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Publication numberUS20050261047 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/125,760
Publication dateNov 24, 2005
Filing dateMay 10, 2005
Priority dateMay 11, 2004
Publication number11125760, 125760, US 2005/0261047 A1, US 2005/261047 A1, US 20050261047 A1, US 20050261047A1, US 2005261047 A1, US 2005261047A1, US-A1-20050261047, US-A1-2005261047, US2005/0261047A1, US2005/261047A1, US20050261047 A1, US20050261047A1, US2005261047 A1, US2005261047A1
InventorsDaniel Fiden, Lisa Helfer, Thomas Kopera
Original AssigneeDaniel Fiden, Lisa Helfer, Thomas Kopera
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Gaming terminal with bonus payout indicated by ball-control feature
US 20050261047 A1
Abstract
A gaming machine controlled by a processor in response to a wager, comprising a basic game and a bonus game is disclosed. The basic game includes a plurality of basic game outcomes, which include at least one start-bonus outcome. The bonus game feature is triggered by the start-bonus outcome indicated on a basic game visual display. The bonus game includes a chamber for displaying a plurality of physical balls which have a first and second indicia and a plurality of bonus prize tubes. Each prize tube is configured to display a randomly generated first or a second bonus prize award. The bonus game further includes a ball control feature activated by the start-bonus outcome which displays a prize ball in one of the prize tubes corresponding to a randomly generated bonus outcome. The prize ball will be displayed in the prize tube with the first indicia if the first bonus prize award is generated or with the second if the second bonus prize award generated.
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Claims(20)
1. A gaming terminal for playing a basic wagering game and a bonus game comprising:
a display for displaying a randomly selected outcome for said basic wagering game, said randomly selected outcome being selected from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving a wager input from a player, said plurality of outcomes including a start-bonus outcome;
a chamber for jumbling a plurality of physical balls in response to said randomly selected outcome being said start-bonus outcome;
a plurality of prize tubes adjacent to said chamber for indicating a randomly selected bonus game award, each of said plurality of prize tubes capable of displaying a first prize award and a second prize award, said first prize award indicated by a prize ball having a first indicia displayed within said prize tube, and said second prize award indicated by a prize ball having a second indicia displayed within said prize tube; and
a ball-control device operable in conjunction with said plurality of prize tubes for displaying a prize ball within one of said plurality of prize tubes that corresponds to said randomly selected award.
2. The gaming terminal of claim 1, wherein the first and second indicia are a first and second color.
3. The gaming terminal of claim 2, further comprising a physical prize ball for indicating the first and second prize awards, said physical prize ball capable of changing from said first color to said second color and from said second color to said first color.
4. The gaming terminal of claim 2, further comprising a first physical prize ball displayable in said first color and a second physical prize ball displayable in said second color.
5. The gaming terminal of claim 1, wherein said chamber and said prize tubes are at least partially transparent.
6. The gaming terminal of claim 1, wherein said ball-control device comprises a physical prize ball and a movable belt below said plurality of prize tubes for positioning said physical prize ball under said prize tube corresponding to said randomly selected award.
7. The gaming terminal of claim 6, wherein said ball-control device further comprises a vacuum source positioned above said plurality of prize tubes for suctioning said physical prize ball into one of said plurality of prize tubes corresponding to said randomly selected award.
8. The gaming terminal of claim 1, wherein each of said prize tubes has a lower end and said lower ends of each prize tube are interconnected to form a passageway, said passageway including at least one physical prize ball.
9. The gaming terminal of claim 8, further comprising diverters positioned on said lower ends of each prize tube for closing the lower ends of each prize tube not corresponding to the randomly selected award thereby preventing the prize ball from entering said closed prize tubes.
10. The gaming terminal of claim 8, wherein said passageway further comprises two prize ball openings for holding a first prize having said first color and a second prize ball having said second color.
11. The gaming terminal of claim 1, wherein said ball-control device comprises:
a plurality of compartments positioned below a lower end of each prize tube, each compartment having at least one prize ball therein; and
at least one gate connected to each compartment for holding said prize ball in the compartment.
12. The gaming terminal of claim 11, further comprising a blower operably connected to said compartments, said blower capable of forcing a prize ball from said compartment into said prize tube corresponding to said randomly selected award.
13. The gaming terminal of claim 11, further comprising a first and a second prize ball in each compartment, said first prize ball having said first color and said second prize ball having said second color.
14. The gaming terminal of claim 1, wherein the first and second indicia are selected from the group consisting essentially of colors, letters, numbers, lines, and geometric shapes.
15. A gaming terminal for playing a wagering game, comprising:
a chamber for jumbling a plurality of physical balls;
a plurality of prize tubes adjacent to said chamber for indicating an award in said wagering game, each of said plurality of prize tubes displaying a first prize award or a second prize award, said first prize award indicated by a prize ball that is displayed within said prize tube as a first color, and said second prize award indicated by a prize ball that is displayed within said prize tube as a second color; and
a single prize ball that is moveable into any of said plurality of prize tubes and being displayable in said first color and said second color, said single prize ball being moved to one of said plurality of prize tubes that corresponds to a randomly selected outcome of said wagering game.
16. The gaming terminal of claim 15, further comprising a lighting system for changing said prize ball from said first color to said second color and from said second color to said first color.
17. The gaming terminal of claim 16, wherein said lighting system is external to said single prize ball.
18. The gaming terminal of claim 15, further comprising a prize ball control device for moving said prize ball among said plurality of prize tubes.
19. The gaming terminal of claim 15, wherein each lower end of each prize tube is interconnected to form a passageway for holding said prize ball, said lower ends of each prize tube further comprising a diverter for closing the lower ends of each prize tube not corresponding to the randomly selected outcome thereby preventing the prize ball from entering said closed prize tubes.
20. A method of operating a wagering game having a basic game and a bonus game, said method comprising:
receiving a wager from a player;
displaying a randomly selected outcome for said basic game, said randomly selected outcome being selected from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving said wager, said plurality of outcomes including a start-bonus outcome;
jumbling a plurality of physical balls in a chamber in response to the selection of said start-bonus outcome; and
after a predetermined amount of time, displaying a prize ball in one of a plurality of prize tubes adjacent said chamber, said one prize tube corresponding to a randomly generated bonus-outcome, wherein said prize ball is displayed in said prize tube in a first color corresponding to a first prize award or a second color corresponding to a second prize award.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is related to and claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/570,035 filed May 11, 2004, titled “Gaming Terminal With Bonus Payout Indicated By Ball-Control Feature,” which is incorporated herein in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to gaming terminals and, more particularly, to a gaming terminal having a bonus feature that utilizes a ball control feature.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Gaming machines, such as slot machines, video poker machines, and the like, have been a cornerstone of the gaming industry for several years. Generally, the popularity of such machines with players is dependent on the likelihood (or perceived likelihood) of winning money at the machine and the intrinsic entertainment value of the machine relative to other available gaming options. Where the available gaming options include a number of competing machines and the expectation of winning each machine is roughly the same (or believed to be the same), players are most likely to be attracted to the most entertaining and exciting machines.

Consequently, shrewd operators strive to employ the most entertaining and exciting machines available because such machines attract frequent play and, hence, increase profitability to the operator. In the competitive gaming machine industry, there is a continuing need for gaming machine manufacturers to produce new types of games, or enhancements to existing games, which will attract frequent play by enhancing the entertainment value and excitement associated with the game.

One concept that has been successfully employed to enhance the entertainment value of a game is that of a “secondary” or “bonus” game which may be played in conjunction with a “basic” game. The bonus game may comprise any type of game, either similar to or completely different from the basic game, and is activated on the occurrence of a selected event or outcome of the basic game. Such a bonus game produces a significantly higher level of player excitement than the basic game because it provides a greater expectation of winning than the basic game.

Another concept that has been employed is the use of a progressive jackpot. In the gaming industry, a “progressive” involves collecting coin-in data from participating gaming device(s) (e.g., slot machines), contributing a percentage of that coin-in data to a jackpot amount, and awarding that jackpot amount to a player upon the occurrence of a certain jackpot-won event. A jackpot-won event typically occurs when a “progressive winning position” is achieved at a participating gaming device. If the gaming device is a slot machine, a progressive winning position may, for example, correspond to alignment of progressive jackpot reel symbols along a certain payline. The initial progressive jackpot is a predetermined minimum amount. That jackpot amount, however, progressively increases as players continue to play the gaming machine without winning the jackpot. Further, when several gaming machines are linked together such that several players at several gaming machines compete for the same jackpot, the jackpot progressively increases at a much faster rate, which leads to further player excitement. Many existing progressive jackpots are often high-pay, low-frequency progressives, which may result in some players becoming disheartened when they do not win.

In existing gaming machines, the indicators for a winning outcome in a bonus game or a progressive game are generally displayed on a mechanical reel or simple video display. To attract players, more engaging or unusual visual displays and/or audio often accompany bonus games. Theses fanciful and visually appealing displays offer tremendous advantages in player appeal and excitement relative to other known games. Additionally, such games are attractive to both players and operators. Thus, there is a continuing need to develop new features for bonus games to satisfy the demands of players and operators. Preferably, such new features will maintain, or even further enhance, the level of player excitement. The present invention is directed to satisfying these needs.

In last few years, state lotteries, which usually randomly select numbered balls from a housing containing numerous jumbled balls and then display the winning numbered balls, have grown tremendously in popularity. This increase in popularity is due, in part, to the growing number of states with lotteries as well as the large jackpots, which often exceed tens of millions of dollars. One example of a wagering game incorporating a lottery type game feature is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,533,660 to Seelig et al. In an attempt to benefit from the current popularity of lotteries and provide a wagering game with increased player excitement over the prior art, the present invention is directed to a novel gaming machine which provides the illusion of a lottery type drawing and displays a prize ball corresponding to a randomly generated bonus game outcome.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one embodiment, the present invention relates to a gaming terminal, which includes a basic wagering game and a bonus game. The basic wagering game includes a display for displaying a randomly selected outcome from a plurality of outcomes in response to a wager input from a player. The randomly selected outcomes include at least one start-bonus outcome. The bonus game further includes a plurality of physical balls in a chamber which jumbles the balls in response to the start-bonus outcome. A plurality of prize tubes, which display a bonus game prize award, are positioned adjacent the chamber. A ball control device which operates in conjunction with the plurality of prize tubes displays a prize ball corresponding to a randomly selected bonus-game outcome. The bonus game outcome may be a first prize award indicated by a prize ball having a first indicia or a second prize indicated by a prize ball having a second indicia.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the present invention relates to a gaming terminal for playing a wagering game. The gaming terminal includes a chamber for jumbling a plurality of physical balls and a plurality of prize tubes adjacent to the chamber. The prize tubes are used to display a prize ball having a first indicia indicating a first prize award or a prize ball having a second indicia indicating a second prize award. In addition, the gaming terminal includes a single prize ball which can be display either the first or the second indicia. The prize ball is displays either the first indicia or the second indicia in a prize tube which corresponds to a randomly selected outcome of the wagering game. For example, the prize ball can be displayed as a first or second color due to lighting external or internal to the ball.

In yet another embodiment, the present invention relates to a method of operating a wagering game having a basic game and a bonus game. Initially, a wager is received from a player. In response to the wager, a randomly selected outcome for the basic game is displayed. The randomly displayed outcome for the basic game is one of a plurality of possible outcomes which include at least one start-bonus outcome. If the start-bonus outcome is selected, a plurality of physical balls in a chamber are jumbled. After the physical balls have been jumbled for a predetermined amount of time, a prize ball is displayed in one of a plurality of prize tubes adjacent to the chamber corresponding to a randomly generated bonus game outcome. The prize ball is displayed in the prize tube in a first color corresponding to a first bonus prize award or a second color corresponding to a second bonus game award.

The above summary of the present invention is not intended to represent each embodiment, or every aspect, of the present invention. The detailed description and figures will describe many of the embodiments and aspects of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing and other advantages of the invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the drawings.

FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of a gaming terminal according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the gaming terminal of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of the gaming terminal showing a first wining result according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a front elevational view of the gaming terminal showing a wining result according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of the gaming terminal of FIG. 1 in which a bonus game has been activated according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 a is a front perspective view of a bonus game ball control feature according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 b is a front perspective view of the bonus game ball control feature shown in FIG. 6 a after the bonus game has been activated.

FIG. 7 is a front perspective view of a bonus game ball control feature according to a second embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a front perspective view of a bonus game ball control feature according to a third embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a front perspective view of a bonus game ball control feature according to a fourth embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the interior of an electronic bonus game prize ball according to an embodiment of the present invention.

While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will be described in detail herein. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not intended to be limited to the particular forms disclosed. Rather, the invention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows a front elevational view of a typical gaming terminal 1 used by gaming establishments, such as casinos. With regard to the present invention, the gaming terminal 1 may be any type of gaming terminal and may have varying structures and methods of operation. For example, the gaming terminal 1 may be a mechanical gaming terminal configured to play mechanical slots, or it may be an electromechanical or electrical gaming terminal configured to play a video casino game, such as blackjack, slots, keno, poker, etc.

As further shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the gaming terminal 1 includes input devices, such as a wager acceptor 3, a touch screen 5, a push-button panel 7, a player-identification card reader 9, and an arm 11. For outputs, the gaming terminal 1 includes a progressive game display 13 for displaying the value of a progressive game and a main display 15 for displaying information about the basic wagering game. While these typical components found in the gaming terminal 1 are described below, it should be understood that numerous other elements may exist and may be used in any number of combinations to create various forms of a gaming terminal.

The wager acceptor 3 may be provided in many forms, individually or in combination. For example, the wager acceptor may except cash and may include a coin slot acceptor or a note acceptor to input value to the gaming terminal 1. Alternatively, the wager acceptor 3 may include a card-reading device for reading a card that has a recorded monetary value with which it is associated. The card wager acceptor may also receive a card that authorizes access to a central account, which can transfer money to the gaming terminal 1.

The push button panel 7 is typically offered, in addition to the touch screen 5, which may overlie the main display 15 (or a portion thereof), to provide players with an option on how to make their game selections. Alternatively, the push button panel 7 provides inputs for one aspect of operating the game, while the touch screen 5 allows for inputs needed for another aspect of operating the game.

The outcome of the basic wagering game is displayed to the player on the main display 15. The main display 15 may take the form of a mechanical display, a cathode ray tube (CRT), a high resolution LCD, a plasma display, LED, or any other type of video display suitable for use in the gaming terminal 1. Referring now to FIG. 3, an enlarged front elevational view of an embodiment of the main display 15 is shown. The main display 15 has three windows 45 and a payline 47 which passes through the center of each display window 45. In one embodiment, the basic wagering game includes a mechanical reel type mechanism which is well known in the art. The reel mechanism consists generally of one or more reels (not shown) disposed coaxially in a side-by-side arrangement. Reel strips 49 generally are secured to each reel to withstand rotation. The reel strips 49 are usually a piece of plastic imprinted with symbols 51 for the particular game to be played. Rotation of each reel is controlled by a stepper motor (not shown) connected to the reel for that purpose. The stepper motors are operated by the appropriate circuitry and are controlled by a central processing unit 33 (FIG. 2).

The player-identification card reader 9 (FIG. 1) allows for the identification of a player by reading a card with information indicating his or her true identity. Currently, the identification is used by casinos for rewarding certain players with complimentary services or special offers. For example, a player may be enrolled in the gaming establishment's players' club and may be awarded certain complimentary services as that player collects points in his or her player-tracking account. The player inserts his or her card into the player-identification card reader 9, which allows the casino's computers to register that player's wagering at the gaming terminal 1.

The gaming terminal 1 further includes a bonus game region 17 located above the main display 15. The bonus game region 17 comprises a main chamber 19 for holding a plurality of physical player attraction balls 21. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the balls 21 are at least two different colors with some of the balls 23 being red and other balls 25 being white. The player attraction balls 21, however, may be only one color or a combination of different colors. Furthermore, instead of, or in addition to, utilizing different colors, the player attraction balls 21 also may have variety of markings such as stripes, numbers, letters and/or geometric shapes.

The chamber 19 may take any shape and may be formed from any material that is at least partially transparent so that potential players and players can see the player attraction balls 21 in the chamber. Suitable materials for the chamber include, but are not limited to glass, plastic, plexi-glass, acrylic, butyrate, PETG (polyester terephthalate glycol), and Kydex® commercially available from Kleerdex Company. Attraction balls 21 should be light enough that they can be moved easily around the inside of the chamber by a forced fluid such as air. In one embodiment the attraction balls 21 are made of plastic and are similar to ping pong balls. Attraction balls 21, however, may also be constructed of rubber, foam, or the like.

Below chamber 19 is an attraction ball blower 27 (FIG. 2) which is used to generate a current of air which flows up into chamber 19 and causes the attraction balls 21 to randomly move inside the chamber 19. The ball blower 27 is turned on and off by a ball blower motor (not shown) which is controlled by a central processing unit 33 discussed below. The chamber 19 must be properly vented by any method well known in the art in order to prevent a build-up of air pressure in the chamber 19. In general, the ball blower will be turned on and the attraction balls 21 will move inside the chamber 19 when the bonus game is activated. However, when the gaming terminal 1 is not in use, the central processing unit 33 may randomly turn on the ball blower 27 to move the balls 21 inside the chamber 19 in order to attract players to the gaming terminal 1.

The bonus game region 17 further includes a prize ball controller 31 (shown in detail in FIGS. 6-9) directly above the chamber 19, which contains at least one prize ball (not shown). The prize ball(s) in the ball controller 31 is capable of being displayed to appear identical to the player attraction balls 21 in the chamber 19. A plurality of bonus prize tubes 29 a-f are located above the prize ball controller 31. Each bonus prize tube 29 a-f is marked with a bonus prize award amount and is sized and configured to receive a prize ball from the ball controller 31 in order to indicate a bonus game prize award.

For example, in one embodiment, the player attraction balls 21 are all one color and there is one ball in the ball controller 31 which is the same color as the player attraction balls 21. The bonus game prize award thus corresponds to the number on the prize tube in which the ball appears. In another embodiment, the prize ball controller 31 includes a red and a white prize ball, which are the same color as the red and white player attraction balls 23 and 25 in the chamber 19. A white prize ball in a prize tube 29 indicates that the player has won the amount shown on the prize tube, while a red ball in a prize tube 29 indicates that the player has won double the amount shown on the prize tube. One of ordinary skill in the art will understand that a red prize ball may indicate a bonus prize award of any multiple of the prize award displayed on a prize tube. Moreover, one of skill in the art will recognize that any number of colors, symbols, letters, numbers or geometric shapes may be used to indicate a variety of bonus game prize awards. The features of the bonus game will be described in more detail below.

As shown in FIG. 2, the various components of the gaming terminal 1 are controlled by a central processing unit (CPU) 33 (such as a microprocessor or microcontroller). To provide the gaming functions, the CPU 33 executes a game program that allows for the randomly selected outcome for the basic wagering game and the bonus game. The CPU 33 is also coupled to or includes a system memory 33. The system memory 35 may comprise a volatile memory 37 (e.g., a random-access memory (RAM)) and a non-volatile memory 39 (e.g., an EEPROM). It should be appreciated that the CPU 33 may include one or more microprocessors. Similarly, the system memory 33 may include multiple RAM and multiple program memories.

Communications between the peripheral components of the gaming terminal 1 and the CPU 33 occur through input/output (I/O) circuits 41 a. As such, the CPU 33 also controls and receives inputs from the peripheral components of the gaming terminal 1. Further, the CPU 33 communicates with external systems via the I/O circuits 41 b. Although the I/O circuits 41 a-b may be shown as a single block, it should be appreciated that the I/O circuits 41 a-b may include a number of different types of I/O circuits.

The gaming terminal 1 is typically operated as part of a game control network 43 having control circuitry and memory devices, such as a network that controls the play of restricted-access progressive wagering games, as described in U.S. Patent Application No. 60/502,762, filed on Sep. 12, 1903, and entitled “Restricted Access Progressive Game For A Gaming Machine,” which is commonly owned and herein incorporated by reference in its entirety. The gaming terminal 1 often has multiple serial ports, each port dedicated to providing data to a specific host computer system that performs a specific function (e.g., accounting, player-tracking, or a progressive game control system, etc). To set up a typical serial communication hardware link to the host system, the typical RS-232 point-to-point communication protocol that is often present in the gaming terminal 1 is converted to an RS-485 (or RS-485-type) master-slave protocol so as to take advantage of some of the advantages of the RS-485 capability (e.g., multi-drop capability that allows many gaming terminals 1 to communicate with the game control network 43). To perform this function, a custom interface board may be used by the gaming terminal 1 for each communication port in the gaming terminal 1. It should be noted that the gaming terminal 1 can initially be designed to be configured for a typical RS-485 protocol, instead of the typical RS-232 protocol. Further, the gaming terminal 1 may simply be designed for an Ethernet connection.

In one embodiment, to begin play of the game, the player places a wager and pushes a button on panel 7 or pulls down on arm 11. The CPU 33 then randomly generates an outcome which may or may not be a winning outcome. Once the outcome is generated, the CPU 33 determines how the outcome will be displayed from a plurality of possible outcomes including a start-bonus outcome. For example, as shown in FIG. 3, a wager has been placed and the CPU has randomly determined that that the player will be awarded the progressive jackpot. The paytable (not shown), illustrates that three POWERBALL® symbols centered on the payline 47 indicates that the player has won the progressive jackpot shown on the progressive jackpot game display 13 (FIG. 1). As a result, three POWERBALL® symbols centered on the payline 47 are shown on the main display 15.

Referring now to FIGS. 4 and 5, another wager has been placed and the CPU 33 randomly has generated an outcome of 200 credits. This time, the CPU 33 has determined that 100 credits will be awarded from the basic game and 200 credits will be awarded from the bonus game. The paytable (not shown) indicates that the bonus game will be activated when three sevens, which pay 100 credits, are shown centered on the payline. FIGS. 4 and 5, therefore show, three sevens on the main display 15 in display windows 45. This start-bonus outcome “activates” the bonus game as shown in FIG. 5. As a result, player attraction balls in chamber 19 are jumbled, and a prize ball 67 is suctioned or forced up into the prize tube 29 d corresponding to one hundred credits. Further as shown in FIG. 5, the prize ball 67 in the prize tube 29 d is red indicating that the player has won twice the credits shown on the prize tube 29 d for a total bonus prize of two hundred credits. Alternatively, the CPU 33 could have determined that the 200 credits would be awarded by having a white prize ball suctioned or forced up into the 200 credit prize tube 29 e.

Those skilled in the art will realize that the CPU 33 may randomly generate outcomes for the game in a variety of ways. For example, the CPU 33 may not randomly generate the final game outcome at the outset. Instead, the CPU 33 may first randomly generate the basic game outcome which may or may not be a start bonus outcome. Moreover, the start-bonus outcome may or not award any credits to the player. If the basic game outcome is a start-bonus outcome, the bonus game will be activated, and the CPU 33 will then randomly generate a bonus game outcome which will be displayed by a prize ball 67 in a prize tube 29.

A first embodiment of the bonus game ball controller 31 of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 6 a and 6 b. The bonus game ball controller 31 is a mechanical device which is positioned above the main chamber 19 and below lower ends 55 a-f of the bonus prize tubes 29 a-f in controller chamber 57. The bonus game ball controller 31 includes a conveyor belt 59 with first and second openings 61 and 63 for holding one white prize ball 65 and one red prize ball 67. The first and second ends 69 and 71 of the conveyor belt 59 are placed about first and second rotatable drums 73 and 75. A conveyor belt stepper motor 77, controlled by CPU 33, is connected to the drum 73 and when activated by the CPU 33, causes the drums 73 and 75 to rotate which in turn moves the conveyor belt 59. The conveyor belt 59 can be formed form a number of materials including, but not limited to, metal, plastic and rubber. Above the upper ends 79 a-f of the prize tubes 29 is a vacuum source (not shown), which is connected to a vacuum motor (not shown) controlled by the CPU 33. The vacuum source is sufficiently strong to suction one of the prize balls from the conveyor belt 59 in the ball controller chamber 57 to the top of a prize tube 29 a-f. Alternatively, an air blower may be located in the ball controller chamber 57 and the prize balls may be forced up into a prize tube by a current of air. Of course, those skilled in the art will understand that the vacuum source and the air blower must be properly vented by any method well known in the art in order to prevent a build up of pressure in the bonus game region 17.

In operation, once the bonus game is activated, a signal is sent from the CPU 33 to a ball blower motor (not shown) which causes the attraction ball blower 27 to be turned on resulting in the jumbling of the player attraction balls 21 in the main chamber 19. After the attraction balls 21 have been jumbled for a predetermined amount of time, the CPU 33 causes the conveyor belt stepper motor 77 to activate the conveyor belt 59. The conveyor belt 59 then moves the balls 65 and 67 the appropriate number of spaces and positions the correct prize ball under the prize tube 29 corresponding to the bonus game prize award.

For example as shown in FIG. 6 b, the CPU 33 randomly has generated a prize award corresponding to six hundred credits, which is not doubled. The CPU 33 further has determined that some of credits will be awarded to the player by the bonus game so the main display 15 will show the bonus activating outcome of three sevens (FIG. 4). As a result, the CPU 33 activates the stepper motor 77, which in turn moves the conveyor belt 59 to the right so that the white prize ball 65 is positioned beneath the prize tube 29 f labeled five hundred. Once the white prize ball 65 is in position, the CPU 33 will activate the vacuum motor which, in turn, will activate the vacuum source causing the white prize ball 65 to be suctioned up into prize tube 29 f so that the player can visually see that he or she has been awarded five hundred credits in the bonus game. Because the ball controller chamber 57 contains a white prize ball 65 and a red ball 67 that are identical to the red and white player attraction balls, 23 and 25 respectively, an illusion is created that the red and white prize balls are actually player attraction balls 23 and 25, which are randomly suctioned up from the chamber 19.

After the white ball 65 has been displayed in the prize tube 29 f for a predetermined amount of time, the CPU 33 signals the vacuum motor to turn the vacuum source off causing the white prize ball 65 to fall down the prize tube 29 and back into the opening 63 of the conveyor belt. Once the prize ball 65 has fallen back into the ball controller chamber 57, the CPU 33 signals the ball blower motor to turn off the attraction ball blower 27 allowing the player attraction balls 21 to fall to the bottom of the chamber 19. The bonus game ball controller 31 is then ready to be activated again.

In another embodiment, the conveyor belt stepper motor 77 further includes sensors (not shown) which can detect when either a red or white prize ball from one of the prize tubes 29 a-f falls back into one of the openings in the conveyor belt 59. Once the prize ball is detected, the conveyor belt stepper motor 77 moves the conveyor belt 59 so that the white prize ball 65 and the red prize ball 65 are centered below the prize tubes 29 a-f. As a result, the conveyor belt stepper motor 77 only has to move the conveyor belt 59 a short distance to the right or left in order to position the correct prize ball 65 or 67 under the correct prize tube 29 the next time the bonus game is activated. This allows for the bonus game to be played more quickly resulting in increased player excitement.

Referring now to FIG. 7, a second embodiment of the prize ball controller 31 is shown. In this embodiment, the lower ends of the prize tubes 29 a-f are interconnected and form single prize ball passageway 81. A series of hinged diverters 83 a-e controls the path that either the white prize ball 65 or red prize ball 67 will take during the bonus game. The diverters 83 a-e are affixed to the lower ends of the prize tubes 29 a-f by hinges 85 which allow for the diverters to simultaneously open the desired prize tube and close off the remaining prize tubes. In addition, first and second prize ball pockets 89 and 91 are formed in a lower central portion 87 of the passageway 81, for holding the white prize ball 65 and the red prize ball 67 respectively. A hinged holding pocket diverter 93 controls which prize ball will be suctioned up into one of the prize tube chambers by the vacuum source (not shown) above the upper ends. 79 of the prize tubes 29 a-f as discussed with respect to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 6 a and 6 b.

The diverters 83 a-e and the holding pocket diverter 93 are ultimately connected to the CPU 33 which controls the position of the diverters. In one embodiment, the diverters 83 a-e and 93 are each connected to stepper motors (not shown) which, in turn, are directly connected to the CPU 33. Alternatively, the stepper motors are connected to an intermediate bonus game CPU (not shown) which, in turn, is connected to the central CPU 33. The intermediate CPU receives high-level signals (e.g. send a red ball 67 to the 100 credit prize tube 29 d) from the CPU 33. The intermediate CPU then produces low level signals that control the diverters and the vacuum source to achieve the randomly generated result.

In another embodiment, a spring type ejector pin (not shown) is positioned in the bottom of each holding pocket 89 and 91 in order to assist in ejecting the red and white prize balls from the pockets. When the bonus game is inactive the ejector pins are flush with the bottom surface 95 of each holding pocket. However, when the bonus game is activated and the random generator has chosen either the red or white prize ball, the appropriate ejector pin is activated by the CPU and extends above the bottom surface of the holding pocket thereby ejecting the prize ball out of the holding pocket. Once the prize ball has left the holding pocket, the ejector pin retracts to a position where it is again flush with the bottom 95 of the holding pocket.

In operation, the bonus game is activated as discussed with respect to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 6 a and 6 b, including the random generation of a prize award which will be displayed as a bonus prize award. As shown in FIG. 7, the award generated corresponds to a bonus prize award of seventy credits, which is doubled. As a result, the CPU 33 has directed a stepper motor to move holding pocket diverter 93 to the right allowing the red ball 67 to be suctioned from holding pocket 91. Similarly, the CPU 33 has signaled a stepper motor connected diverter 83 c to move the diverter 83 c to the open position so that the red prize ball 67 may be suctioned up into the prize tube 29 c. The player then can see that he or she has won seventy credits and that the seventy credits are doubled for a total bonus prize of one hundred-forty credits. Once the prize ball 67 has fallen back into the ball controller chamber 57, the CPU 33 signals the ball blower motor to turn off the attraction ball blower 27 allowing the player attraction balls 21 to fall to the bottom of the chamber 19. The bonus game ball controller 31 is then ready to be activated again.

In a fourth embodiment of the prize ball controller, only a white prize ball 65 is used. Referring now to FIG. 8, the lower ends of the prize tubes 29 a-f are interconnected to form a single passageway 81 .similar to that shown in FIG. 7, but without the prize ball holding pockets. Hinged ball diverters 83 a-f are positioned at the lower end of each prize tube 29 a-f. These hinged ball diverters operate in the same manner as the diverters discussed above with respect to the embodiment disclosed in FIG. 7. However, each prize tube 29 a-f further includes a red light bulb 97 a-f and electrical circuitry (not shown) which is controlled by the CPU 33. As in the embodiments disclosed in FIGS. 6 and 7, this embodiment also includes either a vacuum source located above the upper ends 79 a-f of the prize tubes 29 a-f or a ball blower connected to the passageway 81.

In operation, as shown in FIG. 8, the bonus game has been activated as set forth above, and the CPU 33 randomly has generated a prize award of seventy credits, doubled. Again, the CPU 33 has determined that the prize award will be awarded by the bonus game. As a result, the CPU 33 signals the diverter stepper motor to open the ball diverter 83 c and to turn the red light 97 c on. The CPU 33 then signals the vacuum source motor to turn the vacuum on resulting in the white prize ball 65 being suctioned up into the prize chamber tube 29 c. Once in the prize tube 29, the white ball 65 will appear red as a result of the prize tube being illuminated by the red light 97 c. The player will then see that he or she has won a bonus prize of seventy credits and that the prize has been doubled for a total bonus prize of one hundred-forty credits. Once the white prize ball 65 has fallen back into the ball controller chamber 57, the CPU 33 signals the ball blower motor to turn off the attraction ball blower 27 allowing the player attraction balls 21 to fall to the bottom of the chamber 19. The bonus game ball controller 31 is then ready to be activated again.

A fifth embodiment for the bonus game ball controller is shown in FIG. 9. In this embodiment, there are six sets of prize balls 99 a-f, each set comprising one white and one red prize ball 65, 67, sitting in housings 10la-f. Each housing 101 has a top portion which is formed by four inwardly slanted walls 105, which are connected to one of the lower ends 55 of the prize tubes 29 a-f. Although the top portion of the housing 101 shown in FIG. 9 is pyramidal in shape, those skilled in the art will understand that the housing can be any shape. Each housing 101 further includes a bottom portion having downwardly and inwardly slanting side walls 109 and a bottom (not shown) having an opening (not shown). The side walls 109 are slanted downward to ensure that the prize balls will return to the correct location in the bottom portion of the housing.. Each prize ball 65 and 67 is held in place by a pair of hinged gates 111, on either side of the ball, connected to the housing 101. The gates 111 are controlled by a gate stepper motor (not shown) which is in turn controlled by the CPU 33. Alternatively, the gate stepper motor may be controlled by a separate ball controller CPU controlled by the CPU 33. Beneath the housings 101 a-f is a prize ball blower 113, which is also controlled by a prize ball blower motor (not shown) controlled by the CPU 33. The prize ball blower 113 is connected to the openings in the bottoms of housings 10la-f by a branched conduit 115, including a main branch 117 and housing branches 119 a-f.

In operation, as shown in FIG. 9, the bonus game has been activated as set forth above, and a prize award of twenty-five credits, doubled, randomly has been generated. Again, the CPU 33 has determined that the prize award will be awarded by the bonus game. Accordingly, the CPU 33 has signaled the gate stepper motor to raise the hinged gates 111 holding the red prize ball 67 in place under the prize tube 29 a. Simultaneously, the CPU 33 has signaled the prize ball blower motor to activate the prize ball blower 113, which will then blow the red prize ball 67 up into prize chamber tube 29 a. The player will then see that he or she has won twenty-five bonus credits which are doubled for a total bonus award of fifty credits. Once the red prize ball has been displayed for a predetermined amount of time, the CPU 33 signals the prize ball blower stepper to turn the blower 113 off and the red prize ball falls back down into the housing 101 a. The CPU then signals the gate stepper motor to lower the gates 111. Once the prize ball 67 has fallen back into the ball controller, the CPU 33 signals the ball blower motor to turn off the attraction ball blower 27 allowing the player attraction balls 21 to fall to the bottom of the chamber 19. The bonus game ball controller 31 is then ready to be activated again.

Optionally, the ball controller 31 in FIG. 9 may also include blower diverters (not shown), similar to those shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, in the branched conduit 115 connecting the bonus ball blower to the housings 10la-f. For example, diverters may be placed inside housing branches 119 at the point where they connect to the main branch conduit 117. In one embodiment, the blower diverters would be controlled by a single stepper motor controlled by the CPU 33. In operation, the blower diverters would function to close off the entire right side of the main conduit 117 to the blower and to close off each housing branch 119 connected to prize tubes 29 b and 29 c. With these portions of the branched conduit closed off, all of the air from the blower is directed to the ball that must be blown up the prize tube, thereby requiring a smaller blower.

In yet another embodiment of the present invention, the red prize balls 67 in the bonus game ball controllers in FIGS. 6 a, 6 b, 7, and 9 are omitted and only a single white electronic prize ball is used. Such an electronic prize ball 121 is shown in FIG. 10. The electronic prize ball 121 has internal red light bulbs 123, a battery 125 for powering the light bulbs, and a transceiver 127 for receiving signals from the CPU 33 and activating the battery to turn the red light bulbs on and off. In operation, the ball controllers in FIGS. 6, 7, and 9 function exactly the same as with two balls. However, when the randomly generated prize award displayed as a bonus prize award is to be doubled, the CPU 33 will signal the transceiver 127 in the electronic prize ball 121, which in turn will cause the battery to supply power to the lights bulbs causing the electronic prize ball to glow substantially the same color red as the red player attractions balls 23. Thus, when the electronic prize ball 121 is suctioned up into the prize tube 29 corresponding to the randomly generated prize award, the electronic prize ball 121 will glow red indicating to the player that he or she has won double the amount shown on the prize tube 29.

In another embodiment, a player is able to participate in the selection of his or her bonus prize from more than one bonus prize. For example, once the bonus game is activated, a first ball is shown in a prize tube chamber. If the player likes the bonus prize award, the player can “accept” the bonus prize award, and the basic game will start again provided the player does not “cash out.” However, if the player thinks that he or she can obtain a better bonus prize, the player can “reject” the first bonus. The first ball is then returned to the ball controller and another bonus prize award will be displayed to the player. The player can either “accept” or “reject” the second bonus prize award. Any number of bonus prize awards can be offered to the player. If the player rejects all of the bonus prize offers, he or she will automatically be awarded the last bonus prize offered regardless of the amount of the award. If the highest possible bonus prize award is offered, the player will automatically be given that bonus prize award, and the basic game will start again provided the player does not “cash out.” Such player interaction further increases the excitement and enjoyment of the game.

Alternatively, the bonus game prize award may be an accumulation of a predetermined number of bonus prize awards. For example, once the bonus game is activated, four separate random bonus prize awards may be generated, and a prize ball may appear in a bonus game prize tube on four separate times. The player's total bonus game prize award would be the sum of the four individual prize awards.

While the present invention has been described with reference to one or more particular embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that many changes may be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Each of these embodiments and obvious variations thereof is contemplated as falling within the spirit and scope of the claimed invention, which is set forth in the following claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7306231 *Nov 16, 2004Dec 11, 2007Bob's Space Racers, Inc.Game with object suspended by air
US7980938 *Mar 18, 2005Jul 19, 2011Wms Gaming Inc.Wagering game with video lottery bonus game
US20090138133 *Jul 21, 2006May 28, 2009Wms Gaming Inc.Power management in wagering game machines
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/16
International ClassificationA63F9/24, G07F17/32, G07F17/38
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3267, G07F17/3244, G07F17/3211, G07F17/3297
European ClassificationG07F17/32K, G07F17/32P10, G07F17/32C2F, G07F17/32M4
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jul 8, 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: WMS GAMING INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:FIDEN, DANIEL;HELFER, LISA;KOPERA, THOMAS M.;REEL/FRAME:021206/0724;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050506 TO 20050603