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Publication numberUS20060258427 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/129,702
Publication dateNov 16, 2006
Filing dateMay 13, 2005
Priority dateMay 13, 2005
Also published asCA2606321A1, CN101176126A, EP1875447A1, WO2006124516A1
Publication number11129702, 129702, US 2006/0258427 A1, US 2006/258427 A1, US 20060258427 A1, US 20060258427A1, US 2006258427 A1, US 2006258427A1, US-A1-20060258427, US-A1-2006258427, US2006/0258427A1, US2006/258427A1, US20060258427 A1, US20060258427A1, US2006258427 A1, US2006258427A1
InventorsRichard Rowe, Eric Lancaster, Steven Miller
Original AssigneeIgt
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Wide area table gaming monitor and control system
US 20060258427 A1
Abstract
Systems and methods for tracking and communicating data regarding table game activities across multiple gaming establishments are disclosed. A single local system or multiple systems networked over a wide area can be implemented. A WAN of automated table game tracking units can be associated with a centralized server and a centralized tracking database. Each electronic gaming activity tracking unit tracks player information and table activity and forwards this data to the centralized server. Data collected at a first gaming establishment can be made available in real time at a second separate gaming establishment. Cameras capture visual images and RFID readers capture RFID chip data from subject gaming tables, and these images and data are forwarded to the centralized server. Analysis and modification of different data sets and correlation from visual images and RFID data to respective data sets can be performed and stored at a system database.
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Claims(23)
1. A system adapted for use in conjunction with live table games, comprising:
a plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units distributed across multiple gaming establishments, wherein each of said electronic gaming activity tracking units is adapted to facilitate the tracking of player information, player activities, gaming table information, or a combination thereof at one or more live gaming tables, said live gaming tables being used to host table games involving the acceptance of monetary wagers and granting of monetary awards, and wherein each of said electronic gaming activity tracking units is also adapted to forward tracking data regarding said tracked player information, player activities, gaming table information or a combination thereof;
one or more cameras adapted to capture visual information from said one or more live gaming tables, wherein said one or more cameras are also adapted to forward data regarding said captured visual information;
one or more RFID reading devices adapted to capture gaming chip RFID data from said one or more live gaming tables, wherein said one or more RFID reading devices are also adapted to forward at least a portion of said captured RFID data;
a centralized computer server adapted to receive and process said forwarded tracking data from at least two of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units and said forwarded visual data from at least one of said one or more cameras, said centralized computer server being located remotely from at least one of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units;
at least one centralized database in communication with said centralized computer server, said at least one centralized database being adapted to store and provide on demand said forwarded tracking data, said forwarded visual data, said forwarded RFID data or any combination thereof;
a communication link or path between each of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units and said centralized computer server;
a communication link or path between each of said one or more cameras and said centralized computer server; and
a communication link or path between each of said one or more RFID reading devices and said centralized computer server.
2. A system adapted for use in conjunction with table games, comprising:
a plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units, wherein each of said electronic gaming activity tracking units is adapted to facilitate the tracking of player information, player activities, gaming table information, or a combination thereof at one or more gaming tables, said gaming tables being used to host table games involving the acceptance of monetary wagers and granting of monetary awards, and wherein each of said electronic gaming activity tracking units is also adapted to forward data regarding said tracked player information, player activities, gaming table information or a combination thereof;
a centralized computer server adapted to receive and process said forwarded data from at least two of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units, said centralized computer server being located remotely from at least one of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units; and
a communication link or path between each of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units and said centralized computer server.
3. The system of claim 2, wherein said system comprises a wide area network situated across multiple gaming establishments.
4. The wide area network of claim 3, wherein a first unit of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units is located at a first gaming establishment, while a second unit of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units is located at a second gaming establishment, said second gaming establishment being separate from said first gaming establishment.
5. The wide area network of claim 4, wherein data collected by said first unit is made available in real time to a user at said second unit.
6. The system of claim 2, further including:
a centralized database containing files on one or more players, one or more gaming tables, or a combination thereof tracked by said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units.
7. The system of claim 2, wherein at least one of said table games is a live table game including at least one live player and at least one live employee of the gaming establishment hosting said live table game.
8. The system of claim 2, wherein at least one of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units comprises a table game calculator, said table game calculator adapted to accept input regarding the play of a game and present a game outcome according to the rules of that game.
9. The system of claim 2, wherein at least one of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units comprises a basic user interface having a plurality of features, wherein at least one of said plurality of features is selected from the group consisting of real-time data collection, real-time graphical floor representation, real-time cage transaction requests, real-time comp requests, player profiling, player ratings editing, employee data entry, and system interfacing.
10. The system of claim 9, wherein at least one of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units comprises a basic user interface having every feature selected from the group consisting of real-time data collection, real-time graphical floor representation, real-time cage transaction requests, real-time comp requests, player profiling, player ratings editing, employee data entry, and system interfacing.
11. The system of claim 2, wherein at least one of said plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units comprises one or more modules selected from the group consisting of staff alerts, cage communications, comp requests, host notifications, marker tracking, headcount tracking and activity surveillance.
12. A wide area gaming network adapted for use in conjunction with table games across multiple gaming establishments, said table games involving the acceptance of monetary wagers and granting of monetary awards, the wide area gaming network comprising:
a first electronic gaming activity tracking unit located at a first gaming establishment and adapted to facilitate the tracking of player information, player activities, gaming table information, or a combination thereof at one or more gaming tables located at said first gaming establishment;
a second electronic gaming activity tracking unit located at a second gaming establishment and adapted to facilitate the tracking of player information, player activities, gaming table information, or a combination thereof at one or more gaming tables located at said second gaming establishment, wherein said second gaming establishment is separate from said first gaming establishment;
a centralized computer server adapted to receive and process data tracked by said first electronic gaming activity tracking unit and said second electronic gaming activity tracking unit, said centralized computer server being located remotely from one or both of said first and second electronic gaming activity tracking units;
a first communication link or path between said first electronic gaming activity tracking unit and said centralized computer server;
a second communication link or path between said second electronic gaming activity tracking unit and said centralized computer server; and
a centralized database in communication with said centralized computer, said centralized database containing files on one or more players, one or more gaming tables, or a combination thereof tracked by said first electronic gaming activity tracking unit; said second electronic gaming activity tracking unit, or both.
13. The wide area gaming network of claim 12, wherein data collected by said first electronic gaming activity tracking unit is made available to a user at said second electronic gaming activity tracking unit via transmission from said centralized computer server.
14. A method of tracking table game information, comprising:
receiving at a first automated electronic unit a first set of tracking data regarding player information, player activities, gaming table information, or a combination thereof from a first live table game at a first gaming establishment;
forwarding electronically from said first automated electronic unit said first set of tracking data to a central computer server adapted to analyze tracking data;
receiving at a second automated electronic unit a second set of tracking data regarding player information, player activities, gaming table information, or a combination thereof from a second live table game at a second gaming establishment;
forwarding electronically from said second automated electronic unit said second set of tracking data to said central computer server;
analyzing said first set of tracking data and said second set of tracking data with respect to each other at said central computer server; and
displaying information resulting from said analyzing step at one or more displays associated with said first automated electronic unit, said second automated electronic unit, said central computer server, a separate terminal at a remote location or any combination thereof.
15. The method of claim 14, further including the step of:
storing said first set of tracking data and said second set of tracking data at a central database in communication with said central computer server.
16. The method of claim 14, wherein said analyzing step includes producing a set of modified data derived from said first set of tracking data, said second set of tracking data, or a combination thereof, further including the step of:
storing said set of modified data at a central database in communication with said central computer server.
17. The method of claim 14, further including the step of:
capturing with a camera one or more visual images of at least one player, at least one activity or a combination thereof at said first live table game.
18. The method of claim 17, further including the step of:
forwarding electronically from said camera said one or more visual images to said central computer server.
19. The method of claim 18, further including the step of:
associating one of said one or more visual images with at least a portion of said first set of tracking data.
20. The method of claim 19, wherein said associating step includes associating a picture of a player with tracked data regarding table game activity of said player.
21. The method of claim 14, further including the step of:
capturing with an RFID reading device gaming chip RFID data of at least one player, at least one activity or a combination thereof at said first live table game.
22. The method of claim 21, further including the step of:
forwarding electronically from said first gaming table said captured gaming chip RFID data to said central computer server.
23. The method of claim 22, further including the step of:
associating at least a portion of said captured gaming chip RFID data with at least a portion of said first set of tracking data.
Description
TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to casino gaming, and more specifically to systems and methods for operating and managing table games and other activities on the floor of a casino or other gaming establishment.

BACKGROUND

Casinos and other forms of gaming comprise a growing multi-billion dollar industry that has experienced many changes and innovations in recent years. While gaming machines have become a staple for many casinos and gaming establishments, table games remain an immensely popular form of gaming and a substantial source of revenue for gaming operators. Such table games include poker, blackjack, craps, roulette and other traditional standbys, as well as other more recently introduced games such as pai-gow, Carribean Stud, Spanish 21, and Let It Ride, among others. Under a typical gaming event at a table game, a player places a wager on a game, whereupon a winning may be paid to the player depending on the outcome of the game. As is generally known, a wager may involve the use of cash or one or more chips, markers or the like, as well as various forms of gestures or oral claims. The game itself may involve the use of, for example, one or more cards, dice, wheels, balls, tokens or the like, with the rules of the game and any payouts or pay tables being established prior to game play. As is also known, possible winnings may be paid in cash, credit, one or more chips, markers, or prizes, or by other forms of payouts, as desired.

Various systems and methods for operating the floor of a casino or gaming establishment with its table game regions or “pits” have evolved gradually over the years, with innovations such as card shufflers, multi-deck shoes, and improved security cameras and systems all being introduced at times to better the manageability and efficiency of the gaming and floor operations processes. Some examples of gaming and casino floor management processes that have been traditionally conducted manually involve those concerning player headcounts, corresponding staffing, and “comping” (i.e., complimentary gifting or providing of token freebies or discounts) for high rollers and other VIP type players. In recent years, however, various forms of table game informational systems have become more and more popular, as some automated processes within the “pit” have demonstrated a significant cost savings over traditional pencil and paper methods.

In fact, one notable result of the use of automated systems is that lower end players that place a significant number of wagers can be tracked more readily and then comped more frequently than in the past, since such lower end players tend to be overlooked by traditional pencil and paper “eyeball” manual comping methods. Such results prove to be cost effective for the casinos, and can raise the morale and loyalties of dedicated middle to lower end players. One example of such an automated system is the IGT Table Touch™ system, a predecessor of which was originally introduced in 1996 by Tennecom Gaming Solutions, LLP, which is now owned by IGT of Reno, Nev. Features of this system include provisions for employee data entry, real-time data collection for employees, players and tables, and player profiling, among others. These and other features, and indeed all Table Touch™ systems, have only been introduced as solo systems in single locations to date, which is true for other such automated systems and devices in use as well.

The larger casino operators of today typically own multiple casinos or gaming establishments, however, and thus frequently desire systems with expanded capabilities. For example, many of these larger gaming operators have implemented various forms of player tracking cards associated with gaming machine use, with such cards being accepted at a plurality of casino properties, and with such cards being used with an associated central system for player tracking and gaming machine accounting. Conversely, there has never been a system that can serve multiple properties directly or indirectly through a plurality of systems over a wide area network (“WAN”) in association with table games or overall casino floor or pit management. Yet, as the Table Touch™ system and other similar technologies migrate into larger casinos and multi-property gaming entities, there will arise a need to provide multi-site support, whereby one system can serves multiple casinos or multiple systems serve multiple casinos from a central location over a wide area network.

Accordingly, there exists a desire for improved systems and methods for operating and managing table games and other activities on the floor of a casino or other gaming establishment in real time, and in particular for such systems and methods to involve the use of networked automated systems capable of tracking activities and communicating across a plurality of gaming properties.

SUMMARY

It is an advantage of the present invention to provide systems and methods for tracking and communicating data regarding table game activities across a plurality of gaming properties and establishments. This is accomplished by providing a wide area network of interconnected automated table game tracking units, along with one or more centralized tracking databases. The resulting system then permits casino or other gaming operators to track and analyze a wide variety of table game activities, data and indicators across the gaming tables within a single casino, as well as the gaming tables across a plurality of casinos and other gaming properties

The present invention involves a plurality of automated table tracking units over a wide area to provide centralized table tracking from either a single system or using multiple systems networked over a wide area. In the case of a single system, all tracking of tables are managed through a single database that may perform multiple functions such as player tracking, slot accounting and table tracking. In the case of multiple systems over a wide area, all tracking of tables can be managed through a centralized plurality of systems, each with their own databases interfacing to one or more player tracking databases over a wide area using a high speed network. In addition, a single centralized database for all systems may be implemented.

According to various embodiments of the present invention, the provided system involves the use of at least a plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units, a centralized computer server, and a communication link or path between each of the electronic gaming activity tracking units and the centralized computer server. Each of the electronic gaming activity tracking units can be adapted to facilitate and forward data regarding the tracking of player information, player activities, gaming table information, or a combination thereof at one or more gaming tables. In addition, the centralized computer server can be located remotely from at least one electronic gaming activity tracking unit, and can be adapted to receive and process the data forwarded from a plurality of the various electronic gaming activity tracking units. Of course, such gaming tables are of the type used to host table games involving the acceptance of monetary wagers and granting of monetary awards. Also, such table games can include a live table game including at least one live player and at least one live employee of the gaming establishment hosting the live table game.

In addition to the forgoing primary embodiment, further detailed embodiments can include one or more cameras adapted to capture visual information from the subject live gaming tables. Each such camera can also be adapted to forward visual data regarding this captured visual information to the centralized computer server. A communication link or path between each such cameras and the centralized computer server can also be provided, as appropriate. Further detailed embodiments might also include one or more RFID reading devices adapted to capture gaming chip RFID data from the subject live gaming tables. Each such RFID reading device can also similarly be adapted to forward some or all of the captured gaming chip RFID data to the centralized computer server. A communication link or path between each such RFID reading device and the centralized computer server can also be provided, as appropriate. Such RFID reading devices might be included in systems not having cameras, or could be in addition to those having one or more cameras as noted above.

Further, at least one centralized database in communication with the centralized computer server can be provided. Such a centralized database can be adapted to store and provide on demand any forwarded tracking data, as well as any forwarded visual or RFID data, if applicable. Such a centralized database can also contain files on a variety of different players, a variety of different gaming tables, or any combination thereof, as tracked by the various provided electronic gaming activity tracking units.

Further detailed embodiments can involve the provided system being a wide area network situated across multiple gaming establishments. In such embodiments, a first electronic gaming activity tracking unit can be located at a first gaming establishment, while a second electronic gaming activity tracking unit can be located at a second gaming establishment separate from the first gaming establishment. In some versions of such a wide area network, the data collected by a first unit at a first gaming establishment can be made available in real time to a user at a second unit at a second separate gaming establishment. Such an availability of data can be facilitated via transmission from or through the centralized computer server.

With respect to the detailed content of the various electronic gaming activity tracking units, such unit can provide a variety of items, including a table game calculator adapted to accept input regarding the play of a game and present a game outcome according to the rules of that game. Another item included on various electronic gaming activity tracking units can involve a basic user interface having a plurality of features, such as one or more of those involving real-time data collection, real-time graphical floor representation, real-time cage transaction requests, real-time comp requests, player profiling, player ratings editing, employee data entry, and system interfacing, among others. Various modules that can be included in one or more of the provided electronic gaming activity tracking units can include those involving staff alerts, cage communications, comp requests, host notifications, marker tracking, headcount tracking, chip tracking, bet tracking, player tracking and activity surveillance, among others.

According to yet other embodiments of the present invention, methods of tracking table game information are provided. Pertinent process steps can include receiving at a first automated electronic unit a first set of tracking data, receiving at a second automated electronic unit a second set of tracking data, forwarding both sets of tracking data electronically to a central computer server, analyzing the first set of tracking data and the second set of tracking data with respect to each other, and displaying information resulting from such an analysis. Such displays can take place at one or more displays associated with the first automated electronic unit, the second automated electronic unit, the central computer server, a separate terminal at a remote location, or any combination thereof, as desired. Also, the first and second sets of tracking data can include data regarding player information, player activities, gaming table information, or a combination thereof, with the first set of data coming from a first live table game at a first gaming establishment and the second set of data coming from a second live table game at a second gaming establishment.

Additional process steps can include storing the various sets of tracking data at a central database in communication with said central computer server, producing a set of modified data derived from one or more of the original sets of tracking data, storing this set of modified data at the central database, capturing with a camera one or more visual images of a player, a table activity or a combination thereof at a live table game, forwarding such visual images electronically from the camera to the central computer server, and associating one of these visual images with at least a portion of a set of tracking data associated with the respective table corresponding to the images. This associating step can include associating a picture of a player with tracked data regarding table game activity of that player. Still further process steps can include capturing with an RFID reading device table game chip RFID data of a player, a table activity or a combination thereof at a live table game, forwarding such RFID data electronically to the central computer server, and associating at least a portion of this RFID data with at least a portion of a set of tracking data associated with the respective table corresponding to the RFID data.

Other methods, features and advantages of the invention will be or will become apparent to one with skill in the art upon examination of the following figures and detailed description. It is intended that all such additional methods, features and advantages be included within this description, be within the scope of the invention, and be protected by the accompanying claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The included drawings are for illustrative purposes and serve only to provide examples of possible structures and elements for the disclosed wide area table gaming monitor and control systems and methods. These drawings in no way limit any changes in form and detail that may be made to the invention by one skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

FIG. 1A illustrates in front plan view an exemplary electronic gaming activity tracking unit within a table game setting.

FIG. 1B illustrates in block diagram format an exemplary software structure for an electronic gaming activity tracking unit.

FIG. 2 illustrates in block diagram format an exemplary system having various electronic gaming activity tracking units and associated surveillance cameras and RFID reading devices.

FIG. 3 illustrates in block diagram format an exemplary database containing player files and other relevant tracked data.

FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate in block diagram format two different ways of implementing the foregoing electronic gaming activity tracking units and systems over a WAN, according to various embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 5 illustrates a flowchart of an exemplary method of monitoring and controlling table games across a WAN according to one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Exemplary applications of systems and methods according to the present invention are described in this section. These examples are being provided solely to add context and aid in the understanding of the invention. It will thus be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced without some or all of these specific details. In other instances, well known process steps have not been described in detail in order to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the present invention. Other applications are possible, such that the following example should not be taken as definitive or limiting either in scope or setting.

In the following detailed description, references are made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part of the description and in which are shown, by way of illustration, specific embodiments of the present invention. Although these embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable one skilled in the art to practice the invention, it is understood that these examples are not limiting, such that other embodiments may be used, and changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

In general, the present invention relates to systems and methods for monitoring and controlling players and activities across a wide area network of live table games across a plurality of casinos or other gaming establishments, with such live table games possibly including, for example, blackjack, craps, pai-gow, baccarat, Carribean Stud, Spanish 21, Let It Ride and the like. Of course, any other similar gaming table or area that is used to host table or other live games involving the acceptance of wagers involving money or monetary equivalents and the granting of awards involving money or monetary equivalents can also be included. Such monitor and control systems and methods are desirable for a wide variety of reasons, including the ability to provide centralized databases and servers capable of processing, analyzing and storing input from numerous gaming tables across numerous disparate gaming properties. Such databases and servers can also be adapted to provide real-time information and analysis across any and all associated gaming properties. To this end, the provided systems and methods can include a plurality of electronic gaming activity tracking units associated with the various tracked gaming tables and areas.

At least one, and preferably all, of the provided electronic gaming activity tracking units can be adapted to facilitate the tracking and display of various aspects of player information, player activities, gaming table information, and any combination thereof at the various associated live gaming tables or areas. In addition, each of the electronic gaming activity tracking units can also be adapted to forward and receive tracking data regarding any and all tracked items and other information, including items and information tracked at other system locations. Such electronic gaming activity tracking units can include, for example, any of the various models or versions of the IGT Table Touch™ system type units, although any other similarly suitable electronic automated tracking units can also be used, as will be readily appreciated. Although it is possible to utilize one such electronic gaming activity tracking unit per live gaming table or area, it is thought to be more practical to associate one electronic tracking unit with several such gaming tables or areas, such as one electronic tracking unit per 6 or 8 gaming table pod or cluster. Of course, other ratios and groupings of gaming tables or areas may also be suitable, as will be readily appreciated.

Electronic Gaming Activity Tracking Units

In its basic form, the use of such electronic gaming activity tracking units transforms the art of rating and comping players from a time-consuming, meticulous pencil-and-paper endeavor to one of simplicity and ease by allowing a casino operator or other associated gaming personnel to enter player information quickly and easily with the touch of a few onscreen buttons or other suitable input mechanisms at the tracking unit. Preferably, a suitable “open architecture” design is implemented with each electronic gaming activity tracking unit to permit an easy integration with one or more already existing casino host systems. At least one suitable application program interface (“API”) may be required for each such integration to an existing system, as will be readily understood by those skilled in the art.

Through the use of such electronic gaming activity tracking units, a casino operator or other gaming personnel can use a touch screen or other convenient input apparatus to enter and edit player rating information, as well as to issue comp requests to a player tracking or other host system. In some embodiments such units can display a graphical representation of an associated casino floor layout, which can include, for example, color-coded tables that show what is happening at a glance. Such displays can also include opener, closer, fill, and credit information by table as well as drop, need, and hold information either by table, pit, or the entire floor, as well as various other display items, as desired. The use of such electronic tracking units can also allow a gaming operator to easily locate VIP and other notable players, and also provide access to detailed player informational items such as, for example, player history, current trip information, total buy-in amount, theoretical win, stop codes, CTR status, player rank, comments, skill level and typical betting ranges, among others.

As will be readily appreciated, such electronic gaming activity tracking units can also be adapted to display the name of the pit boss or supervisor for each section or floor area, indicate which games they are watching, and provides the names of players that they have rated. Customized “game rules” menus and screens to display rules for various games as well as in-house game policies can also be provided or user created. In addition, various game calculators customized to one or more games, as desired, can be used to compute various rule based plays, game outcomes and game payouts, as applicable, and also to customize several different types of reports, as noted in greater detail below. In one particular embodiment, a suitable electronic gaming activity tracking unit can be implemented using a Microsoft® Windows NT® 4.0 operating system, Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Professional TCP/IP, an SQL Server 2000® (database, various customized APIs or other interfaces presently available to slot systems and players club systems, and one or more APIs or other open interfaces to existing cage and credit systems, such as, for example PC, IBM® AS/400®, Tandem®, Stratus®, IBM® RS/6000®, and the like. In addition, pertinent portions of a suitable electronic gaming activity tracking unit can be adapted for wireless communications, such as over one or more radio frequency channels on a wireless network.

Various interfaces between one or more electronic gaming activity tracking unit and a variety of additional system or network components can also be provided. Such other system or network components can include cameras adapted to record visual information and/or RFID reading devices adapted to record gaming chip RFID data at or associated with the subject gaming activities. Further, bill validators and/or other monetary or credit input or tracking devices may be included, with such bill validators and/or other related devices being adapted to facilitate recordings of soft drop data, preferably in combination with any gaming chip RFID and/or camera data. Data from any and all of such cameras, RFID reading devices and/or bill validators can be collected at the table and then electronically communicated to a central server.

Turning first to FIG. 1A, an exemplary electronic gaming activity tracking unit within a table game setting is illustrated in front plan view. Electronic gaming activity tracking unit 10 preferably includes at a minimum at least one form of input and one form of output, such as a monitor 11 including a touch screen 12 and a base or other support item 13. Alternatively, various other input and output items such as a mouse, keyboard, RF transceiver, and/or speakers can also be used, among others. Touch screen 12 or other pertinent display can contain a number of selectable items, menus, submenus and the like, as well as a wide variety of logos and other background materials, as will be readily appreciated. Each tracking unit 10 can also comprise one or more local processing units, or, alternatively, can simple exist as a “dumb” input-output only terminal that is associated with processing units located elsewhere. As noted above, while tracking unit 10 can be associated with a single gaming table or event, each tracking unit preferably supports a plurality of gaming tables 15. Again, the exact number of gaming tables or areas per tracking unit can be altered as desired, although a suitable number is thought to be six.

FIG. 1B illustrates in block diagram format an exemplary software structure for a typical electronic gaming activity tracking unit. The tracking unit can have a basic interface component 20 that is adapted to interact with one or more users, such as through the touch screen 12 of tracking unit 10 above. From this basic interface, a typical tracking unit can have a number of basic components, which can include, for example, a Casino Reports component 21, a Pit Section component 22, a Ratings Editor component 23 and a Main Floor component 24, among others. Of course, the exact number, type and classification of such basic components can vary from tracking unit to tracking unit and from system to system, as desired. In addition, an Interface to System Server component 25 is adapted to permit the single tracking unit to be a part of an overall tracking system, such as a wide area table gaming monitor and control system. In some “wide area” embodiments, a distributed computing architecture is provided. Starting at each gaming table, raw data can be collected, combined and stored at a local table controller and/or storage device. Each such device can also communicate its data to a central location within the casino, gaming establishment, or other designated local area network (“LAN”), as appropriate, which central location collects and combines the data from each tracked gaming table. This central location within the casino or LAN then communicates this data to a centralized WAN base computer or server, which combines and stores data that is collected from multiple casinos, gaming properties and/or other individual LANs into a single WAN based database or table game data repository.

Further details for each of the foregoing exemplary basic tracking unit software components will now be provided.

Casino Reports

In a basic tracking unit component for “Casino Reports” or other similar reporting component 21, various displays and interactive modules can be provided for a variety of reporting items. Such items can include, for example, recorded player activity, shift and table analysis, and logged table accounting transactions, among others. Such displays or reports can be provided in the form of viewable and exportable HTML files, as well as through printable copies. Other suitable report formats may also be used, as will be readily appreciated. Examples of specific reports that can be provided include: Daily Player Reports; Player Inquiry (Detailed) Reports; Player Inquiry (Summary) Reports; Shift Analysis Reports; Table Analysis Reports; Rated Drop and Win Reports; Employee Reports; Ratings Reports; Exceptions Reports; and Credits (and Fills) Reports, among others. Of course, the exact internal categories, items, terminologies and display arrangements can vary across casinos and systems, as desired, and it is contemplated that these and/or any other suitable reports be included in such a Casino Reports or other reporting component of a tracking unit.

Pit Section

A “Pit Section” or other similar basic tracking unit component 22 is the primary interface that pit bosses and other floor supervisors use to enter player ratings and table inventory data, such that casino managers or other authorized persons can then view such information. Such a component is preferably made available at many or all tracking units across the floor of the casino or other gaming establishment. The Pit Section screen is preferably designed such that the time that such bosses supervisors spend performing administrative tasks is reduced, thus enabling them to spend more time with other productive endeavors, such as with customers, protecting games, and training dealers. An increase in the accuracy of rating players is one positive result of such a redirection of time and resources. In addition, potential rating input errors are further reduced through the ability of each tracking unit to upload data to a host system automatically at various intervals, such as a ratings close out or session end is selected.

In particular, the Pit Section tracking unit component 22 can be adapted to perform a number of tasks associated with actual player and transaction tracking and accounting at various gaming tables. For example, this component preferably tracks and records gaming activity, enters player ratings and player inventory data, and logs accounting and marker transactions. The Pit Section component can also be adapted to enable real-time requests for cage transactions to a casino host system, facilitate real-time comp requests via the Cage Communication Module and allow entry of headcount data on a timed or interval basis, among other functions. Specific items or functions that can be included within a Pit Section component can be, for example, Open or close a table; View the current rack, need figures, and inventory of a table; Edit an opening, closing, fill, or credit transaction; Issue fill or credit requests and view denomination breakdowns; Change a rack count of a table; Change a minimum bet of a table; Redeem and complete markers; Change shifts; Track dealers; View system messages; Enter or edit player rating information; Cancel, close, or edit player ratings; Designate the table position of a player (e.g., seat 1, table 4); Issue a comp request; Access detailed player information; Enter or edit grind, out, and rim play amounts; “Quick walk” a player or walk a player with “zero” or “chips”; and Access a notepad, game calculators, and the game rules screen, among others. As noted below, various player items, transactions and ratings can also be tracked and entered, including items such as player cash-in, chips-in, markers, average bet, win/loss, comments, and the like.

Various sub-components or modules may be part of Pit Section component 22, such as those for “RFID Chip Tracking” 30, “Calculators” 31 and “Headcount” 32, among other possibilities. A specialized radio frequency identification (“RFID”) Chip Tracking sub-component 30 can be used in conjunction with RFID based gaming chips, such as those that may be implemented for use on gaming tables in particular. Where such subject tables are adapted for use with RFID embedded gaming chips, one or more RFID reading devices placed at or about the gaming table can be adapted to read various gaming chip transactions and movements. Details of creating and implementing RFID based gaming chips and RFID reading devices at gaming tables can be found at, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,651,548 and 5,735,742 by French and Piehl, which references are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety and for all purposes. Advanced implementations of such RFID gaming chip and table game tracking technologies might also be provided by, for example, Magellan Technology Pty Limited of Annadale, Australia, among other vendors.

It is specifically contemplated that the RFID Chip Tracking sub-component 30 can be such a specific implementation, a similar independent implementation, or an interface to such an independent table game chip tracking technology. Regardless of the specific implementation, RFID Chip Tracking sub-component 30 is preferably adapted to forward RFID gaming chip data to one or more locations, such as a central LAN based server and/or database, as well as a centralized WAN based server and/or database or data repository. Of course, data may be forwarded to the ultimate WAN based server or database via a LAN based server. Where RFID Chip Tracking sub-component is an interface to an existing commercially independent RFID gaming chip tracking system, various APIs may need to be implemented between the independent system software and the electronic gaming activity tracking unit system software, as will be appreciated.

In a particularly useful embodiment, RFID Chip Tracking sub-component 30 can be adapted to work in conjunction with one or more bill acceptors and/or other suitable cash or credit tracking devices at the subject gaming tables or other tracked gaming activity locations. In such arrangements, cash or other suitable credit instruments can be input to a bill acceptor or other suitable device as part of a regular cash in and/or cash drop procedure at a gaming table or other suitable venue, whereupon a corresponding level of gaming chips are then provided to the player providing the cash or credit. An automated check can then be performed between the readings made of the bill acceptor or other suitable credit accepting drop device and the RFID reading devices to ensure that the proper level of gaming chips have been provided to the player. For example, where a player “buys in” at a tracked gaming table by providing a $100 bill, twenty $5 RFID embedded gaming chips might be provided to the player, such as in a manual transaction by the dealer. A bill acceptor at the table can register and “drop” the $100 bill, and then provide this information to the RFID Chip Tracking sub-component 30. Contemporaneously or soon thereafter, one or more RFID reading devices at the table can detect that twenty $5 RFID embedded gaming chips have been provided to the player, at which time this information can be correlated with the $100 cash drop information. In the event that 19 or 21 gaming chips have been inadvertently provided to the player, an alert can be provided.

With respect to a Calculators sub-component 31, various table game calculators can be used for a wide variety of functions. For example, a chip calculator can permit entry of chip and denomination, type of bet, result of game and proper payout for select table games. Specific calculators designed to function with particular table games can also be used. For example, a Roulette Calculator can provide exact definitions, as well as instant odds and payback on all possible placements of chips (i.e. wagers) during game play. Such calculators can be particularly useful where house rules have been put in place to dictate house plays for certain games. For example, a Pai-Gow Tiles Calculator can automatically set a house or dealer hand for any combination of four tiles, per the rules of the casino or gaming establishment hosting the game. A similar Pai-Gow Poker Calculator can similarly be used for setting a house or dealer hand for any combination of seven cards. Such calculators can be particularly useful for new or inexperienced dealers, as well as to settle disputes in some cases, if desired.

A separate “Headcount” or game utilization sub-component 32 can be used to track table usage, such that better decisions can be made regarding staffing, table designations, minimum bet amounts and other floor games considerations. Such a sub-component or module can be adapted to automatically record, compare, and relay customer density and table game information, such as table minimums, game types and areas, time of day and table shifts, among other tracked details. Presentations can be made in the form of raw data, as well as in the form of graphical charts and detailed or summary reports to key personnel, in order to assist with analysis of table games operation and optimize overall performance over one or a plurality of casinos. Through the use of such a “Headcount” component, a given casino or gaming operator can generate a tremendous return on investment through labor savings alone, not to mention the optimization provided through game selection and table minimums.

Ratings Editor

A “Ratings Editor” or other similar basic tracking unit component 23 can be adapted to permit various manipulations and communications regarding stored player ratings for tracked players. The Ratings Editor component preferably allows a user to, for example: Add, edit, or delete a rating; Print or export a rating record; and Merge two player accounts, among other items. Through the implementation of an automated rating system, of which the Ratings Editor component is a part, more players can be rated in a more efficient fashion, leading to more detailed attention, more comps, and the increased satisfaction of a greater amount of players overall. It is generally thought that players like the speed and accuracy of such an automated rating system, especially since it seems to take the mystery out of the comp process, and also results in more attention to low end players who tend to go unnoticed under traditional paper methods. In addition, a “Player Profiling” sub-component or module 33 can be included as a part of the Ratings Editor 23. Such a Player Profiling module is preferably adapted to assist in estimating a true win/loss value for a given patron visit or trip by allowing specialized ratings to track specific chip movements. Various values, parameters and factors can be customized into a given system for calculating such a win/loss value, with such items varying by casino or gaming establishment, as will be appreciated.

Main Floor

A “Main Floor” basic tracking unit component 24 can be provided to present a variety of items and data in real time. In particular, this component can be adapted to provide a real time graphical representation of items and data at a casino floor or across multiple property floors. This particular basic tracking unit component preferably provides access to various types of user profiles, such as, for example, Manager 34, Editor 35, Host 36 and Surveillance 37 types of profiles. The Main Floor component can also be adapted to configure table games density in conjunction with a “Headcount” 32 or other game utilization type module, as described below. In this regard, it will be understood that various sub-components or modules, such as Calculators 31, Headcount 32, Player Profiling 33 and Employees 38, may be associated with one primary basic tracking unit component, but may also be accessible from and have some elements associated with other tracking unit components as well.

The Main Floor sub-component Manager Login 34 can be adapted to allow an authorized user to, for example: Identify tables; View detailed pit information; View detailed table information; Change shifts; Search the floor for a table or a player (such as by name or customer number); Set the screen to automatically refresh at a user-defined time interval; Locate a patron record and view corresponding in-house activity, profile rating, player, credit, trip, and history information; Merge two player accounts; View the names of all in-house players currently being rated; View all ratings that have been closed for the current business day by pit; View ratings that require supervisor authorization (based on user-determined preset criteria) before they can be closed; Send a message to all pits; Search for, add, modify, or delete dealer personnel records; View all fills and credits for the current business day as well as their denomination breakdown; and View the names of all in-house players who meet or exceed a user-specified preferred theoretical value, among other activities and functions.

The Main Floor sub-component Editor Login 35 can be adapted to allow an operator to, for example: Configure the graphical display by adding, copying, pasting, rotating, flipping, or deleting tables; Turn the graphical display grid on or off; Create passwords; Configure what type of action the system takes after a user-defined number of failed login attempts; Create, edit, or delete system user accounts and user security groups; Add, edit, or delete comp request and terminal configurations; Add, edit, disable, or delete chip set configurations and assign chip sets to tables; Add, edit, disable, or delete denomination, rating type, and game configurations; Enable terminal mode to commandeer another system terminal in case of malfunction; and Configure general system, rating, and interface (communication) options, among other items.

The Main Floor sub-component Host Login 36 can be adapted to allow an operator certain restricted privileges, such as to, for example, set the player parameters that trigger the display of hosted and nonhosted players. Such player parameters can involve, for example, average bet, win/loss, buy-in, time played, and the like. In addition, the Host Login can be the component or sub-component associated with a specific “Employees” module 38. Such an Employees module can be adapted to allow various electronic gaming activity tracking unit users and their associated information to be easily added, enabled, disabled, or edited via the casino host system.

The Main Floor sub-component Surveillance Login 37 can be adapted to allow an operator to capture still images and/or video clips from the streaming video outputs of surveillance cameras, particularly those cameras that are able to focus on gaming tables associated with electronic gaming table activity tracking units. Cameras that are associated with the system can capture still and/or video images of various tracked players, as well as associated RFID gaming chip transactions, and the captured pictures and/or clips then be combined with other player profile data, such as that which is recorded in player files, to create a permanent surveillance and/or RFID gaming chip transaction record. In addition to recorded physical characteristics (e.g., gender, height, age, race, hair color, etc.), such recorded data can also include tracked player information, such as average player cash-in, chips-in, markers, average bet, win/loss, comments, and the like.

In addition, the surveillance sub-component or module can be configured for various alerts for games and floor events, as desired. For example, the various configured alerts and displays can include surveillance sensitive information over one or a plurality of casino properties, such as table transactions, refused names, celebrities, VIPs and high action patrons, among others. This sub-component can be adapted to track and forward such information to casino personnel. Casino staff may display all active players and attach still photos to the tracking account or each player to be viewed throughout the system, as desired.

Although the foregoing examples present a variety of specific components and sub-components, it will be readily appreciated that not all such exemplary items given are necessary, that others may be included, and that a virtually unlimited number of variations may be practiced with relative ease. Various additional table game system sub-components, modules or features may also be included. Such items may be incorporated as a separate sub-component or module, or may simply be added as features to an existing component or module.

For example, an “Alerts” feature can be provided in one or more of the foregoing system components. Such an Alerts feature might permit notices or messages to casino staff or personnel of important events on the casino floor. Specific items can include, for example, customer threshold, casino win/loss, headcount statistics, hosted and unhosted players and system maintenance, among others. Another feature can be directed toward “Cage Communication” types of events or transactions. Such items can include various table accounting transactions and cage communications, such as, for example, stable fills, credits, openers and closers, and voided table transactions, such as voided table fills and credits, among others. Yet another feature or subject item can be directed toward “Comp Requests.” Such a feature or module can provide for instantly submitting comp requests to a casino host system. In combination with the information provided from the various player tracking and rating features, such comp requests can be acted upon more quickly and accurately by those authorized to do so. Additional features can include, for example, a “Host Notification” feature or module, whereby casino hosts and designated personnel can be notified of the location and status of host coded patrons via on-screen displays, and a “Marker” feature or module, whereby customer markers, credits and marker redemptions can be requested from the casino host system and relays of marker redemption and void status from the casino host system can be made to table games personnel. Of course, a wide variety of additional features and modules may also be designed and implemented into one or more components or sub-components, as desired, and may be integrated over a WAN to a central server or computer system so as to allow corporate leaders or personnel to monitor activity remotely across a plurality of casinos or other gaming establishments.

System and Network Configurations

Turning now to FIG. 2, a block diagram of an exemplary system having various electronic gaming activity tracking units and associated surveillance cameras and RFID reading devices is illustrated. System 50 includes a plurality of gaming table activity tracking units 10 a, 10 b, a plurality of cameras 41, 42, and a plurality of RFID reading devices 43, 44 in communication with at least one centralized or remote server 60, 70. In one particular embodiment, system 50 can comprise a LAN of tracking units, cameras and RFID reading devices at a single casino or gaining establishment. Wall mount camera 41 and ceiling mount camera 42 behind a half-domed one-way glass are shown for purposes of illustration, but it will be understood that a variety of other types of cameras and/or settings might also be used as well. Also, although only two tracking units and two cameras are shown, it will be readily appreciated that several, dozens, hundreds or even more cameras and/or tracking units may be included in a given system or LAN. Further, while only two RFID reading devices are shown for purposes of illustration, it will be understood that each individual gaming table may have its own one, two or more such RFID reading devices, as set forth, for example, in previously noted and incorporated U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,651,548 and 5,735,742.

As illustrated, system 50 contains a plurality of tracking units 10 a, 10 b, a plurality of cameras 41, 42, and a plurality of RFID reading devices 43, 44 in a plurality of locations, with each system tracking unit, camera and RFID reading device preferably being connected to various system devices through one or more wired or wireless communication links. Any suitable communication means can be used to connect the tracking units, cameras and RFID reading devices to the system. For example, a common system or network bus 51 can connect some or all of these tracking units, cameras and RFID reading devices with other system components, such as, for example, a general-purpose server 60, one or more special-purpose servers 70, a sub-network of peripheral devices 80, and/or a database 90. Also, direct proprietary communication lines, a token ring, or any of a variety of more secure communication means can be used. In addition, any of a variety of secure data encryption methods or systems may be used to preserve the integrity of the transmitted data. Separate gaming activity tracking units can also be in direct communication, such as by link 52.

General-purpose server 60 may be one that is already present within an establishment for one or more other purposes in lieu of or in addition to operations for an electronic table game tracking system and/or surveillance system. Other functions for such a networked general-purpose server can include, for example, accounting and payroll functions, Internet and e-mail capabilities, switchboard communications, reservations and other hotel and restaurant operations, and other assorted general establishment operations. In some instances, table game tracking and/or surveillance functions may also be associated with or performed by such a general-purpose server. For example, such a server may be linked to one or more tracking units, cameras and/or RFID reading devices within an establishment, and in some cases form a local area network that includes all or substantially all of the tracking units, cameras and RFID reading devices within that establishment. Communications can then be exchanged from each table game tracking unit 10 a, 10 b, camera 41, 42 and/or RFID reading device 43, 44 to records and programs on the general-purpose server 60.

In a preferred embodiment, however, system 50 also has at least one special purpose gaming activity tracking host or server 70 used for various functions relating to gaming activity tracking, video surveillance and/or other pertinent events on the various appropriate tracking units, cameras and RFID reading devices in the system. Such an additional special purpose server is desirable for a variety of reasons, such as to lessen the burden on the general-purpose server or to isolate or wall off some or all gaming activity tracking information from the general-purpose server and thereby limit the possible modes of access to such information. Alternatively, exemplary gaming system 50 can be isolated from any other network at the establishment, such that a general-purpose server 60 is essentially impractical and unnecessary.

Under either embodiment of an isolated or shared network, one or more of the special-purpose servers are preferably connected to sub-network 80, which might include, for example, a cashier station or a terminal at an executive office, among others. Peripheral devices in this sub-network may include, for example, one or more video displays 81, one or more user terminals 82, one or more printers 83, and one or more other input devices 84, such as a card reader or other security identifier, among others. Under either embodiment of an isolated or shared network, at least the specialized server 70 or another similar component within a general-purpose server 60 preferably includes a connection to a database or other suitable storage medium 90. Database 90 can be adapted to store many or all files containing pertinent tracked data or information, as desired. Files, data and other information on database 90 can be stored for backup purposes, and are preferably accessible at one or more system locations, such as at a general-purpose server 60, a special purpose server 70 and/or a cashier station, executive office or other sub-network location 80, as desired.

Further, while system 50 can be a system that is specially designed and created new for use in a casino or gaming establishment, it is also possible that many items in this system can be taken or adopted from an existing gaming system. For example, system 50 could represent an existing player tracking system to which one or more of the inventive components or program modules are added. In addition to new hardware in the form of electronic gaming activity tracking units, new functionality via new software, modules, updates or otherwise can be provided, as needed. In this manner, the methods and systems of the present invention may be practiced at reduced costs by gaming operators that already have existing gaming systems, by simply modifying the existing system. Other modifications to an existing system may also be necessary, as might be readily appreciated. Of course, new components can also be provided across the system, and an entirely new and independent system can also be created, as desired.

Referring now to FIG. 3, a block diagram of an exemplary database containing player files and other relevant tracked data is illustrated. As similarly illustrated in FIG. 2, database 90 can be made accessible to one or more servers, preferably at least central specialized server 70, and can have a connection to a network 80 of one or more peripheral devices. Database 90 can contain information or data files related to specific tracked players, as well as other items of information on other tracked items within the system. Although many different arrangements are possible, such files can be classified according to “Patron Files” 91 and “Other Tracked Data” 92, with such other tracked data including, for example, RFID gaming chip transaction data, other data on headcount, drops, fills, staffing and other pertinent tracked items not related to specific patrons. An exemplary file for Patron A 91A is shown for purposes of illustration. While various stored items are provided, it will be understood that not all such items need be associated with any patron files, and that other items may also be included as desired.

Items that can be recorded in association with a given patron can include, for example, a patron name, number, membership date and level, typical games played, typical betting levels, specific RFID gaming chip transactional data, an establishment value rating assigned to the patron, a current or general comp level, security information, and one or more identification files, such as still images or video clips, among others. Specific items that can be tracked, stored and provided for analysis elsewhere on the database or system, such as in Other Tracked Data 92, can include, for example, specific staffing assignments, player counts per table over time, actual table game chip and token transactions, currency and currency-equivalent transactions, overall bet, game play and win/loss data by table, pit, bank, game type, and property, among others. Of course, analysis of raw data can also be put into one or more data formats, which items may also be stored at database 90.

As will be readily apparent, use of the foregoing electronic gaming activity tracking units and system can relieve many of the traditional manual procedures and the various inherent problems associated therewith. Gaming table and specific player activities can be tracked more easily and accurately in less time, such that better and more dynamic comps and general attention can be given to players, as warranted. Statistics can be compiled, recorded, compared and analyzed more readily, often in real time, as opposed to the days required to enter such items under traditional methods. As a result, meaningful decisions can be made in real time, with results being observable within days or hours, rather than weeks or months. In addition, the use of cameras to provide images associated with identified players enhances the overall system in a variety of ways. Not only can better service be provided to all identified players, often by personnel who have never met a given player before, but added security features can be utilized through a system having better surveillance, recording and alert functions.

Turning now to FIGS. 4A and 4B, block diagrams of two different ways of implementing the foregoing electronic gaming activity tracking units and systems over a WAN are illustrated. In FIG. 4A, WAN 100 is essentially a single system of tracking units across multiple gaming properties 101, 102, 103, 104. As shown, these properties are casinos A, B, C and D, although it will be appreciated that any other suitable gaming property may be substituted. In addition, it will be readily appreciated that fewer or more than four gaming properties may be included across WAN 100. Various electronic gaming activity tracking units can be placed at each of the gaming properties 101, 102, 103, 104, and these units are all managed at a centralized location 105, such as a corporate office or multi-property headquarters. Preferably, communications to and from all tracking units are routed directly to a centrally located basic gaming activity tracking system 120, which has an interface 125 to system server 170 having an associated database 190. The system server 170, database 190 and various other system components not shown can be similar to those discussed above for system 50.

Although many components of WAN 200 can be the same or similar to those provided in the system 50 adapted for a single establishment, various other items are preferably added to facilitate scalability issues and communications across multiple gaming properties. One possible mode of communication across multiple properties at multiple locations can involve the use of modems and telephone lines, while another could involve access over the Internet through any of a variety of Internet connection modes. A proprietary network involving custom wired and/or wireless connections is also possible. Added equipment for such an implementation can include additional computers used at each gaming property to cache and regulate the flow of data to the centralized location and other gaming related systems, as well as additional computers at centralized location 105 that can be used to cache and regulate the flow of data to each gaming property and to other gaming related systems.

Alternatively, an implementation of tracking units and systems across multiple disparate gaming properties can involve the use of several independent systems, such as that which is shown for WAN 200 of FIG. 4B. As in the foregoing example, WAN 200 also involves four separate casinos A, B, C and D, although it will be readily appreciated that other types of gaming properties and other numbers of casinos and/or other gaming properties can be included in WAN 200. As in the foregoing example, a centralized location 205, such as a corporate office, can be implemented to facilitate communications with and host system wide components for the entire WAN, such as a system wide server 270W and system wide “Central Player Database” 290W. Unlike that which is shown for WAN 100 in FIG. 4A, however, WAN 200 is made up of one or more independent LANs 201, 202, 203, 204. As shown, each of casinos A-D has its own independent LAN, each of which can be substantially similar to that of system 50 discussed above. As such, each LAN has its own local basic system, server and database. For example, casino A has its own local basic system 220A, server 270A and database 290A, as well as an interface 225A to the centralized location 205 having centralized system wide server 270W and system wide database 290W. Similar items 220B-D, 270B-D, 290B-D and 225B-D are present for each of casinos B, C and D.

As will be readily appreciated, several additional advantages can be realized through the implementation of WAN 200. Besides having one centralized location where data across all properties of the WAN can be accumulated, stored and analyzed, each WAN property can have its own separate and independent system. Thus, while power outages or communications delays may affect one or more WAN properties 201-204 and/or the centralized location 205, each property can have its own independent set of computing components, database and data, such that real time access to at least the data at a given property cannot be affected by problems at one or more other locations of WAN 200. Having such separate components can also serve as backup, in case one or more WAN properties 201-204 and/or the centralized location 205 ultimately fails, and can also provide a second source for checking data, if needed.

Methods of Use

Whether implemented as WAN 100, WAN 200, or some combination thereof, any WAN of multiple properties having tracking units can provide further benefits not found in a simple single property system. As will be readily appreciated, the ability to monitor multiple disparate properties at different locations from a single location in real time can provide an immense advantage to an operator controlling multiple properties. For example, a WAN can be adapted to provide a network wide “Headcount” or “corporate utilization” component. As in the single system headcount, tracking can be made of items such as customer density, table minimums, game types and areas, time of day and table shifts, among others, only across all WAN properties. Comparisons and analysis can then be made across each individual property and across all properties as a whole, such that better decisions can be made regarding staffing, table designations, minimum bet amounts and other floor games considerations across the entire WAN. The ability to track in real time can also provide the advantage of quick feedback where an operator decides to tinker with one or more floor details.

Another example of an added advantage to utilizing the foregoing tracking units across a WAN is the ability to track notable players and other persons more readily and easily. Through use of the system surveillance cameras, RFID gaming chip transaction tracking capabilities, and player files on system databases, video and observed information can be continually noted and recorded for a notable player or person, such as a “high roller,” VIP, celebrity, known cheat or the like. Not only can this information be used to identify and track a particular player from session to session at a single property, but it can also be used to track a person across multiple properties. For example, where a notable player or person is leaving one casino and is headed for another, a note or message entered into a tracking unit at one property can notify one or more other properties of such a move. Whereas such player movements have traditionally been tracked manually, such as by telephone contacts from location to location (e.g., “John Doe is leaving here after winning a $5000 jackpot, and is headed your way”), a simple entry into one tracking unit of a WAN can now notify all other tracking units and WAN locations of such a move (e.g., John Doe at Casino A from 8:30 until now; Total net from Casino A to Mr. Doe of $5022; Mr. Doe now headed toward Casino B).

Although useful as a simple communication tool, such as shown above, such a feature can also be very useful in tracking casino hoppers, such as cheats who hit different casino(s) every night, but usually do not stay in one place for long and who typically do not hit a given casino often or regularly. For example, a player who uses an illegal or frowned upon system to take a few hundred dollars from a casino in a typical system may go undetected if he or she does not frequent any particular casino. However, where a WAN of many casinos is able to see that this player nets that same few hundred dollars from many casinos in the WAN on a regular or semi-regular basis, then higher scrutiny can be paid to such a player. As such, additional tracked data, still images and/or video clips of that player can be recorded and added to the player file for that player at the Central Player Database 270W.

Turning now to FIG. 5, a flowchart conveying an exemplary method of monitoring and controlling table games across a WAN according to one embodiment of the present invention is shown. While this flowchart may be comprehensive in some respects, it will be readily understood that not every step provided is necessary, that other steps can be included, and that the order of steps might be rearranged as desired by a given gaming operator or other pertinent party. After start step 300, the first pair of process steps involve determining the number of different sets of tracking data that are to be used in a given instance. At process step 302, the number of different sets is determined, and the variable “T” is set to equal this number, while at process step 304, the counter “N” is set at 1. In effect, steps 302, 304, 320 and 322 primarily involve determining the number of times that steps 306 through 318 are performed.

At subsequent process step 306, tracking data set “N” is received. Such a receipt of tracking data can take place at, for example, a given electronic gaming activity tracking unit. For purposes of illustration, where “N”=1, this could involve “Data Set 1” being received at “Tracking Unit A1” at “Casino A,” and where “N”=2, this could involve “Data Set 2” being received at “Tracking Unit B2” at “Casino B.” An inquiry can then be made at decision step 308 as to whether a visual image and/or video clip exists or is desired for Data Set N. If no image or clip is present or desired, then the method continues to decision step 312.

If a visual images and/or video clip exists, however, then the method moves to process step 309, where “Visual Image N” is captured. Visual Image N can then be forwarded to a processing unit, such as a central server, at process step 310. Visual Image N can also be associated with Data Set N at process step 311, such as by storing the subject visual image or video clip with a file associated with Data Set N, for example. Of course, more than one image and/or video clip can be involved, and it will be understood that the process can be repeated as suitable for each such image or clip. Where multiple visual images and/or video clips are to be associated with a given Data Set N, such items can be denoted as Visual Image N1, Visual Image N2, and so forth, or by any other suitable approach, as desired.

The method then moves to decision step 312, where an inquiry is made as to whether gaming chip RFID data exists or is desired for Data Set N. If no gaming chip RFID data is present or desired, then the method continues to process step 316. If such gaming chip RFID data exists or is desired, however, then the method continues to process steps 313 through 315, which are similar in nature to process steps 309 through 311 for visual images above. At step 313, “Gaming Chip RFID Data N” is captured, after which this captured data or at least a portion thereof is forwarded to the central server at step 314. Gaming Chip RFID Data N can then be similarly associated with overall Data Set N at step 315, such as by storing or incorporating at least a portion of this RFID data with a file associated with Data Set N. Again, more than one set of RFID data may be involved, and it will be understood that the process can be repeated as suitable for each such additional RFID data set, with further designations of data, data portions, data sets or data subsets where deemed appropriate.

The method then continues to process step 316, where Data Set N is itself forwarded to a processing unit, such as a central server. Data Set N can then be stored at a database, such as a central database associated with a central server. This can be a local database on a given LAN and/or Central Player Database 290W, as noted above. Of course, the forwarding and storing of Data Set N can occur before or simultaneously with the forwarding, storing and/or associating of one or more visual images and/or video clips, as will be readily appreciated. At subsequent decision step 320, an inquiry is made as to whether the current value of counter “N” is equal to “T,” which again is the total number of data sets involved for a given process. If not, then the method continues to process step 322, where N is incremented by 1, after which the method reverts to process step 306 and repeats steps 306 through 320 for the next data set.

When all data sets have been received, forwarded and stored, along with any associated visual images, then the method moves on from decision step 322 to process step 324, where multiple sets of tracking data are analyzed. For the present illustrative example, this would involve only Data Set 1 and Data Set 2, although it will be readily appreciated that any number of data sets could be involved. As noted above, this could thus involve Data Set 1 from a unit at Casino A and Data Set 2 from a unit at Casino B, which could be analyzed at, for example a corporate office or other central or remote location. After multiple sets of tracking data are analyzed, the results are then displayed at process step 326, which might take place at, for example, the same corporate office where the data was analyzed.

At process step 328, modified data can be produced based on one or more of the received data sets. For example, a modified set of data showing pertinent sums and/or differences between various items from Data Set 1 and the same or similar items from Data Set 2 can be produced. As one particular example, where the average table density for a given hour at the few $10 blackjack tables monitored at Casino A in Data Set 1 is 50%, and the average table density for that same hour at the few $10 blackjack tables monitored at Casino B in Data Set 2 is 80%, then a Modified Data Set can include a “Difference Value” of 30% in average table density for $10 blackjack tables between Casinos A and B for that hour. As another specific example, session totals for different playing sessions of a specific player, such as “John Doe,” may comprise Data Set 1 and Data Set 2. The modified data may then represent differences in trends that are noticed and tracked for this player, depending upon how he plays at different casinos. Of course, many other specifics and types of data can be tracked, analyzed and modified, as desired. At subsequent process step 330, the modified data is then stored at a database, such as a central database. The method then ends at end step 332. Again, various details and additional steps may similarly be included, not all steps discussed herein may be practiced in a given embodiment, and it is specifically contemplated that many variations of these exemplary methods may also be practiced.

Although the foregoing invention has been described in detail by way of illustration and example for purposes of clarity and understanding, it will be recognized that the above described invention may be embodied in numerous other specific variations and embodiments without departing from the spirit or essential characteristics of the invention. Certain changes and modifications may be practiced, and it is understood that the invention is not to be limited by the foregoing details, but rather is to be defined by the scope of the appended claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/16
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3237, G07F17/3239, G07F17/3255, G07F17/32
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32E6D, G07F17/32E6D2, G07F17/32K10
Legal Events
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Jul 6, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: IGT, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:ROWE, RICHARD E.;LANCASTER, ERIC W.;MILLER, STEVEN J.;REEL/FRAME:016481/0338;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050613 TO 20050620