US 20070060307 A1
A chip dispensing kiosk including a vault for holding casino chips, a dispensing assembly for dispensing selected numbers of casino chips and security and input systems to allow a pit boss to access the kiosk and have the kiosk dispense selected numbers of chips. The kiosk is interactive with the casino's accounting system so as to report the dispensing of casino chips or receipt of casino chips.
1. A casino chip dispensing kiosk to provide casino chips for a plurality of chip gaming stations, the kiosk comprising:
a chip vault configured to be secured within said housing;
a plurality of casino chip stacker assemblies within said chip vault to bank casino chips;
a ticket/bill validator configured to identify characteristics of tickets; and
a control system coupled to said ticket/bill validator and said chip vault to control the dispensing of casino chips from said chip vault.
2. The kiosk of
a communication link to communicate with a casino computer configured to monitor transactions within the casino over a network.
3. The kiosk of
4. The kiosk of
a data input device for allowing an operator to provide instructions to said control system of said kiosk.
5. The kiosk of
a pit workstation computer;
a cashier station computer;
a count room computer;
a chip gaming station processor;
a database server; and
a Host Management System.
6. The kiosk of
A biometric security device interconnected to said control system for accepting biometric information to authorize transactions performed by said casino chip dispensing kiosk.
7. The kiosk of
8. The kiosk of
9. The kiosk of
10. A casino chip dispensing kiosk for dispensing casino chips, comprising:
a chip vault for dispensing casino chips;
an input device for entering data into said kiosk;
a ticket reader;
a controller interfacing with said input device, ticket reader, and chip vault for controlling the dispensing of casino chips upon receipt of instructions via said ticket reader or input device and authorization information.
11. The kiosk of
a chip reader for automatically sensing and tabulating chip denominations and quantities.
12. The kiosk of
a biometric security device for accepting biometric information to authorize transactions performed by said casino chip dispensing kiosk.
13. The kiosk of
14. The kiosk of
15. A method of casino table chip transaction management for the automation and validation of fill event transactions for gaming tables from one or more chip dispensing kiosks positioned proximate the gaming tables, the steps comprised of:
a) providing at least one gaming station processor at a gaming table within a pit area of a casino,
b) providing at least one casino chip dispensing kiosk approximate said pit area of a casino,
c) initiating a fill event request at said at least one gaming station processor at a gaming table for a quantity of casino chips,
d) communicating said request from said at least one gaming station processor to said at least one casino chip dispensing kiosk, and
e) receiving the requested quantity of casino chips at the at least one gaming table from said at least one casino chip dispensing kiosk approximate said pit area.
The present invention is generally directed to the field of casino management and in particular to a device and process whereby casino chips can be banked and easily accessed by a pit boss to provide a supply of casino chips to gaming stations within a select area of the casino. The invention contemplates a kiosk for dispensing casino chips from a secure vault upon receipt of proper authorization, and an accounting system to track distributions and receipts of casino chips.
Modern large casinos have evolved to incorporate hundreds or thousands of slot machines or other types of coin or ticket operated gaming machines. However, gaming tables where players can play blackjack, poker games, roulette or craps remain as a mainstay of the casino design. Generally, the slot machines are placed around one or more gaming table pit areas. A single pit area may include card tables such as blackjack or poker tables, roulette tables and crap tables. The pit areas are generally positioned in a central portion of an open area within the casino. Each pit area is overseen by a pit boss, who is responsible for a significant number of oversight functions including security, detecting improper play, and table money management.
Casinos also include an accounting cage and a back room area, which is discreetly and securely located away from the center of activity within a casino. In order to open a gaming table, it is necessary for the casino to arrange to have casino chips delivered from a caged vault area across the casino floor to the gaming table located in a particular pit area or grouping of gaming tables. Restocking of a gaming table during the course of play may be necessary if a patron has several wins and additional chips are necessary. Restocking a gaming table during the course of a play can be distracting to the players and cause the casinos to lose revenue if a successful player must wait for additional casino chips to be delivered to the gaming table.
Accordingly, it would be beneficial to have the ability to restock a gaming table with casino chips from a position located proximate to the pit area. However, since the casino chips can be utilized as money within the casino, and have values from one dollar to several thousand dollars, accounting for the casino chips and security of the casino chips within the accounting system is mandatory.
The present invention is directed to a chip dispensing kiosk including a vault for holding the casino chips, a dispensing assembly for dispensing selected numbers of casino chips and security and input systems to allow a pit boss to access the kiosk and have the kiosk dispense selected numbers of chips directly to the pit boss or his designee at a work station. The kiosk is interactive with the casino's accounting system so as to report the dispensing of casino chips or receipt of casino chips. Security features built into the kiosk as well as into the casino monitor the dispensing of the casino chips and delivery of the casino chips to the appropriate gaming table. By the present invention, the kiosk can be stocked with a substantial number of chips as necessary to provide the tables within a pit area with sufficient chips to satisfy the anticipated requirements of a shift or daily operation, and thereby reduce or eliminate the number of times when casino chips must be taken from a caged accounting system across the floor of the casino to the gaming tables.
Optionally the kiosk can also provide secure storage for various event transaction documents that may be required to maintain compliance with existing or future regulations for tracking chip removal and deposit events at the kiosk. Such documents can provide not only an accounting trail for the movement of all chips in and out of the chip kiosk, but also their movement from and to the various gaming tables and or players in the pit area managed. These event transaction documents can be in the preferred form of machine printable and readable tickets or cards or as a backup in the form of hand written forms that are issued by the respective pit personnel and inserted into the kiosk for secure storage until they can be transported along with the other contents of the kiosk vault to a caged accounting room for verification and tabulation.
As a further anticipated option to the event management of the chip kiosk system disclosed herein, various forms of secure electrical or wireless signals can be used for requesting, approving, and/or confirming such chip transfers between the chip kiosk and the tables and/or players in the pit area serviced by the system. These event signals can easily be encrypted by various means known in the art and can originate either from proprietary codes keyed into keypads at the kiosk, pit workstation, and/or gaming tables by pit personnel or through secure transmissions from wireless portable personal data devices issued to authorized pit personnel. These signals are then easily monitored and tracked by one or more of the processors linked to the kiosk system components. Security of such event signals can be insured through any number of means known to those skilled in the art including but not limited to encryption, personal access codes, biometric scanning devices, proprietary communication protocols, unique RFID tags, and/or personal unique integrated circuit chip cards.
The Ethernet 140 may also be connected to a gathering processor 142, which is responsible for gathering game-related information from each bill acceptor 20 at each game table 10 via network 130, and for transferring the game-related information to other computers on the Ethernet 140. Gathering Processor 142 relays this information to a router 144. Router 144 is the router for the Ethernet 140. The data received by the router 144 is relayed to the pit workstation 146 and to the structured query language Database Server 148, the Database Server 148 houses the system database for the casino and, in most cases, the majority of the system applications themselves. In addition to the validators of the various gaming tables, the Database Server 148 may also be interconnected via the Ethernet 140 to a plurality (n) of gaming machines within the casino, or within other casinos, and to the note validators therein. This interconnectivity allows the Database Server 148 to control the printing, verification, and cancellation of tickets at the gaming machines as well as at the gaming tables.
In the foregoing system, the pit workstation 146 is the primary interface between pit personnel (the Pit Boss or designee) responsible for a group of gaming tables 10 as shown in
The system of
The Ethernet 140 also provides the capacity for interconnecting the various computers to one or more chip dispensing kiosks 162 preferably located proximate to the pit area between gaming tables 10 or possibly incorporated into the pit workstation 146. Further, the Ethernet 140 allows interconnection of the chip dispensing kiosk 162 to the count room computer 166, located in the count room, so that all information available from the bill acceptors 20 located at each gaming table 10 as well as all information from the chip dispensing kiosk 162 is communicated to the count room computer 166.
The network topology of
As in the case of the networked computer system, the specific implementation of the necessary software programs to integrate the present invention into a casino management system will need to be compatible with the existing or to be implemented software in the Database Server 148. The following discussion of the various functions to be implemented into the software module are therefore described in a manner to be exemplary in nature, it being understood that the concepts herein can be developed by those skilled with the various software operating systems utilized by casinos.
The provision at each of the gaming tables 10 of the bill acceptors 20 interconnected via the Ethernet 140 to the supervisory stations allows for a number of transactions or “Events” to be accounted for at each gaming table 10. Transaction events include, by way of example only, coded tickets or signals representing the following types of transactions:
An Opener Event is, for example, the receipt of a note, cash or ticket for example a ticket printed by a slot machine, from a player that is exchanged for tokens or chips when a player wishes to join or continue playing on the gaming table 10.
A Fill Event occurs when a gaming table 10 requires additional casino chips from a cashier station or chip dispensing kiosk 162. A Fill Event may be requested whenever a gaming table 10 is first opened as the table will need to be provided with casino chips. A Fill Event may also be required when there is a substantial buy-in by a player or when a player wins a substantial amount and the table requires additional casino chips. A Fill Event ticket is either printed at the gaming table 10 by the bill acceptor 20 or at the pit workstation 146. Once the Fill Event ticket is printed, it is taken to the chip dispensing kiosk 162, inserted into the validator therein and, after verification, security checks and communication with the Database Server 148, the chip dispensing kiosk 162 dispenses the necessary casino chips. The casino chips, preferably with the Fill Event ticket, or a duplicate thereof, are then taken to the gaming table 10 and the Fill Event ticket is inserted into and read by the bill validator 20, which reports the Fill Event to the Data Base Server 148.
A Credit Event is a transaction in which a dealer at a gaming table returns some, but not all, chips to a cashier or chip kiosk in the casino in exchange for a credit ticket. The cashier or chip dispensing kiosk 162 prints a credit ticket that is returned to the dealer and the credit ticket is inserted into the bill acceptor 20 so that the system including the Database Server 148 and pit workstation 146 are advised that chips have been taken from a table and returned to a cashier or chip dispensing kiosk 162.
A Closer Event occurs when a gaming table is taken out of service and all casino chips are removed from the gaming table and returned to the cashier station or alternatively to the chip dispensing kiosk 162. The chips are counted and the Pit Boss or the dealer generates a closer ticket either at the pit workstation 146 or at the gaming table 10 on the bill acceptor 20. The closer ticket is inserted into the bill acceptor 20 where it is recorded. A copy may also be delivered with the casino chips to the cashier station or to the chip dispensing kiosk 162. Chips deposited into the chip dispensing kiosk 162 may be validated and counted to cross check against the values specified on the closer ticket when the cash boxes from the bill acceptors 20 are taken to the counting room, all of the transactions from the Opening Event to the Closing Event are tabulated and compared to the notes in the cash box including the transaction event tickets.
It should be noted that while the examples above describe the specific use of printed event tickets for initiating, approval, and/or confirmation of the chip transaction or event, one or more of these functions could optionally be performed and transmitted between system components trough the use of an electronic signal followed up by a printed audit record and/or an audit summary transmitted through the Ethernet 140 to the host management system 150. This system can operate at any level of automation and accountability allowed by law or casino management policy.
The chip dispensing kiosk 162 can be optionally process an event request through direct input to the attached touch pad 226 (shown in
The chip dispensing kiosk 162 can preferably receive, read and respond to printed event tickets as discussed above where the tickets are received through the ticket/bill acceptor slot 222 in the chip dispenser kiosk 162 and stored in ticket/bill compartment 251 in the chip vault 240. When the chip vault 240 is returned to the caged counting area of the casino both the optional document compartment 281 and the ticket/bill compartment 251 are emptied so that the paper documents and tickets removed there from can serve as tracking documentation. Then providing redundant monitoring information through the network to those with access to the system and the Database Server 148.
As a further option an event signal could be received by the chip dispensing kiosk 162 electronically either by means of its network connection from those authorized to access the Ethernet 140 for generating such event requests or additionally through wireless communication by means of a secure transmission from an authorized handheld computer device 152. To ensure security for such an event signal acceptance various means of encryption could be utilized in conjunction with the device's communication protocol as well as other possible requirements for authorization code submission. Again the audit trail can consist of printed transaction audit reports and/or electronic audit reports directly to the Database Server 148.
The bill acceptors 20 which may act as the chip gaming station processor in the absence of a separate chip gaming station processor 15 can be programmed so that they will accept a number of different types of notes besides currency. The bill acceptors 20 may also preferably include a printer, which allows the bill acceptor to print out various types of tickets including, for example, a cash-out ticket that can be issued to a player, as well as opener tickets, credit tickets and closer tickets. These features, together with the interconnection to the casino server system allow for a number of enhancements in the control of the table gaming events.
Generally, the chip vault 240 includes a housing 252 mounted on a plurality of wheels 254 to allow the chip vault 240 to be moved about the floor of a casino or mounted on a pallet for moving within a casino and configured to be easily inserted into and aligned with the inside of the chip dispensing kiosk 162. The one side 256 of the chip vault 240 may be hingedly attached so as to allow access to the inside of the chip vault 240 to allow for restocking of the chips contained therein in the count room. Of course any side or even the top of the chip vault could be hinged or provide a door opening for this purpose. However, once the chip vault 240 leaves the count room, it is secured and cannot be opened and there is no access to the contents until it is placed within the chip dispensing kiosk 162 and establishes data communication with the chip dispensing kiosk 162 to report that it has been securely inserted into the chip dispensing kiosk 162 and that the door 202 of the chip dispensing kiosk 162 has been closed and secured. The chips secured within the chip vault 240 cannot be removed other than via dispensing from within the chip dispensing kiosk 162 wherein each dispensing is tracked and monitored and only permitted upon proper security and authorization.
Optionally the chip vault can include a tracking device 285 to allow the casino to physically track the location of the chip vault at all times as it is moved through the casino between the chip dispensing kiosk and the caged counting room. Such technology is commonly used today in many forms. Global positioning system (“GPS”) devices and Global System for Mobile Communications (“GSM”) devices provide the capability to show the location of the attached device relatively accurately on a real time basis. RFID tags can also be used for this purpose.
The control system 260 is also electrically interconnected to the screen display 224. The screen display 224 can be an LED type of display or a plasma display, which can provide or display information concerning the status of the chip dispensing kiosk 162, including the amount and number of casino chips, which are stored in the chip vault 240 at any given time, the amount of chips requested in a fill event ticket inserted into the ticket/bill validator 262, and the amount of chips deposited into the chip dispensing kiosk 162 via the chip deposit bezel and chip drop slot 214. The screen display 224 may also include a biometric security device such as a thumb print scanner or hand scanner that will allow added security to control access to the chips within the chip dispensing kiosk 162. Thus, for example, only the Pit Boss would be able to access the casino chips within chip dispensing kiosk 162 and authorize the chip dispensing kiosk 162 to dispense chips by a thumb or a hand scan on the biometric screen on the screen display 224.
The control system 260 is also electrically interconnected to the touch pad or key pad 226. The touch pad or key pad can be either a touch screen prompt of information that can be typed into the control system 260 or keypads such as standard numeric or alphanumeric keys, which may be used to enter data into the control system 260 to provide specific instructions on various events that may be necessary. For example, the touchpad or keypad could be utilized to identify a specific Pit Boss who will be authorized during the course of a shift to access the chip dispensing kiosk 162, to input specific information as to chip requests or fill events necessary for a specific table and other similar types of data inputting.
The control system 260 is preferably also interconnected to a chip reader 268. The chip reader is positioned below the chip drop slot 214 to read chips that are inserted through the chip drop slot and passed to the chip vault 240 via drop slot 244 on the top of the chip vault 240. The chip reader 268 may be an optical reader or an RFID reader capable of reading, characterizing information on chips as they pass thru the drop slot 214. RFID reading devices of the type that can read RFID embedded chips are known in the art as discussed within U.S. Pat. No. 5,735,742 to Chip Track International. Alternatively, the chip reader may be an optical reader or a combination of an optical and an RFID reader. The optical reader identifies certain encoded optical information on a surface of casino chips to provide an indication of the value of each casino chip as it passes through the drop slot 214.
The control system 260 is electrically interconnected to communication devices 270, which could include optical devices 272, or electrical devices 274 that can communicate across the space between the chip dispensing kiosk 162 and the removable chip vault 240. Within the chip vault 240, an optical receiver/emitter 246 and electrical contacts 248 are configured to be oppositely disposed with respect to the electrical devises 274 and optical devises 272 of the communications devices of the chip dispensing kiosk 162 when the chip vault 240 is properly in placed within the chip dispensing kiosk 162. Preferably, the chip vault 240 includes a memory and control component 294 that is communicatively coupled to the electrical contact 248 and optical receiver/emitter 246, so that information concerning the amount of chips, for example, that are stored in the chip vault 240 may be communicated to the control system 260 as well as communicated to a count room, so as to download information as to either the number of chips remaining at the end of a shift that may be returned to the count room or the number of chips, which are stored within the chip vault 240 prior to its being delivered to the chip dispensing kiosk 162.
Preferably the chip dispensing kiosk 162 would have an uninterruptible power source (UPS) which provides protection from power spikes as well as providing battery backup in case of power failures. This will not only ensure preservation of data but also allow sufficient time to complete any data or chip processing that may be happening at the time of an eventual power outage.
The chip vault 240 may also include a ticket/bill stacker 296, which, if necessary, includes electrical power coupling to allow a power drive motor to drive belts to store tickets received by the ticket/bill validator of the chip dispensing kiosk 162 within the chip vault 240, so that when the chip vault 240 is taken from the chip dispensing kiosk 162 to the count room, the tickets identifying each dispensing of casino chips can be compared with the information in the memory and control component 294, concerning chips, which were deposited via the drop slot, and the amount of chips remaining in the chip vault 240, to properly account for the intake and dispensing of each chip to and from the chip vault 240.
In operation, the chip vault 240 is loaded with a certain number of chips within the count room and, once the chips are loaded, the chip vault is secured in a locked and closed position. The number of chips and each denomination of each chip is reported via the optical coupling 246 to the memory control component 294 of the chip vault 240. Thereafter, the chip vault 240 is delivered to the location of a chip dispensing kiosk 162. If a chip vault 240 is already in the chip dispensing kiosk 162, it is removed and a new fully stocked chip vault 240 is inserted. The chip vault 240 is secured in place and the door 202 is locked. Once the door is locked, the locking of the door is reported to the control system 260 of the chip dispensing kiosk 162. The control system 260 then communicates through the communication devices with the chip vault 240 to download the information from the memory as to the stocking of casino chips within the chip vault 240. The control system 260 then communicates the identification of the particular chip vault 240 as well as the amount of chips within the chip vault 240 to the casino database server 148. Once the casino database server 148 verifies with the count room that the correct number of chips and the particular chip vault 240 are correct, the control system 260 of the chip dispensing kiosk 162 is authorized to access chips in the chip vault 240. The control system 260 reports to the chip vault 240 that the identification of the chip vault 240 has been validated and then the chip vault 240 will be unlocked to allow dispensing of chips from the chip dispensing kiosk 162 and specifically the chip vault 240 therein.
When a gaming table requires a chip fill event, the gaming table prints out a chip fill ticket on its bill validator 20. Alternatively, the Pit Boss may print out a fill event ticket at the pit work station 146. The fill event ticket is then taken to the chip dispensing kiosk 162 and inserted into the ticket/bill acceptor slot 222 from which it is taken and scanned by the ticket/bill validator 262. The ticket/bill validator 262 identifies the total number of casino chips, which are being requested, the denominations of each of those chips and the number of each denomination and any other specific information concerning a dispense request, which is coded on to the fill event ticket. This information is communicated to the control system 260 of the chip dispensing kiosk 162. The control system 260 then communicates through the Ethernet 140 with the casino database server 148 to obtain validation of the ticket and the request for the dispensing of casino chips. Once the database server 148 validates the authenticity of the ticket, the control system 260 communicates with the chip vault 240 to dispense a specific number and denominations of chips. The chip vault 240 includes a dispense assembly, which will dispense the proper number of each denomination of casino chips to the chip dispense slot 242, and from there to the chip dispense tray 210 of the chip dispensing kiosk 162. The chip dispense ticket is then passed to the stacker within the chip vault 240 for stacking and storage. The memory and control component 294 is updated to identify the number of chips that were dispensed and the denomination of each chip dispensed. Confirmation of the dispensing of the chips is communicated back to the control system 260. Optionally the chip dispensing kiosk may include a ticket printer (not shown) but such as is often used in the gaming machines and table bill acceptors 20.
The Pit Boss or one of the other pit personnel such as the dealer can then take chips from the chip dispense tray 210 of the chip dispensing kiosk 162 to the specific gaming table requesting a fill event. Preferably, another fill event ticket corresponding to the ticket provided to the chip dispensing kiosk 162 can be printed and received either from the pit work station 146 or the chip dispensing kiosk 162 to be moved with the chips and inserted into the validator 20 at the gaming table and thereby the number of chips provided to the specific gaming table for a fill event is recorded and communicated back through the Ethernet to the database server 148. In this manner, the casino can track the dispensing of each chip from the chip dispensing kiosk 162 to the gaming tables 10 and confirm that the chips have been received at the specified gaming table. If a period of time in excess of the anticipated time necessary to take the chips from the chip dispensing kiosk 162 to a specific gaming table is exceeded, an alert system can be provided to advise the Pit Boss and/or security personnel.
It should be noted here that while the pit work station 146 and the chip dispensing kiosk 162 are shown and described as separate devices, it would be easy for one skilled in the art to integrate these two devices into the same or adjacent location or structure. In which case the description and functions of the work station and kiosk would remain the same but could be performed without having to provide duplicate component devices such as touch pads, validators, and printers.
The chip vault 240 may include a plurality of chip stackers into which columns or stacks of chips are deposited and maintained. The chip stackers can be configured to drop specific numbers of chips to the chip dispense tray as required. In addition, the vault 240 may include a chip distributor, which will distribute chips received at the top of the chip dispensing kiosk 162, to distribute them for stacking within the respective stacks of chips by specific denominations. The distributor is provided below the drop slot 244 and is configured so that it can be direct each received chip to a proper location within the chip stackers.
In view of the foregoing discussion, it may be readily understood that alternative embodiments are contemplated. Having thus described different embodiments of the invention, other variations and embodiments that do not depart from the spirit of the invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in the art. The scope of the present invention is thus not limited to any one particular embodiment, but is instead set forth in the appended claims and the legal equivalents thereof.