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Publication numberUS20070045959 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/428,244
Publication dateMar 1, 2007
Filing dateJun 30, 2006
Priority dateAug 31, 2005
Also published asWO2007027942A1
Publication number11428244, 428244, US 2007/0045959 A1, US 2007/045959 A1, US 20070045959 A1, US 20070045959A1, US 2007045959 A1, US 2007045959A1, US-A1-20070045959, US-A1-2007045959, US2007/0045959A1, US2007/045959A1, US20070045959 A1, US20070045959A1, US2007045959 A1, US2007045959A1
InventorsRichard Soltys
Original AssigneeBally Gaming, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Gaming table having an inductive interface and/or a point optical encoder
US 20070045959 A1
Abstract
A gaming table includes an inductive interface and/or a point optical encoder. The inductive interface is located beneath a playing surface of the gaming table and electromagnetically communicates with devices on the gaming table, such as a card shoe. The inductive interface generates an electromagnetic field between the source and the device without these items being in physical contact. Both electrical power and data are transferable through the electromagnetic field. Both the inductive interface and the devices are programmable. The point optical encoder can be in electromagnetic communication with the inductive interface and operate to optically read cards, successively, as the cards are individually removed from the card shoe. The inductive interface generates an electromagnetic field between the source and the device without these items being in physical contact. Both electrical power and data are transferable through the electromagnetic field. Both the inductive interface and the devices are programmable.
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Claims(25)
1. A gaming system comprising:
at least one device having a first inductive interface member; and
a gaming table having a second inductive interface member located beneath a table surface, the first inductive interface member of the at least one device operably responsive to the second inductive interface member, wherein at least a portion of the table surface physically separates the at least one device from the second inductive interface member of the gaming table.
2. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the at least one device is configured to enhance play at the gaming table.
3. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the second inductive member of the gaming table comprises a first planar coil positioned therein.
4. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the first inductive interface of at least one device comprises a coil operable to carry a current induced from an electromagnetic field.
5. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the second inductive interface of the gaming table comprises a coil operable to generate an electromagnetic field when the coil is subjected to an alternating current.
6. The gaming system of claim 1 wherein the table surface is a felt cover that covers at least a portion of the gaming table.
7. A gaming table configured to carry at least one device, the gaming table comprising:
a playing surface on which a game is played;
a first inductive member positioned beneath the playing surface; and
a second inductive member positioned within a device, the first inductive member operable to be in electromagnetic communication with the second inductive member, wherein at least a portion of the table surface physically separates the first inductive member from the second inductive member.
8. The gaming table of claim 7 wherein the first inductive member and the second inductive member exchange machine-readable data via the electromagnetic communication.
9. The gaming table of claim 7 wherein the first inductive member transfers electrical power to the second inductive member via the electromagnetic communication.
10. The gaming table of claim 7 wherein the playing surface is opposed by a bottom surface.
11. The gaming table of claim 10 wherein the first inductive member is positioned beneath the bottom surface.
12. The gaming table of claim 10 wherein the first inductive member includes at least one inductive coil positioned beneath the bottom surface.
13. The gaming table of claim 7 wherein the playing surface includes:
an insulator member having a top surface and a bottom surface; and
a felt cover having a top surface opposed from a bottom surface, wherein the top surface of the insulator member is coupled to the bottom surface of the felt cover.
14. The gaming table of claim 7 wherein the first inductive member includes a first coil and the device includes a second coil.
15. A gaming table having a playing surface and at least one device located proximate to the gaming table, the at least one device having a device inductive member, the gaming table comprising:
a table inductive member positioned beneath the playing surface; and
a power source coupled to the table inductive member to induce an inductive interface between the table inductive member and the device inductive member.
16. The gaming table of claim 15 wherein the table inductive member and the device inductive member exchange machine-readable data via the inductive interface.
17. The gaming table of claim 15 wherein the table inductive member transfers electrical power to the device inductive member via the inductive interface.
18. A gaming system comprising:
table means for supporting at least one device;
cover means for covering the table means;
first inductive means for carrying a current in the presence of an electromagnetic field, the first inductive means positioned in the at least one device; and
second inductive means for generating the electromagnetic field, wherein the second inductive means is physically separated from the first inductive means by at least a portion of the cover means.
19. The gaming system of claim 18 wherein the cover means comprises a felt cover that covers at least a portion of the table means.
20. The gaming system of claim 18 wherein the first inductive means comprises a coil positioned in the at least one device.
21. The gaming system of claim 18 wherein the second inductive means comprises a coil positioned below a top surface of the cover means.
22. A method of communication between a device positioned near a gaming table and the gaming table, the gaming table having a first inductive member and the device having a second inductive member positioned to form or interface with the first inductive member, the method comprising:
energizing the first inductive interface of the gaming table to generate an electromagnetic field; and
receiving an amount of electromagnetic energy at the second inductive interface of the device from the generated electromagnetic field.
23. The method of claim 22 wherein energizing the first inductive interface of the gaming table includes supplying a plurality of electrical signals encoding information to the first inductive interface.
24. A gaming table having a playing surface, the gaming table comprising:
a card shoe positioned on the playing surface of the gaming table, the card shoe including a housing and a chute, the housing holding a plurality of playing cards, the chute configured to permit the playing cards to be removed, one-at-a-time, from the card shoe; and
a point optical encoder positioned in the gaming table proximate the chute of the card shoe, the point optical encoder including an illumination source and a sensor, the illumination source operable to direct light onto at least a portion of at least one of the playing cards after the at least one of the playing cards is removed from the card shoe, the sensor positioned to receive at least some of the light reflected from the at least one of the playing cards.
25. The gaming table of claim 24 wherein the illumination source is an infrared light source.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/713,272 filed Aug. 31, 2005.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This description generally relates to the field of table gaming, and more particularly to devices for automating the play and/or monitoring of activities associated with table games, card games in particular.

2. Description of the Related Art

Gaming tables come in three main forms, card tables, craps tables, and roulette tables. Card tables are the most prominent on most casino floors. Games like blackjack, pai gow, baccarat, and poker are all played on card tables. The dealer is usually on one side of the table while the players form a half circle around the table.

Craps tables are typically shaped as a tub. Craps tables have a place for two dealers and a box area for a dice-throwing participant to stand or sit at one end of the table. The non-dice-throwing participants gather around the rest of the table and place their bets wherever they can find a spot.

Another type of gaming table is a roulette table, which is a long table with a roulette wheel located at one end. The surface of the table has a layout of numbers where wagering participants place wagers.

Many casinos, regardless of the type of gaming table, are moving toward automating their gaming tables in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes, which often overlap, such as security, player tracking, employee tracking, game efficiency, and others. In general, security devices may include video cameras, card shoes, card shoe readers, and/or card discard readers; player and/or employee tracking devices may include magnetic card strip readers; game efficiency devices may include automatic card shuffling machines, chip trays, and/or a NO PEEK® device used in blackjack. These various devices represent just a small sample of the types of equipment that may be located on, in, or near a gaming table. In many cases, these devices are in communication with each other and/or with a local or remote computer system.

The aforementioned devices are generally connected to the gaming table and/or computer network through an array of cables, attachments, and electrical connections that must be routed, separated, insulated, maintained, and monitored under each gaming table. The devices may need to be disconnected and then reconnected whenever maintenance is performed on the table, for example changing out the table felt, and/or if the casino wants to re-configure the table, for example converting a blackjack table to a baccarat table. Dealing with these numerous connections increases the time, and thus the cost, to change a table felt or re-configure the table. In the gaming industry, it is important that the gaming table and/or automated device be operative throughout the day as much as possible. The casinos do now want to have to turn patrons away due to lack of space, perceived crowded conditions, and/or unavailability of a preferred table.

As described above, automating a gaming table often requires the interaction among a number of devices, some of which may include sensitive and fragile optical equipment. One such device is a card shoe reader that includes optical equipment for optically reading the playing cards before or as the cards are removed from the card shoe reader. If the card shoe reader becomes damaged or inoperative, it may be time consuming to remove and replace the card shoe reader, during which time the gaming table will not be available for play. Thus, it would be desirable to use a card shoe, which does not include optical equipment, yet still be able to quickly and accurately read playing cards before the cards are provided to the participants of the game. It is further desired that such a system for accurately reading cards be less expensive than existing card shoe readers with optical equipment incorporated therein.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, a gaming system includes at least one device having a first inductive interface member; and a gaming table having a second inductive interface member located beneath a table surface, the first inductive interface member of the at least one device operably responsive to the second inductive interface member, wherein at least a portion of the table surface physically separates the at least one device from the second inductive interface member of the gaming table.

In another aspect, a gaming table configured to carry at least one device includes a playing surface on which a game is played; a first inductive member positioned beneath the playing surface; and a second inductive member positioned within a device, the first inductive member operable to be in electromagnetic communication with the second inductive member, wherein at least a portion of the table surface physically separates the first inductive member from the second inductive member.

In yet another aspect, a gaming table having a playing surface and at least one device located proximate to the gaming table, the at least one device having a device inductive member, the gaming table includes a table inductive member positioned beneath the playing surface; and a power source coupled to the table inductive member to induce an inductive interface between the table inductive member and the device inductive member.

In still yet another aspect, a gaming system includes table means for supporting at least one device; cover means for covering the table means; first inductive means for carrying a current in the presence of an electromagnetic field, the first inductive means positioned in the at least one device; and second inductive means for generating the electromagnetic field, wherein the second inductive means is physically separated from the first inductive means by at least a portion of the cover means.

In still yet another embodiment, a method of communication between a device positioned near a gaming table and the gaming table, the gaming table having a first inductive member and the device having a second inductive member positioned to form or interface with the first inductive member, the method includes energizing the first inductive interface of the gaming table to generate an electromagnetic field; and receiving an amount of electromagnetic energy at the second inductive interface of the device from the generated electromagnetic field.

In yet another embodiment, a gaming table having a playing surface includes a card shoe positioned on the playing surface of the gaming table, the card shoe including a housing and a chute, the housing holding a plurality of playing cards, the chute configured to permit the playing cards to be removed, one-at-a-time, from the card shoe; and a point optical encoder positioned in the gaming table proximate the chute of the card shoe, the point optical encoder including an illumination source and a sensor, the illumination source operable to direct light onto at least a portion of at least one of the playing cards after the at least one of the playing cards is removed from the card shoe, the sensor positioned to receive at least some of the light reflected from the at least one of the playing cards.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings, identical reference numbers identify similar elements or acts. The sizes and relative positions of elements in the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale. For example, the shapes of various elements and angles are not drawn to scale, and some of these elements are arbitrarily enlarged and positioned to improve drawing legibility. Further, the particular shapes of the elements as drawn, are not intended to convey any information regarding the actual shape of the particular elements, and have been solely selected for ease of recognition in the drawings.

FIG. 1 is a rear, top, left side, isometric view of a gaming environment with a gaming table that includes an inductive interface member and a point optical encoder, according to one illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 2 is a schematic view of one inductive interface member in a gaming table in electromagnetic communication with another inductive interface member located in a device carried by the gaming table, according to one illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 3 is a schematic view of a layout of an inductive interface system in a gaming table, according to one illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 4 is a schematic view of another layout of an inductive interface system in a gaming table, according to another illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of a top portion of a gaming table comprising a cover and an insulator, in which inductive interface members are located beneath the insulator, according to the illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of the top portion of the gaming table of FIG. 5 in which inductive interface members are located beneath the cover, according to another illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 7 is a bottom, plan view of a bottom surface of a top portion of a gaming table, in which the bottom surface includes a wound coil inductive interface member, according to one illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of the top portion of the gaming table and the wound coil inductive interface member taken along line 8-8 of FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a side, elevational view of a gaming table having a recessed pocket formed therein and an inductive interface member positioned in the pocket and in electromagnetic communication with a card shoe reader, according to one illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 10 is a top, plan view of a playing surface of the gaming table of FIG. 1 showing one layout of inductive interface members.

FIG. 11 is a top, plan view of a playing surface of the gaming table of FIG. 1 showing another layout of inductive interface members.

FIG. 12 is a side elevational view of a gaming table having a point optical encoder and a card shoe positioned nearby.

FIG. 13 is a schematic view of the point optical encoder of FIG. 12 reading a playing card.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In the following description, certain specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of various embodiments of the invention. However, one skilled in the art will understand that the invention may be practiced without these details. In other instances, well-known structures associated with computers, computer networks, communications interfaces, power interfaces, power sources, power converters, power supplies and/or optical readers have not been shown or described in detail to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the description.

Unless the context requires otherwise, throughout the specification and claims which follow, the word “comprise” and variations thereof, such as, “comprises” and “comprising” are to be construed in an open, inclusive sense, that is as “including, but not limited to.”

Reference throughout this specification to “one embodiment” or “an embodiment” means that a particular feature, structure or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment. Thus, the appearances of the phrases “in one embodiment” or “in an embodiment” in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment. Furthermore, the particular features, structures, or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more embodiments.

The headings provided herein are for convenience only and do not interpret the scope or meaning of the claimed invention.

This description generally relates to a casino gaming table having at least some devices or systems associated with a gaming table. Power and/or cameras can be provided without physically connecting the devices or systems to electrical connectors. The devices or systems associated with gaming may be used to automate, enhance, monitor, and/or detect some aspect of the game being played at the gaming table, the dealer's actions, and/or the player's actions.

For purposes of clarity and brevity, the gaming table described and illustrated herein is a blackjack gaming table. However, it is understood and appreciated that this description is generally applicable to a variety of casino-type games and/or gaming tables.

Gaming Table Having Automation Devices

FIG. 1 shows a gaming environment 10 where a card game such as blackjack is played at a gaming table 12 by a number of customers or players 14 and a game operator or dealer 16. Again, while blackjack is used as an example, the teachings herein are applicable to a variety of wagering games and/or gaming tables on which games like craps, baccarat, poker, wheel of fortune, and/or roulette, for example, may be played.

The gaming table 12 includes a top or playing surface 18 where the majority of the gaming action occurs during the game. Gaming table surfaces are typically made of a felt-type material and are demarcated with printed symbols identifying areas on the table that have special purposes. For example, on the blackjack table 12, there are typically seven to nine player positions, with seven shown in the illustrated embodiment. Each player position aligns with an associated wagering area or betting circle 20 printed on the gaming table 12. The wagering area 20 indicates where a particular player should place a wager 22 during the game. Some examples of making and installing gaming table covers are discussed in detail in U.S. patent application No. 10/981,132, filed on Nov. 3, 2004. In addition, the gaming table 12 can have a padded rim 24, which gives the players 14 a place to lean or rest and helps to prevent items, such as cards, dice, or chips, from being accidentally or surreptitiously moved onto or off of the gaming table 12.

The table surface 18 may carry one or more devices or systems for automating, enhancing, monitoring, and/or detecting some aspect of the game being played at the gaming table. These devices or systems are illustrated on the surface 18 in the illustrated embodiment, but can also be located partially or completely under the table 12, in the table 12, or somewhere in proximity to the table, for example a video camera (not shown) mounted above the table 12. In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1, a drop box 26, a card shoe reader 28, a discard reader 30, and a chip tray 32 are located on the table surface 18. The function and/or purpose of each of these devices will be briefly described.

The drop box 26 is where the dealer 16 deposits a player's currency, voucher, or other payment in exchange for gaming chips 22 (i.e., “a buy in”).

The card shoe reader 28 holds and stores the cards 34 during the game and may or may not include an automatic shuffling mechanism. The dealer 16 typically removes the cards 34 individually. Alternatively, the dealer 16 may remove the cards 34 as an entire set (e.g., one or more decks of cards) since many players 14 appreciate the experience of a game where the cards 34 are dealt from a hand-held deck, rather than being individually drawn from the card shoe reader 28. The card shoe reader 28 includes optical reading equipment; whereas a card shoe 29 (FIG. 12) does not include optical reading equipment as part of the device. At least one type of card shoe reader 28 is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,460,848.

In a standard deck of cards 34, some portion of each card carries identifying information such as a rank and a suit marking on the face of the card. The rank and the suit markings identify the value of each card with respect to other cards in a deck. In addition, the cards 34 can carry other machine-readable symbols such as a bar code, an area or matrix code, or a stacked code symbol selected from respective symbologies to encode identifying information such as the rank and suit of the card, a unique serial number, and/or other information about the card deck, casino, etc. Playing cards that carry identifying information that can be read by an optical reading system are described also in U.S. Pat. No. 6,460,848.

The discard reader 30 reads the discarded cards or playing cards collected at the table 12 during and/or after one card game. Reading may comprise optically or magnetically scanning, imaging, or otherwise detecting. Specific details regarding the configuration and operation of at least one type of discard reader 30 is discussed in detail in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,460,848, 6,652,379, and 6,685,568.

The chip tray 32 holds the gaming chips and is typically placed on the table 12 for easy access by the dealer 16. At the end of a “hand” or game, the dealer 16 collects chips from the losing players and pays out winnings from the casino's inventory of chips to any winning players. The dealer 16 places the chips collected from the losing players into the chip tray 32. The dealer 16 then pays out the winnings using the required number of chips from the chip tray 32. Changes to the contents of the chip tray 32 represent the winnings and loses of the casino (“house”) at that particular gaming table 12. Thus, maintaining an accurate count of the number and value of the chips in the chip tray 32 can assist the casino in managing its operations.

Automating the gaming table 12 typically means that one or more of the aforementioned devices may be interconnected to exchange information with one another and/or may be connected to a central or local computing system (not shown). One type of system for exchanging information is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,460,848. In addition, the devices must receive some form of electrical power to operate.

Still referring to FIG. 1, an inductive interface member 36 and a point optical encoder 38 are located below and/or flush with the surface 18 of the gaming table 12 in the region where the card shoe reader 28 or card shoe 29 (FIG. 12) is located. The inductive interface member 36 may take the form of an inductor capable of producing an electromagnetic field. The inductive interface member 36 is electrically coupled to a power cord 40 that receives electricity from the building's electrical supply system via a power supply transformer or other power conversion device, according to the illustrated embodiment. For purposes of clarity in the illustrated embodiment, the inductive interface member 36 is shown under the card shoe reader 28 only. It is understood and appreciated, however, that the inductive interface member 36 may be large enough to power other devices 30, 32 on the table and/or that additional inductive interfaces 36 may be located under the other devices.

Gaming Table with an Inductive Interface

FIG. 2 schematically shows a first inductive interface member 36 positioned in a portion of the gaming table 12 and a second inductive interface member 42 positioned in the card shoe reader 28. In operation, a first, alternating current “i1” moves through to the first inductive interface 36 in the gaming table 12. The current “i” generates an electromagnetic field 44. The electromagnetic field 44 induces a second current “i2” in the second inductive interface 42. The second current “i2” is responsive to the first current “i1” via the electromagnetic field 44. Electrical power, energy, data, and/or other information can be transferred to and from the first inductive interface 36 to the second inductive interface 42 through/across the electromagnetic field 44.

In one embodiment, the electromagnetic field 44 is convertible into a direct current (DC) by the card shoe reader 28. The DC current or second current “i2” can be the source of continuous, operational power for the card shoe reader 28 or can operate to recharge a back-up power source, such as a battery, in the card shoe reader 28. In addition to transmitting power from a power source or supply, the electromagnetic field can also operate as a communications link between the inductive interface member 36 and the card shoe reader 28.

Although the card shoe reader 28 has been used for exemplary purposes, it is understood that a variety of devices may be placed on the gaming table 12. These devices may have a unique device identifier and/or address such that the casino's computing system can easily recognize the device and activate a corresponding inductive interface member 36 located in the table 12 to supply power and/or route communications data accordingly. In addition, this type of a gaming table 12 permits the table to be easily modified by installing a new and/or different felt covering and placing new and/or different devices on the felt covering in vicinity of respective, inductive interface members 36.

The inductive interface member 36 can power a single device or multiple devices. More than one inductive interface member 36 can be used with the gaming table 12. The inductive interface member 36 and/or the card shoe reader 28, for example, can be custom programmed to transmit, receive, or otherwise manipulate data. In this way, the inductive interface member 36 may be made to accommodate a variety of devices, different batteries, different powering algorithms, etc.

FIG. 3 shows a portion 46 of a gaming table 12 having the playing surface 18 and an opposing bottom surface 19. The inductive interface member 36 underlies or is beneath the bottom surface 19 of the portion 46 of the gaming table 12, according to one illustrated embodiment.

The inductive interface member 36 includes a first inductive coil 48 a and a second inductive coil 48 b. The first inductive coil 48 a receives electrical energy from a power source 50 through the electrical cord 40. Optionally, a power supply, electrical transformer, or other power conversion device 52 is located between the inductive interface member 36 and the power source 50. The power conversion device 52 can include transformers and/or other power converters that operate to condition, rectify, convert, invert, alter, and/or otherwise modify an electrical parameter or signal in the circuit between the inductive interface member 36 and the power source 50. By way of example, the power conversion device 52 may be capable of any of the following operations: transforming one voltage into another voltage; stepping one voltage to a higher voltage (i.e., “step-up”); stepping one voltage to a lower voltage (i.e., “step-down”); and/or controlling the magnetic flux in a coil located in the power conversion device 52.

The primary frequencies of the voltage coming from the power source 50 can, for example, be one of: 50 Hertz (Hz), 60 Hz, and/or 400 Hz. 50 Hz is common in Europe; 60 Hz is common in North America. The electrical power conversion device 52 may have more than one primary winding if used for several primary voltages.

Further shown in FIG. 3 is a converter 54 coupled to the second inductive coil 48 b and in communication with a central processing unit (CPU) and/or microprocessor 56, according to the illustrated embodiment. The converter 54 can be an analog-to-digital (A/D) converter, an optical-to-electrical (OE) converter, a transformer, or other equivalent device capable of processing, conditioning, and/or modulating a data signal. The CPU 56 is programmable to send and/or receive communications data to and from the second inductive coil 48 b. In another embodiment, a second microprocessor 58, which may also include an A/D converter (not shown), is coupled to the second inductive coil 48 b to process, condition, and/or modulate the current generated in the second inductive coil 48 b.

FIG. 4 shows the bottom surface 19 of the portion 46 of the gaming table 12. The bottom surface 19 can be either a felt cover bottom surface 19 a or an insulator bottom surface 19 b (FIG. 5). A multiplexer or coupler 60 is coupled to a plurality of inductive interface members 36, schematically illustrated, through a bus 62. It is understood and appreciated that the number of inductive interface members 36 can vary depending on the type of gaming table 12, the number of devices to be used with the gaming table 12, and/or the available computing capacity.

FIG. 5 shows the portion 46 of the gaming table 12 includes a felt cover 64 positioned on an insulator 66. The insulator 66 may be comprised of a variety of materials, for example rubber, foam, plastic, or other similar material. In one embodiment, the plurality of inductive interface members 36 are positioned in recessed pockets formed along the insulator bottom surface 19 b or coupled to the insulator bottom surface 19 b. FIG. 6 shows an alternate embodiment where the plurality of inductive interface members 36 are positioned in recessed pockets formed in the felt cover bottom surface 19 a or coupled to the felt cover lower surface 19 a. Locating the inductive interface members 36 away from the felt cover 64 may advantageously protect the inductive interface members 36 from spills, impacts, or other mishaps that may happen on the playing surface 18 or near the gaming table 12.

FIGS. 7 and 8 schematically show one type of inductive interface member 36 positioned on, in, or proximate to either surface 19 a or 19 b of the cover 64 or the insulator 66, respectively. The inductive interface member 36 comprises a planar wound coil 68 carried on an insulative substrate material 70, such as the type of substrate material that is commonly used to manufacture semiconductors (e.g., FR-4). The electrical connections are made through suitable vias 69 a, 69 b. The total thickness “t” of the inductive interface member 36 is likely substantially smaller than the thickness of either of the cover 64 or the insulator 66.

FIG. 9 shows another embodiment where the inductive interface member 36 is located in a small container 71, which may be located under the playing surface 18 of the gaming table 12. The container 71 is positioned in recessed pockets 72 in the gaming table 12.

Advantages of an Automated Gaming Table with Inductive Interface(s)

The gaming table 12 with a single, inductive interface member 36 capable of powering and/or communicating with a number of devices may decrease the number and complexity of the electrical connections and interfaces needed when automating the gaming table 12.

In addition to the above, the gaming table 12 with the inductive interface member 36 makes it easy for devices to be added, removed, and/or replaced. For example, one card reader 28 can be quickly and easily replaced with another card reader 28; no disconnections and reconnections of wires and/or cables are necessary. By way of example, if a blackjack table were to be reconfigured into a baccarat table, automated devices associated with baccarat could be quickly replaced with the blackjack devices on the gaming table 12.

Another possible advantage is that various devices can be placed on a table without changing electrical connectors and couplings.

Yet another possible advantage is that the felt covering can be continuous, without the need for holes or openings to run electrical wiring. Having a continuous felt covering on the table prevents debris from getting under the felt and allows the felt to be easily and more accurately stretched and adhered to the table, if necessary. In addition, the continuous felt is easier to manufacture and install and the devices can simply be placed on respective demarcations after the table is assembled.

Still yet another possible advantage of having the inductive interface member 36 integrated with the gaming table 12 is that the devices discussed above, and others, do not have to be separately designed with different electrical configurations and/or specifications, nor are special adaptors necessary. For example, a manufacturer of a gaming table automation device would not be required to make one model according to the United States standard of 110 or 120 volts and 60 Hz, and another model according to the European standard of 220 volts and 50 Hz.

FIG. 10 shows a plurality of inductive interfaces 36 a, 36 b, and 36 c located beneath the playing surface 18 of the gaming table 12. FIG. 11, on the other hand, shows a unitary, inductive interface member 36 beneath the playing surface 18. Depending on the power requirements for operating the devices on the gaming table 12, one embodiment may be preferable over the other.

Gaming Table with a Point Optical Encoder

FIGS. 12 and 13 show the point optical encoder 38 located in the gaming table 12 near a chute 73 of the card shoe 29. Recall, the card shoe 29 does not necessarily include internal optical-electric components.

FIG. 13 schematically shows the point optical encoder 38 reading a playing card being slid across the gaming table 12. The point optical encoder 38 includes a light source 74 and a light sensor or detector 76. The light source 74 directs light 78 through a first lens 80 toward an object 82. A second lens 84 receives reflected light 86 and then directs the reflected light 86 to the light sensor 76. The point optical encoder 38 can be operable in a bidirectional mode. The light source 74 can provide infrared (IR) or some other frequency range of light. The light 78/86 can be transmitted to and reflected from the object 82 through a window 88. The window 88 may have an upper surface 90 that is flush with the playing surface 18. The object 82 can be a playing card 34 having identifying information such as the rank and suit of the card and/or the machine-readable symbol carried by the card 34, as previously described.

In one embodiment, the point optical encoder 38 optically reads machine-readable symbols carried by the card 34 and may determine a speed and a direction of the card 34 as the card 34 is moved over the point optical encoder 38. This information may then be used to determine whether a card has been fully withdrawn from the card shoe 29 (FIG. 12) and adequately read, partially withdrawn and returned, and/or fully withdrawn, but then reversed back over the encoder 38 and placed back into the card shoe 29 (FIG. 12). The speed and direction of each of the playing cards 34 is not likely to be constant from one card to the next because the speed and direction is dependent on a human dealer's hand motion as well as other factors.

Several types of point optical encoders 38 that may be used in the aforementioned embodiments are described in detail in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,317,149; 5,241,172; 4,952,799; and in an international application, WO 03/006928, published under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. One type of point optical encoder 38 processes the light reflected from an object in a photodetector integrated circuit (IC).

Advantages of the Point Optical Encoder

The point optical encoder 38 may detect misreads of playing cards 34 either due to faulty symbols and/or improper maneuvering of the playing card 34 over the point optical encoder 38. The point optical encoder 38 may provide a robust, cost effective means to read playing cards 34 as they are distributed to the players while maintaining the ambience of the gaming table environment.

The point optical encoder 38 can be integrated into the automated gaming table 12 to provide information to the casino's computing system about expected game outcomes, player strategies, expected discard values (suit and rank), etc. In addition, the point optical encoder 38 can be powered by the inductive interface member 36 positioned in the gaming table 12.

The various embodiments described above can be combined to provide further embodiments. All of the above U.S. patents, patent applications, provisional patent applications, and publications referred to in this specification, to include, but not limited to U.S. Patent Application No. 60/713,272 filed Aug. 31, 2005; U.S. patent application No. 10/981,132; U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,460,848; 6,652,379; 6,685,568; 5,317,149; 5,241,172; and 4,952,799 are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. Aspects of the invention can be modified, if necessary, to employ various systems, devices, and concepts of the various patents, applications, and publications to provide yet further embodiments of the invention.

These and other changes can be made to the invention in light of the above-detailed description. In general, in the following claims, the terms used should not be construed to limit the invention to the specific embodiments disclosed in the specification and the claims, but should be construed to include all inductively coupled systems and point optical encoders usable in the aspect of gaming and methods that operate in accordance with the claims. Accordingly, the invention is not limited by the disclosure, but instead its scope is to be determined entirely by the following claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification273/274
International ClassificationA63F3/08
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/322, G07F17/3293
European ClassificationG07F17/32P6, G07F17/32C4D, G07F17/32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Nov 30, 2013ASAssignment
Owner name: BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., AS ADMINISTRATIVE AGENT, TE
Effective date: 20131125
Free format text: AMENDED AND RESTATED PATENT SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:BALLY GAMING, INC.;REEL/FRAME:031745/0001
Aug 24, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: BALLY GAMING, INC., NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SOLTYS, RICHARD;REEL/FRAME:018167/0892
Effective date: 20060808