US 20050255921 A1
A gaming machine that provides free long distance telephone calls, or audio entertainment, as a reward for the continued playing of the gaming machine. The player may continue the free long distance phone call, or continue receiving the audio entertainment, as long his play meets a predetermined level of usage criteria.
33. A system comprising:
means for receiving currency;
means responsive to the receipt of currency for enabling a game play; and
means, responsive to the initiation of game play, for enabling a connection to a service for a period of time.
34. The system of
35. The system of
36. The system of
37. The system of
38. The system of
means for storing credits when the game play results in a win; and
means for using the credits to maintain the connection.
39. The system of
40. The system of
41. The system of
means for storing and accumulating connection time when a player does not immediately use the enabled connection for any game play; and
means for using the stored and accumulated connection time to maintain a connection enabled and used during a subsequent game play.
42. The system of
43. The system of
44. A system comprising:
a gaming device including a currency acceptor for receiving currency; and
a central processor responsive to the receipt of currency by the currency acceptor, the central processor being operable to:
initiate, in response to the receipt of currency, a game play via the gaming device, and
enable, in response to the initiation of the game play, a connection to a service for a period of time via a connection device connected to the central processor.
45. The system of
46. The system of
47. The system of
a memory for storing credits when the game play results in a win, wherein the central processor is operative to use the stored credits to maintain the connection to the service.
48. The system of
49. The system of
50. The system of
a memory for storing and accumulating connection time for the service when a player does not immediately use the enabled connection, and wherein the central processor is operable to use the stored and accumulated connection time to establish and maintain a connection to the service during a subsequent game play.
51. The system of
52. A method comprising:
providing a gaming device at which a player may initiate a game play by providing a wager; and
granting to the player access to a service for a period of time in response to the initiation of the game play at the gaming device.
53. The method of
54. The method of
The present invention relates to Applicant docket number WD2-97-017 titled: An Electronic Gaming System Offering Premium Entertainment Services for Enhanced Player Retention, filed Mar. 12, 1997.
The invention relates to the field of gaming machines. In particular, this invention relates to a slot machine that provides telephone service, such as free long distance calls, in response to the playing of the slot machine.
Casinos profit from their patrons frequently playing their gaming machines, such as slot machines, video poker or video blackjack. Each gambling machine is designed to ensure that, on average, the casino retains a predetermined percentage of the total amount gambled (the hold percentage or “vig”). In fact, gaming machines generally have a very high hold percentage, often surpassing the table games of blackjack, roulette or craps. Thus, the more these gambling machines are played, the greater is the revenue to the casino. Accordingly, it is highly desirable to provide ways to maintain player interest and keep players of gambling machines playing longer. Moreover, casinos are always looking for new, fun ways to attract players to the slot machines, as well as to draw existing players away from competing casinos.
To try to satisfy this need, casinos have instituted slot machine marketing programs, which reward slot players with bonus points in proportion to the amount of their play. Each slot player is entitled to a slot card and an account upon signing up at the casino. The player then selects a slot machine and inserts the slot card into the machine before playing. Each time the player plays the slot machine, using currency such as bills, coins, casino tokens or casino play credits, a central computer adds bonus points to the player's account. After the player finishes playing the accumulated bonus points may be redeemed for food and drinks, prizes and services. This concept is analogous to an airline “frequent flyer” program—the more you fly, the more bonus miles you receive.
Slot card programs, like frequent flyer programs, suffer from one major drawback, in that they merely promise future rewards. Future rewards only weakly motivate a slot player to play longer, because while the player is playing, future rewards are unseen, untouchable and generally perceived by the player as unobtainable. Accordingly, casinos need an affordable, entertaining reward that can be distributed and used immediately while the player is playing at the slot machine, thus providing the player a stronger incentive to play longer.
In addition, some casinos have provided their slot players the capability of making phone calls while they play slot machines. At one casino, cellular phone servers, much like the well-known cigarette girls of nightclubs, walk from slot machine to slot machine selling cellular phone service to the players. For this service, players are charged by the minute. In addition, at Trump Castle Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, so called “premium slot areas” have phone jacks, to which a standard-telephone can be installed near each slot machine upon a player's request. Some casinos have phones installed in the slot machines. The cell phone service, phone jacks, and installed phones, however, are merely conveniences offered to the slot players so that they can make phone calls without having to leave their “lucky” or “hot” slot machines, and they do not provide any reward to the slot players for playing the machines.
Additionally, Mirage Resorts Treasure Island casino offers a video concierge service to assist slot players. This service networks a slot machine's video display to a video call center, thus providing a video conference link between the slot player and a hotel concierge. The slot player can use this system to order show tickets and make dinner or hotel reservations without having to leave the slot machine. Like the cell phone service or phone jacks, the video concierge system serves the slot players while they are playing and thus helps keep the players at the slot machines. The video concierge system, however, does not provide any free phone or other service as a reward to motivate the players to play the machines longer. The phones are “hard wired” to the video call center and cannot dial other numbers, much like a courtesy phone in a hotel where you can only dial the front desk.
To overcome the above-described problems, a slot machine is adapted to provide a service. The slot machine includes means for receiving currency, means responsive to the receipt of currency for enabling a game play, and means responsive to the receipt of currency for enabling a connection to the service for a predetermined period of time.
For example, a slot machine is adapted to reward its players free telephone service for the continued playing of the machine. Alternatively, the reward may be free audio service. The slot players are able to make free long distance phone calls from the slot machine as long as their play equals or exceeds a predetermined level of play.
The player first deposits currency or tokens into the slot machine and then pulls the handle, causing the reels to spin. Meanwhile, the player is given access to a free telephone connection for a predetermined period of time. The player may then place a telephone call using the telephone connection. The player may continue the call by repeatedly playing the slot machine, or may instead permit the slot machine to deduct previously earned credits of free phone time from his account.
Thus, as long as the slot player initiates a minimum number of plays over a predetermined time interval, the slot player will be allowed to call long distance for free. The player is therefore rewarded immediately for his gaming, which serves as a strong incentive to continue playing. The reward is also an affordable, fun way for the casinos to attract new patrons.
These and other features and advantages of the present invention can best be understood by reference to the detailed description of the preferred embodiments set forth below taken with the drawings, in which:
In a first embodiment of the present invention, a gaming machine, such as a slot machine, video poker or video blackjack machine, is provided that enables the player to make phone calls therefrom, whereby the player is rewarded free phone connection time to various localities based on the amount of currency played and money wagered. The currency may be coins, casino tokens or casino credits.
As shown in
The flowchart shown in
In step S401, the player deposits one or more coins, casino tokens or other currency into the coin acceptor 122 of the slot machine. In step S402, the coin acceptor 122 signals the, CPU 100 that coins have been deposited (data flow 207) and informs the CPU 100 of the number of deposited coins or tokens (data flow 211). Upon determining that play has been initiated, the CPU 100 retrieves, as needed, the connection program commands 201 stored in ROM 102 (data flow 201). The player then initiates the game play by pulling the handle or hitting the spin button, the operation and control of which is well known in the art.
Once the connection program commands have been retrieved from the ROM 102, in step S403, the CPU 100 executes the commands to enable the phone connection, as explained in more detail below. The connection program commands establish the criteria which govern whether or not the phone connection is maintained with criteria such as coins/pull, time counter value, and disconnect warning time value. The connection program commands may be made casino specific, and can thus be tailored to meet each casino's particular gaming requirements. Once the starting controller 104 has provided the play initiation signal (data flow 208) to the CPU 100, the regulator 107 opens the communication channel. This establishes a dial tone in the phone receiver or headset 109. In step S404, the player picks up the phone receiver or headset 109 to place a phone call. This causes the communication device to send an “off-hook” or similar signal to the connection device 106, and the connection device 106 provides the communication device 109 with the dial tone (data flows 209 and 210). The player then enters the phone number using a receiver keypad, a stand-alone keypad or preferably a touch video screen on the slot machine display (not shown). The phone number is then sent to the connection device (data flow 210), which in turn sends it to the CPU 100′ (data flow 206). In step S405, the CPU 100 places the call via the casino's local or long distance provider, and the player begins speaking to the connected party while continuing to play the slot machine in step S407.
Once the call has begun, the player must maintain minimum rate of play or else the call will be terminated. For example, the player might have to put in three coins every twenty seconds to maintain the connection. For each coin or set of coins inserted a “time counter value” is established which represents the allowed connection time. This “time counter” functionality is similar to that used by pay phones where, for each quarter deposited, the caller gets a pre-established number of seconds of call time. In the present invention, a twenty second “time counter” begins to diminish as soon as the coins are deposited. The time counter value is stored in a register in RAM 101. Accordingly, in step S406, the CPU 100 monitors the play of the slot machine and regulates the phone connection based on the criteria of the executed connection program, as will be explained in further detail below. If the criteria of the connection program are met, the connection continues. Otherwise, the connection is terminated (of course, the player may always terminate the call voluntarily before he has used up his free time). The process for monitoring play and regulating the connection is described in more detail below.
For the second option, the CPU commands the regulator 107 to keep the connection open in step S612. In step S613, the CPU 100 stops the connection program, and in step S614, the CPU 100 charges further time beyond the expiration of the previously assigned time counter value to the player's calling card or credit card account, as is well known in the art.
Alternatively, the accumulated and stored phone connection time in RAM 101 may not be added to the phone connection time in step S510. In this case, when the second disconnect warning is given, the player may be offered by the VRU 108 another option of using all or some of the stored phone connection time to continue the phone call.
A casino using the present invention could be billed by the local or long distance service provider for all of the calls made from slot machines on a machine-by-machine basis, as each machine would have its own line. Alternatively, the phone company could bill the casino for all the lines in aggregate. Of course, the slot machines could be also connected to a standard private branch exchange within the casino, which in turn is connected to the service provider's phone lines.
In addition, the CPU 100 may determine, via the player's slot card, for example, that the player has “high roller” status. In this case, the casino may provide a high roller player with unlimited, free phone connection time for as long as the player keeps his card in the slot card reader, or until a predetermined time after the player has stopped playing the machine. This may be accomplished by simply commanding the regulator 107 to keep the connection open until the player finishes playing the slot machine.
A first example of playing a slot machine of the present invention and making a phone call therefrom follows. Assume a slot player begins play on a five dollar slot machine. The player inserts three dollar coins or tokens and pulls the handle of the slot machine. While the reels spin, the player picks up the phone and hears a dial tone, as described above, and dials a long distance call to New York City. Upon initiating tie call, the CPU 100 begins to count down 72 seconds of phone connection time, that is, 3 coins times 24 seconds per coin. If the player does not insert another coin, or does not use any previously earned play credits within that 72 second time interval then the call will be terminated, after a warning has been provided when 10 seconds of phone time are left. Otherwise, the call will continue for the additional phone time connection rewarded to the player.
A second example describes an alternative embodiment of the present invention. Assume the player has been playing a, dollar slot machine for over an hour, depositing one coin per handle pull at a rate of 400 handle pulls per hour, and not made any phone calls. The slot machine stores a “free phone time balance” or the total number of accumulated seconds over that hour in RAM 101. The player then inserts three dollar tokens and pulls the handle. He then picks up the phone receiver and initiates a long distance phone call. The player now has 1,450 seconds of phone connection (3 coins deposited time 3.6 seconds per coin plus 1,440 seconds previously earned). In this example, the player does not insert any more coins or otherwise continue playing. With ten seconds remaining, the CPU 100 directs the VRU 108 to warn the player that unless he continues playing, the call will be terminated. The player ignores the warning, and when the time expires, the phone call is terminated. It should be noted that the casino may choose to only offer a portion of the accumulated seconds as the total may be so high that it results in inactive play time for the machine.
In another embodiment of the present invention, instead of free long distance phone service, players may be provided with rewards of free phone connection time to sports lines, adult entertainment lines, psychic entertainment lines and chat lines. Further, the casino may instead provide free audio entertainment, via headphones for example, to the players. Such audio services may include comedy, music, news and the like. In this embodiment, the casino may need to replace the phone connection device 106 with an audio connection device, and the communication device 109 with audio listening equipment. These services ate alternatives to placing a long distance call and would be enabled in the manner as a long distance call.
There has thus been provided a new and improved slot machine for rewarding free long distance telephone service to its players, thus providing a strong incentive to play frequently and continuously and in a fun and affordable way.
Of course, it will be appreciated that the invention may take forms other than those specifically described, and the Scope of the invention is to be determined solely by the following claims.