rows, columns, and/or other winning patterns.

[0029] It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory and are intended to provide further explanation of the invention as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0030] The accompanying drawings, which are included to provide a further understanding of the invention and are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and together with the description serve to explain the principles of the invention.

[0031] In the drawings:

[0032]FIG. 1 is an illustration of a traditional bingo card as implemented in the prior art.

[0033]FIG. 2 is a flow chart illustrating a preferred game play sequence.

[0034]FIG. 3 illustrates a sample electronic bingo card which can be used in connection with a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0035]FIG. 4 is a diagram of a hopper used to display numbers which have been randomly drawn in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0036]FIG. 5 is a block diagram of an apparatus used in a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0037]FIG. 6 is a block diagram of components comprising a preferred apparatus according to the present invention.

[0038]FIG. 7 is a sample game information screen, as implemented in a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0039]FIG. 8 is a block diagram of an embodiment of the present invention utilizing a computer network.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0040] Reference will now be made in detail to the preferred embodiments of the present invention, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. The present invention in its preferred embodiment is essentially an overlay, or secondary game that can be played in addition to, or as an enhancement to, a traditional bingo game.

[0041]FIG. 2 is a flow chart illustrating a game play sequence according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The game play sequence is preferably implemented using one or more electronic playing cards similar to that illustrated in FIG. 3, although it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that traditional playing cards can be substituted therefor, or used in combination therewith, without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. Furthermore, although the electronic playing card of FIG. 3 uses a traditional five-by-five matrix of numbered spaces, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that the number of rows and/or columns implemented on a playing card can be varied without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. Still further, although a preferred embodiment of the present invention utilizes a standard seventy-five ball hopper, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that the total number of balls, and the number of balls within each subset of numbers, can be varied without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. In such alternative embodiments, the payout associated with a win may be adjusted based on the corresponding changes in the odds of such a win.

[0042] As FIG. 2 illustrates, game play preferably begins with the distribution of one or more bingo cards to persons interested in participating in the game (Block 205). Such bingo cards are preferably distributed in a secure manner or otherwise associated with a given bingo game or set of bingo games, such that the ball caller or other official is aware of those cards intended for use with a given bingo game. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention in which electronic bingo cards are implemented, a random number generator may be used to generate the numbers appearing on the electronic bingo cards as the cards are distributed, at the beginning of a game, or the like.

[0043] At a given time, the ball caller preferably allows a computer apparatus to draw the first ball (Block 210). Although the embodiment described herein utilizes a computerized ball drawing apparatus which preferably emulates a traditional bingo ball hopper, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that alternative ball drawing means may be substituted therefor without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. In a preferred embodiment, the first ball is drawn, but the number appearing on the first ball is not called to the players until column, row, or any other indicators appropriate to the current game have been determined. In an alternative embodiment, players may be notified of the number on the ball prior to such determinations.

[0044] As illustrated by block 215 of FIG. 2, game play preferably proceeds with the association of colors with bingo card columns. Column colors are preferably selected from a set of four colors, although it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the number of colors in the set can be varied without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. Each color preferably has a pre-defined win enhancement value associated with it. Column color selection preferably begins by selecting a color for the “N”, or middle, column. The “N” column is typically chosen first because, as illustrated in FIG. 1, the “N” column typically contains a “free” space, which impacts the odds of winning in the “N” column. Thus, a preferred embodiment of the present invention avoids associating a high win enhancement value with the “N” column, and the set of colors from which the “N” column color is chosen is therefore limited compared to the total set of available colors.

[0045] According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, once the “N” column color has been assigned, other column colors may be assigned. In a preferred embodiment, the color associated with the “N” column is removed from the set of available column colors prior to assigning column colors to the other columns. A preferred embodiment of the present invention assures that three of the five columns are assigned the same column color, with that color preferably associated with a minimum win enhancement value. The remaining columns are then preferably assigned colors at random from the remaining set of colors. A preferred embodiment of the present invention only allows the color associated with the minimum win enhancement value to be assigned to multiple columns; the remaining colors are assigned to no more than one column. Although the column color selection method outlined above is presently preferred, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the number of columns to which colors are assigned, the number of colors, the number of win enhancement values, and other such parameters can be varied without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention.

[0046] In an alternative embodiment, the set of colors and associated win enhancement values for the “N” column may be separate from the set of colors that can be associated with the other columns. In such an embodiment, it may be possible to assign a color to a column as the first ball corresponding to the column is called, thereby further enhancing the suspense created by the present invention.

[0047] As illustrated by Block 220 of FIG. 2, game play preferably also includes assigning at least one graphic to at least one row. Row graphics are preferably selected from a set of four graphics, although it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the number of graphics in the set can be varied without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. Each graphic preferably has a pre-defined win enhancement value associated with it. Row graphic selection preferably begins by selecting a graphic for middle row. The middle row is typically chosen first because, as illustrated in FIG. 1, the middle row typically contains a “free” space, which impacts the odds of winning in the middle row. Thus, it may be advantageous to avoid associating a high win enhancement value with the middle row, and the set of graphics from which the middle row graphic is chosen is therefore preferably limited. Once the middle row graphic has been assigned, other row graphics may be assigned.

[0048] In a preferred embodiment, three of the remaining four rows are assigned a specific graphic, with which a minimum win enhancement value is associated. The remaining row is preferably assigned an alternative graphic. A preferred embodiment of the present invention only allows the graphic associated with the minimum win enhancement value to be assigned to multiple rows; the remaining graphics are assigned to no more than one row. Although the row graphic selection method outlined above is presently preferred, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the number of rows to which graphics are assigned, the number of graphics, the number of win enhancement values, and other such parameters can be varied without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. In an alternative embodiment, the set of graphics for the middle row may be separate from the set of graphics that can be associated with the other rows.

[0049] Although it is preferable to assign a color to the middle column before assigning other column colors, and to assign a graphic to the middle row before assigning other row colors, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention can be implemented without such a restriction. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, the use of a bingo card without a free space may obviate the need for such special color assignment techniques without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention.

[0050] As illustrated by block 225 of FIG. 2, game play also preferably includes assigning a symbol, referred to herein as a “diamond symbol”, to one number in each of the subsets of numbers. The term “diamond symbol” is used herein for clarity and should not be interpreted as limiting the present invention to gem-based graphics or specific indicator types; it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that any indicator can be used without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. In a preferred embodiment, a number from each subset of numbers (i.e. 1-15, 16-30, 31-45, 46-60, and 61-75) is selected at random, and a diamond symbol is associated with each number. As will be described below, diamond symbols are preferably used as win value enhancement activators. While a preferred embodiment of the present invention uses a single diamond symbol and assigns the symbol to a single number in each subset, an alternative embodiment utilizes multiple diamond symbols, with the different diamond symbols further augmenting the win enhancement value. In another alternative embodiment, multiple numbers within each number subset may be assigned diamond symbols.

[0051] Although FIG. 2 illustrates blocks 215, 220, and 225 as occurring sequentially, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the order can be varied, and that the steps may occur effectively simultaneously, without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention.

[0052] According to the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, once column colors, row graphics, and diamond symbols are assigned and preferably overlaid on the player's bingo card, game play proceeds in a manner similar to that of traditional bingo (Block 230). As described above, column colors, row graphics, and diamond symbols are preferably used as win value enhancements. In such a preferred embodiment, if a player wins a bingo game by getting a column bingo (i.e. all of the numbers in a specific column of the player's bingo card have been called), and if the column bingo includes at least one number with which a diamond symbol has been associated, then the player's win is enhanced by the value associated with the color assigned to the column in which the bingo occurred (Block 235). If the winning column bingo does not include at least one diamond symbol, then the player may win the standard column bingo pot, if such a pot is available. In this way, the diamond symbols act as win enhancement activators.

[0053] Row bingos are preferably handled similar to column bingos. In a preferred embodiment, if a player wins a bingo game by getting a row bingo (i.e. all of the numbers in a specific row of the player's bingo card have been called), and if the row bingo includes at least three numbers with which a diamond symbol has been associated, then the player's win is enhanced by the value associated with the graphic assigned to the row in which the bingo occurred (Block 240). If the winning row bingo does not include at least three diamond symbols, then the player may win the standard row bingo pot, if such a pot is available.

[0054] In one embodiment of the present invention, a player's win may also be enhanced if the bingo contains one or more diamond symbol numbers,. Alternatively, the win enhancement value may be adjusted based on the number of diamond symbol numbers in the bingo (Block 245).

[0055] It is statistically possible for a player to win multiple bingos from the same set of ball calls. A preferred embodiment of the present invention pays the winner based only on the highest payout available.

[0056] Although the description provided above defines win enhancement values for only column and row bingos, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention can be readily adapted to work with any pre-defined bingo patterns. By way of example, without limiting the present invention, a bingo made from what is commonly referred to as a “six pack” configuration, wherein the bingo contains at least three diamond symbols, may win the highest win enhancement value associated with the columns or rows in which the “six pack” occurs.

[0057] Still further, although it is presently preferred that there be a correlation between winning bingo patterns and patterns necessary to win the overlay game of the present invention, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the overlay game can be played separately from the underlying bingo game. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, players may pay an additional fee to participate in the overlay game, and the odds of winning the overlay game may be greater or less than the odds of winning the underlying bingo game, thereby increasing player interest in both the bingo game and the overlay game and enhancing the excitement associated with both games.

[0058] Although diamond symbols are described above as activating a win enhancement value when a specific number of diamond symbols are included in a bingo, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that the number of diamond symbols required to activate a win enhancement value may be varied without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. By way of example, without limiting the present invention, a minimum number of diamond symbols may be required to activate the win enhancement value, with additional diamond symbols further enhancing the win value.

[0059] A preferred embodiment of the present invention can utilize progressive values as a basis for the win enhancement value associated with row and column bingos, or other bingo configurations, that include a minimum number of diamond symbols. In a preferred embodiment, win enhancement values associated with column bingos containing at least one diamond symbol are progressive values which are hall-specific, and win enhancement values associated with row bingos containing at least three diamond symbols are progressive values which span a plurality of halls.

[0060] There are numerous ways for a player to win the enhanced game of bingo according to preferred embodiments of the present invention. By way of example, without limiting the present invention, a prize may be awarded for a bingo win in a single column, or there may be a larger prize for multiple column bingo wins.

[0061] In an alternative embodiment, colors, graphics, or other win value enhancement indicators may be associated with specific spaces on the bingo card, with any bingos containing such indicators being awarded the win value enhancement associated therewith.

[0062]FIG. 4 illustrates a sample called-ball hopper 400 as used in an embodiment of the present invention. Called-ball hopper 400 can be a conventional bingo ball hopper, a virtual hopper that generates and displays called balls, or the like. Called-ball hopper 400 preferably displays the numbers with which diamond symbols have been associated, as indicated by numbers 410, to simplify player game play.

[0063] An alternative column color assignment method can be described using the ball hopper illustrated in FIG. 4. If the first numbered ball drawn is the “1” ball, the ball is placed in the “B” column of the hopper, and a color is randomly selected for the “B” column. In the example illustrated in FIG. 4, the color pink is randomly selected from a set of colors and associated with the subset of numbers associated with the letter “B,” and thus with the entire “B” column. The background behind the “B” at the top of the hopper, as indicated by region 405, is preferably colored pink to indicate the column color. The background color behind the other letters is also preferably changed to reflect the column color as each color is assigned.

[0064] Continuing with the example illustrated in FIG. 4, if the next ball drawn is 65, this number would fall into the “O” column. Since no color has yet been associated with the “O” column, the color green may be randomly selected from the remaining group of colors and assigned to the entire “O” column. The example illustrated in FIG. 4 continues with the drawing of the 2 ball. Since the 2 ball is associated with the “B” column, and since the “B” column is already associated with the color pink, no additional color selection is necessary, and play continues. In the example illustrated in FIG. 4, the 16 ball is the next ball drawn, which falls into the “I” column. The color blue may be randomly selected from the group of remaining colors and associated with the “I” column. If the 35 ball is the next ball drawn, this ball falls into the “N” column. Since no color has been associated with the “N” column, the color orange may be selected from the remaining colors and associated with the “N” column. The next ball drawn is 620, thus falling into the “G” column. Since no color has been associated with the “G” column in this game, the color red can be randomly selected from the remaining colors and associated with the “G” column. At this point in the game, all five columns have been associated with a color, and play can preferably continue as in a conventional bingo game, with no further color selection.

[0065] A basic form of the enhanced game of bingo according to an embodiment of the present invention can be played as a conventional, paper-based system, using physical indicators which are overlaid on a paper bingo card while a live caller draws numbered balls from a rotating cage. Column colors, row symbols, and diamond symbol numbers may also be displayed in one or more centralized displays, such as, but not limited to, displays similar to traditional Bingo boards, and video monitors. In still another embodiment, column colors, row symbols, and/or diamond symbol numbers may be selected in advance of the initiation of a game, thereby permitting custom Bingo cards to be printed with the appropriate identifiers contained thereon.

[0066] As illustrated in FIG. 5, bingo cards can also be displayed on a video monitor display, handheld electronic display device, or other suitable apparatus. Examples of suitable handheld display devices include, but are not limited to, the TED™, TED2C™, Diamond Elite™, Diamond Pro™, and D. Handheld™ apparatuses manufactured by GameTech International, Inc. of Reno, Nev.; the apparatus described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/244,039 by Keeton et al.; the iPaq™ family of handheld computers manufactured by Hewlett Packard Company of Palo Alto, Calif.; the Palm family of handheld computers manufactured by Palm, Inc. of Milpitas, Calif.; and the like.

[0067] In the preferred embodiment illustrated in FIG. 5, bingo cards are preferably implemented as part of an electronic system that allows players to play large numbers of cards simultaneously using an electronic card tending device, such as currently used in bingo parlors that have gaming licenses. In such a preferred electronic embodiment, players can use card tending devices 500-1 through 500-n, where n represents the number of card tending devices available to players. As row, column, diamond symbol, or other indicators are selected, card tending device 500 can display such indicators to players. In the preferred embodiment of FIG. 5, row and column indicators are displayed as part of electronic bingo cards 300 of FIG. 3. Each electronic bingo card also preferably has a unique identification number that allows a bingo win to be verified by caller 510. Card tending devices 500 are preferably in communication with caller 510 to facilitate such verification. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, card tending devices 500 may utilize the radio frequency (RF) transmitter layout described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/244,098, by Keeton et al., the teachings of which are incorporated herein in their entirety, to facilitate communication with caller 510.

[0068] In one embodiment, caller 510 may be an electronic system that generates random numbers that are used in place of the marked balls typically used in conventional bingo games. Random number generation as used in this embodiment is generally known to those skilled in the art and refers to a computer generating a value from a seed in a manner that is preferably unpredictable either by a player or persons operating bingo hall 520. Caller 510 also randomly selects indicators from a finite set of indicators and selected indicators to card tending devices 500.

[0069] In an alternative embodiment, number generation can be handled differently, such as by using a ball blower and hopper configuration, as used in conventional bingo games, with a person drawing the numbered balls and entering the values into caller 510. Communication unit 530 can also be in communication with caller 510, and can be used to link bingo hall 520 with other bingo halls to share games and prize amounts with additional players. Communication unit 530 links bingo hall 520 with other bingo halls by connecting to remote communication units over a telephone line or other suitable communication medium.

[0070] Display 540 is also preferably in communication with caller 510, and can display various information to players on a large display screen such as a video monitor. In progressive games using the enhanced bingo game of the present invention, the prize amounts are updated based on win and payout data calculated by caller 510. Prize amounts can be calculated and displayed on display 540 either by using real time calculations based on current revenues for bingo hall 520 for the day or by using a special technique wherein revenues from a previous period, such as sales of bingo cards for the entire day prior to the current bingo session, are used as the basis for calculating the prize amount. Still further, the prize amount may be gradually incremented over a period of time less than that of the time period over which the revenues were collected, thereby adding a sense of excitement to the prize. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, if revenues for the day prior to the current two hour Bingo session totaled $100,000, the displayed prize may gradually increase to the $100,000 level over the course of the Bingo session, rather than over an entire day. The accelerated pace at which prize amounts increase in such an embodiment can introduce a heightened sense of excitement among players. In an alternative embodiment, the revenue figures from the corresponding Bingo session from the prior day may be used as the basis for the current day's prize, without any acceleration.

[0071] An example of a screen which may be displayed by display 540 are illustrated in FIG. 7. The prizes shown in FIG. 7 correspond to an enhanced bingo game being played using bingo cards such as those illustrated in FIG. 3. Grand prize 700, having a larger jackpot amount, is typically the most difficult to win. Prizes 705 through 730 can have various amounts, although prizes 705 through 715 are preferably higher because of the combination of indicators. By contrast, prize 730 is relatively low because of the color associated with the column.

[0072]FIG. 6 illustrates various components included in a computer system 600 that may be used to implement caller 510 and communication unit 530. Computer system 600 preferably includes at least a processor 605 and memory 610. Processor 605 may contain one or more microprocessors or similar devices. Among its many functions, memory 610 can store instructions and data for execution by processor 605. If the embodiment of the present invention is wholly or partially implemented in software, including a computer program, memory 610 may also store executable code when in operation. Memory 610 may include banks of dynamic random access memory (DRAM), high speed cache memory, and read only memory (ROM). System 600 preferably also includes a mass storage device 615, peripheral device(s) 620, portable storage medium drive(s) 625, input device(s) 630, a graphics subsystem 635 and a display 640.

[0073] For simplicity, the components illustrated in FIG. 6 are depicted as being connected via a single bus 655. However, as will be apparent to one skilled in the art, the components may be connected through one or more data transport means without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. By way of example, without intending to limit the present invention, processor 605 and memory 610 may be connected via a local microprocessor bus, while mass storage device 615, peripheral device(s) 620, portable storage medium drive(s) 625, and graphics subsystem 635 may be connected via one or more input/output (I/O) buses. Mass storage device 615, which is typically implemented with a magnetic disk drive or an optical disk drive, is preferably a non-volatile storage device for storing data and instructions for use by processor 605.

[0074] In another embodiment, mass storage device 615 can also store a computer program implementing a means for automating an enhanced bingo game such that the computer program can be readily loaded into memory 610. Portable storage medium drive 625 preferably operates in conjunction with a portable non-volatile storage medium, such as a floppy disk or other computer readable medium, to input and output data and code to and from computer system 600. In one embodiment, the present invention may be stored on such portable medium, and can be input to computer system 600 via portable storage medium drive 625. Peripheral device(s) 620 may include any type of computer support device, such as, but not limited to, an input/output (I/O) interface, to add additional functionality to the computer system 600. For example, peripheral device(s) 620 may include a network interface card for interfacing computer system 600 to a network, a modem, and the like. Input device(s) 630 provide a portion of a user interface. Input device(s) 630 may include an alphanumeric keypad for inputting alphanumeric and other key information, or a pointing device, such as a mouse, a trackball, stylus or cursor direction keys.

[0075] To display textual and graphical information, computer system 600 preferably includes graphics subsystem 635 and display 640. Display 640 may include a cathode ray tube (CRT) display, liquid crystal display (LCD), other suitable display devices. Graphics subsystem 635 can receive textual and graphical information and processes the information for output to display 640. Additionally, computer system 600 can include output devices 655. Examples of suitable output devices include, but are not limited to, speakers, printers, and the like. Communications device 650 may control the flow of data between computer system 600 and a communication network via communication line 660.

[0076] The components illustrated in computer system 600 are those typically found in general purpose computer systems, and are intended to represent a broad category of such computer components that are well known in the art. The computer system of FIG. 7 illustrates an architecture that may be used as a practical basis for implementing embodiments of the present invention. As should be apparent to one skilled in the art, other architectures, such as, but not limited to, those using Macintosh-based computers available from Apple Computer, Inc.; architectures using different bus configurations, networked platforms, multiprocessor platforms, other personal computers, workstations, mainframes, navigation systems, and the like; and computer systems utilizing any of a variety of operating systems, including, but not limited to, UNIX, Linux®, Microsoft Windows XP®, and Macintosh OS 10®, may be substituted therefor without departing from the spirit or the scope of the invention. Alternative embodiments of computer system 600 can further include utilizing alternative display means in lieu of a monitor, including, without limitation, a CRT display, an LCD display, a projection display, or the like.

[0077] While the present invention has been described above in terms of an electronic embodiment wherein players use card tending devices to connect to a local caller, and bingo halls may be linked via telephone or other telecommunications lines, the present invention can also be implemented in a client-server computer architecture, as illustrated in FIG. 8. In such an architecture, players connect to a gaming enterprise that operates a caller 510 on server 800 and communicates with players over communication network 805. Communications network 805 can include, but is not limited to, wireless and wireless communications means, such as those used to connect to the global computer network known as the Internet. In such an embodiment, players can maintain electronic bingo cards and communicate with caller 510 through clients 810-1 through 810-n. In such an embodiment, a computer system similar to computer system 600 may be used to implement server 800 and/or clients 810.

[0078] While the invention has been described in detail and with reference to specific embodiments thereof, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope thereof. Thus, it is intended that the present invention cover the modifications and variations of this invention provided they come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7749066 *Feb 2, 2005Jul 6, 2010Gametech International, Inc.Enhanced process for gaming using multiple random progressive prize opportunities and bingo-type of gaming products thereby
US7831514Aug 29, 2003Nov 9, 2010Hitachi, Ltd.Method for managing license of software program in storage system
US7959188 *Aug 20, 2007Jun 14, 2011Scientific Games International, Inc.Lottery ticket having matched indicia grid with row and column win indicators
US8025561Sep 12, 2005Sep 27, 2011IgtGaming system and method for providing bingo wins
US8145656Feb 4, 2007Mar 27, 2012Mobixell Networks Ltd.Matching of modified visual and audio media
US8298061Dec 28, 2009Oct 30, 2012Delise Anthony JApparatus and methodology for gaming
US8444471Aug 22, 2011May 21, 2013IgtGaming system and method for providing bingo wins
US8808081Sep 1, 2011Aug 19, 2014Video Gaming Technologies, Inc.Multiplayer bingo with twin win intermediate award
EP1861184A2 *Jan 6, 2006Dec 5, 2007Scientific Games International, Inc.Lottery game utilizing nostalgic game themes
WO2008089554A1 *Jan 22, 2008Jul 31, 2008Andrew BranscombeBingo overlay games system and method
WO2013184774A1 *Jun 5, 2013Dec 12, 2013Delta Two Holdings, LlcSystem and method for allowing offline interaction
WO2014040029A1 *Sep 10, 2013Mar 13, 2014Gaming Arts LLCSystems and methods for playing a game of chance with a plurality of prizes
Classifications
U.S. Classification273/269
International ClassificationG06F, G07F17/32, A63F3/06
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, A63F3/062, G07F17/329, A63F3/06
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32P4, A63F3/06B
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 4, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: GAMETECH INTERNATIONAL, INC., NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:LOWELL, MARK P.;LEAKE, DEBORAH L.;HARTMAN, MICHAEL W.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015287/0457;SIGNING DATES FROM 20040322 TO 20040423