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Publication numberUS20070293306 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/765,149
Publication dateDec 20, 2007
Filing dateJun 19, 2007
Priority dateJun 19, 2006
Also published asWO2008060815A2, WO2008060815A3
Publication number11765149, 765149, US 2007/0293306 A1, US 2007/293306 A1, US 20070293306 A1, US 20070293306A1, US 2007293306 A1, US 2007293306A1, US-A1-20070293306, US-A1-2007293306, US2007/0293306A1, US2007/293306A1, US20070293306 A1, US20070293306A1, US2007293306 A1, US2007293306A1
InventorsPatrick W. Nee, Taylor M. Davenport
Original AssigneeNee Patrick W, Davenport Taylor M
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Apparatus, systems and methods for gaming device featuring negative credit balance
US 20070293306 A1
Abstract
A gaming device may be configured to: (i) determine a current credit balance, (ii) determine a wager amount, (iii) determine whether the wager amount would result in a negative balance of credits, (iv) determine if it is permissible to allow a negative balance of credits, and if so (v) adjust a current balance such that is equal to the negative balance, and (vi) display an indication of the negative balance. Further embodiments describe methods for operating a gaming device when a credit balance is in a negative or positive state.
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Claims(6)
1. A method, comprising:
determining an initiation of a game start at a gaming device;
resolving the game start by determining a game outcome;
determining whether a session balance associated with the gaming device is negative;
if the session balance is negative after resolving the game start, not incrementing a coin-out meter of the gaming device; and
if the session balance is positive after resolving the game start, incrementing the coin-out meter of the gaming device.
2. A method comprising:
providing session play comprising a session of a plurality of game starts on a gaming device;
calculating an amortized value for a game start within the session;
incrementing a coin-in meter of the gaming device by at least the amortized value.
3. The method of claim 2 further comprising determining whether the session has ended.
4. The method of claim 3 further comprising determining whether a player is due a payout after the session has ended.
5. The method of claim 4 further comprising incrementing a credit-out meter by the payout.
6. A method comprising:
determining an initiation of a game start at a gaming device;
determining whether a session balance associated with the gaming device satisfies a condition;
if the session balance satisfies the condition, adjusting a coin tracking meter by a first amount and if the session balance does not satisfy the condition, adjusting the coin tracking meter by a second amount different than the first amount.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS Priority Chain

The present disclosure claims priority to and the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/805106 filed Jun. 19, 2006.

The present disclosure also claims priority to and the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/865234 filed Nov. 10, 2006.

The present disclosure also claims priority to and the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/895693 filed Mar. 19, 2007.

The disclosures of each these three provisional applications is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

Also Related

The present disclosure is also related to commonly owned:

U.S. Pat. No. 6,077,163, filed Jun. 23, 1997, entitled “GAMING DEVICE FOR A FLAT RATE PLAY SESSION AND A METHOD OF OPERATING SAME”;

U.S. Pat. No. 7,140,964, filed Nov. 2, 2001, entitled “GAME MACHINE FOR A FLAT RATE PLAY SESSION AND METHOD OF OPERATING SAME”;

U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 20030220138, filed Apr. 21, 2003, entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR EMPLOYING FLAT RATE PLAY”;

U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 20040147308, filed Aug. 7, 2003, entitled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR COMMUNICATING GAME SESSION INFORMATION”;

U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/600,211, filed Aug. 10, 2004, entitled “SYSTEMS, METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR ADMINISTERING GAMING CONTRACTS”; and

U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/637,338, filed Dec. 17, 2004, entitled “GAMING DEVICE OFFERING A FLAT RATE PLAY SESSION AND METHODS THEREOF”; the entirety of each of these related patents and applications is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a gaming device and more particularly to a gaming device adapted to provide game play through the sale of a session.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagram illustrating an example network environment according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 is a diagram illustrating an example server according to some embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a diagram illustrating an example gaming device according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 4 is a table illustrating an example data structure of a probability database for use in some embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a table illustrating an example data structure of a payout database for use in some embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 6 is a table illustrating an example data structure of a player database for use in some embodiments of the present invention.

FIGS. 7A-B are tables illustrating example data structures of an allowable negative balance database according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 8 is a table illustrating an example data structure of a negative play database for use in some embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is an illustration of an exemplary gaming device display screen output.

FIG. 10 is an illustration of an exemplary gaming device display screen output.

FIGS. 11A-11B are illustrations of exemplary gaming device display screen outputs.

FIG. 12 is an illustration of an exemplary gaming device display screen output.

FIG. 13 is a flow chart illustrating a process for adjusting a balance such that it results in a negative balance according to some embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 14 is an exemplary method for controlling coin-in and coin-out meters.

FIG. 15 is an alternate exemplary method for controlling coin-in and coin-out meters.

FIG. 16 is an exemplary structure for a gaming device with a condition comparator used with the coin-in and coin-out meters.

FIG. 17 is another exemplary method for controlling coin-in and coin-out meters.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Gaming devices (e.g., reeled slot machines or video poker machines) generate more than $15 billion per year in revenue for casinos in the United States alone. Increased playing duration, average wager and rates of play are key factors contributing to the profitability of the slot floor of a casino—the more patrons play gaming devices, the more profit a casino stands to generate. Accordingly, an ongoing need exists for methods that increase a sense of excitement players may feel in association with gaming devices, such as by introducing new or improved features or methods of play.

The present disclosure contemplates allowing players to operate a gaming device while having what is effectively negative equity in the gaming device. In particular, the player may have negative credits (or the equivalent). Use of such negative credits raises the question as to how the gaming device should account for wagers that use these negative credits and how winning awards that offset such negative credits should be accounted. The present disclosure introduces the concept of a conditional coin-in meter and a conditional coin-out meter to the gaming device where the meter counts coin-in at a first value if the player is wagering using normal credits and at a second value if the player is wagering using negative credits (i.e., the condition of the meter is the current credit balance for the player). Likewise, the present disclosure introduces a conditional coin-out meter that counts coin-out at a first value if the player has a negative balance before the winning award and a second value if the player has a positive balance before the winning award.

Before addressing specific methods of implementing embodiments of the present disclosure, an overview of the hardware and methodologies associated with negative balances is provided. Equipped with this information, the reader will be better able to understand use and operation of the conditional meters introduced by the present disclosure. The conditional meters and their use are presented beginning with reference to FIG. 14.

Embodiments of the present disclosure may be configured to work in a network environment 10 (e.g., see FIG. 1) including a computer such as a casino server 12 (e.g., see FIG. 2) that is in communication, via a communications network 14, with one or more devices, such as gaming devices 16 (e.g., slot machines, video poker machines), kiosks, casino personnel devices, merchant point-of-sale (POS) terminals, component devices (e.g., display screens), peripheral devices (e.g., card readers) and so on. The casino server 12 may be a control system as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation set forth below. The communications network 14 may be a network as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation below. Each of the devices may include its own control system or be operated from a remote control system. Any number and type of devices 16 may be in communication with the casino server 12.

The casino server 12, better illustrated in FIG. 2 may include a processor 18, one or more input and output devices 20, a timer 22, memory 24, with programs 26 and databases 28 therein. Additionally, the casino server 12 may be connected to the network 14 through a communication port 30 as is well understood. The processor 18 may be a processor as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation set forth below. The input and output devices 20 may be elements such as a keyboard, display, mouse, or the like as is well understood. The timer 22 may be a clock or other device as is well understood.

The gaming device 16 (e.g., see FIG. 3) may be implemented as a system controller, a dedicated hardware circuit, an appropriately programmed general-purpose computer, or any other equivalent electronic, mechanical or electromechanical device. In various embodiments, a gaming device 16 may comprise, for example, a personal computer (e.g., which communicates with an online casino Web site), a telephone (e.g., to communicate with an automated sports book that provides gaming services), or a portable handheld gaming device (e.g., a cellular telephone, a mobile terminal, or other device similar to a personal digital assistant (PDA)). The gaming device 16 may comprise any or all of the gaming devices of the aforementioned systems. For example, in some embodiments, a gaming device may comprise a wireless handheld device similar to the WifiCasino GS offered by Diamond I Technologies of Baton Rouge, La. In some embodiments, a user device such as a PDA or cell phone may be used in place of, or in addition to, some or all of the components of the gaming device 16 rather than be the entirety of the gaming device 16.

The gaming device 16 comprises a processor 32, which may be a processor as defined in the Rules of Interpretation. The processor 32 is operable to communicate with a random number generator 38, which may be a component of the gaming device 16. The random number generator 38, in accordance with at least one embodiment of the present invention, may generate data representing random or pseudo-random values (referred to as “random numbers” herein). The random number generator 38 may generate a random number, for example, every predetermined unit of time (e.g., every thousandth of a second) or in response to an initiation of a game on the gaming device. In the former embodiment, the generated random numbers may be used as they are generated (e.g., the random number generated at substantially the time of game initiation is used for that game) and/or stored for future use. A random number generated by the random number generator 38 may be used by the processor to determine, for example, at least one of an outcome and payout. A random number generator 38, as used herein, may be embodied as a processor separate from but working in cooperation with the processor 32. Alternatively, the random number generator 38 may be embodied as an algorithm, program component 44, or software stored in the memory 40 of the gaming device 16 and used to generate a random number. Note that, although the generation or obtainment of a random number is described herein as involving a random number generator 38 of a gaming device 16, other methods of determining a random number may be employed. For example, a gaming device owner or operator may obtain sets of random numbers that have been generated by another entity. HotBitS™, for example, is a service that provides random numbers that have been generated by timing successive pairs of radioactive decays detected by a Geiger-Muller tube interfaced to a computer. A blower mechanism that uses physical balls with numbers thereon may be used to determine a random number by randomly selecting one of the balls and determining the number thereof.

Of course, as would be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art, a random number generator 38 may be stored in a device other than a gaming device 16. For example, in some embodiments, a gaming device 16 may receive random numbers and/or any other data related to the random or pseudo-random determination of an outcome from a separate device, such as the casino server 12. It should be noted that such embodiments may be advantageous in environments or jurisdictions wherein the “central determination” of outcomes is required by regulation or otherwise preferred.

The processor 32 may also be operable to communicate (e.g., via a protocol such as GDS) with various component devices associated with the gaming device 16, including but not limited to benefit output devices (not illustrated), output devices 36, input devices 34 and/or input/output devices (such as a touch screen display).

In some embodiments, a benefit output device may be a component of gaming device 16. The benefit output device may comprise one or more devices for outputting a benefit to a player of the gaming device 16. For example, in one embodiment the gaming device 16 may provide coins and/or tokens as a benefit. In such an embodiment the benefit output device may comprise a hopper and hopper controller, for dispensing coins and/or tokens into a coin tray of the gaming device 16. In another example, the gaming device 16 may provide a receipt or other document on which there is printed an indication of one or more benefits (e.g., a cashless gaming ticket as is known in the art). In such an embodiment, the benefit output device may comprise a printing and document dispensing mechanism. In yet another example, the gaming device 16 may provide electronic credits as a benefit (which, e.g., may be subsequently converted to coins and/or tokens and dispensed from a hopper into a coin tray). In such an embodiment, the benefit output device may comprise a credit meter balance and/or a processor that manages the amount of electronic credits that is indicated on a display of a credit meter balance. In yet another example, the gaming device 16 may credit a monetary amount to a financial account associated with a player as a benefit provided to a player. The financial account may be, for example, a credit card account, a debit account, a charge account, a checking account, or a casino account (e.g., an account from which the player may access cashable and/or non-cashable funds using a player tracking card or smart card). In such an embodiment the benefit output device may comprise a device for communicating with a server on which the account is maintained. Note that, in one or more embodiments, the gaming device 16 may include more than one benefit output device. For example, the gaming device 16 may include both a hopper and hopper controller combination and a credit meter balance. Such a gaming device 16 may be operable to provide more than one type of benefit to a player of the gaming device 16. A single benefit output device may be operable to output more than one type of benefit. For example, a benefit output device may be operable to increase the balance of credits in a credit meter and communicate with a remote device in order to increase the balance of an electronic financial account associated with a player.

The processor 32 may also be operable to communicate with various output devices 36. In some embodiments, an output device 36 comprises a display as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation set forth below. In one or more embodiments, a gaming device 16 may comprise more than one display device. For example, a gaming device 16 may comprise an LCD display for displaying electronic reels and a display area that displays rotating mechanical reels. The display device may comprise, for example, one or more display areas. For example, one of the display areas (e.g., a primary game screen) may display outcomes of games played on the gaming device (e.g., electronic reels of a gaming device). Another of the display areas (e.g., a secondary game screen) may display rules for playing a game of the gaming device 16, or activity related to a secondary or bonus game. Yet another of the display areas may display the benefits obtainable by playing a game of the gaming device 16 (e.g., in the form of a payout table). As described further herein, in some embodiments, a property (e.g., color, level of brightness, orientation, etc.) associated with such a display area may be altered if a credit balance is in a particular state (e.g., a negative state).

The processor 32 may also be in communication with one or more other output devices 36 besides the display device (e.g., for outputting information to a person or another device). Such other one or more output devices 36 may also be components of a gaming device 16. Such other one or more output devices may comprise, for example, an audio speaker (e.g., for outputting an outcome or information related thereto, in addition to or in lieu of such information being output via a display device); headphones; an infra-red transmitter; a radio transmitter; an electric motor; a printer (e.g., such as for printing cashless gaming tickets); a dispenser for outputting pre-printed coupons, tickets or vouchers; an infrared port (e.g., for communicating with a second gaming device or a portable device of a player); one or more universal serial bus (USB) ports; a Braille computer monitor; and a coin or bill dispenser. For gaming devices 16, common output devices include a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor on a video poker machine, a bell on a gaming device (e.g., rings when a player wins), one or more LED displays of a player's credit balance on a gaming device, an LCD display of a personal digital assistant (PDA) for displaying keno numbers.

The processor 32 may also be in communication with one or more input devices 34, which may be capable of receiving an input (e.g., from a player or another device) and which may be a component of gaming device 16. Alternately or additionally, an input device 34 may communicate with or be part of another device (e.g., a server, a gaming device, etc.). Some examples of input devices include: a bar-code scanner, an optical scanner configured to read other indicia of a voucher or cashless gaming ticket, a CCD camera, a magnetic stripe reader (e.g., for reading data encoded upon a player tracking card), a smart card reader (e.g., for reading data stored upon a smart card), a computer keyboard or keypad, a button, a handle, a lever, a keypad, a touch-screen, a microphone, an infrared sensor, a voice recognition module, a coin or bill acceptor, a sonic ranger, a computer port, a video camera, a motion detector, a digital camera, a network card, a universal serial bus (USB) port, a GPS receiver, a radio frequency identification (RFID) receiver, an RF receiver, a thermometer, a pressure sensor, an infrared port (e.g., for receiving communications from a second gaming device or from a another device such as a smart card or PDA of a player), and a weight scale. For gaming devices 16, common input devices include a button or touch screen on a video poker machine, a lever or handle connected to the gaming device, a magnetic stripe reader to read a player tracking card inserted into a gaming device, a touch screen for input of player selections during game play, and a coin and bill/ticket acceptor.

The processor 32 may also be in communication with a payment system, which may be a component of the gaming device 16. The payment system is a device capable of accepting payment from a player (e.g., a bet or initiation of a balance) and/or providing payment to a player (e.g., a payout). Payment is not limited to money, but may also include other types of consideration, including products, services, and alternate currencies. Exemplary methods of accepting payment by the payment system include (i) receiving hard currency (i.e. coins or bills), and accordingly the payment system may comprise a coin or bill acceptor; (ii) receiving an alternate currency (e.g., a paper cashless gaming ticket, an electronic credit, a coupon, a non-negotiable token), and accordingly the payment system may comprise a bar code reader or other sensing means; (iii) receiving a payment identifier (e.g., a credit card number, a debit card number, a player tracking card number, a financial account identifier) and debiting the account identified by the payment identifier; and (iv) determining that a player has performed a value-added activity (e.g., participating in surveys, monitoring remote images for security purposes, referring friends to the casino).

In some embodiments, a gaming device 16 may comprise components capable of facilitating both input and output functions (i.e., input/output devices). In one example, a touch-sensitive display screen comprises an input/output device (e.g., the device outputs graphics and receives selections from players). In another example, the processor 32 may communicate with a “ticket-in/ticket-out” device configured to dispense and receive cashless gaming tickets as is known in the art. Such a device may also assist in (e.g., provide data so as to facilitate) various accounting functions (e.g., ticket validation and redemption). For example, any or all of a gaming device 16, kiosk and casino personnel device maintained at a cashier cage may (i) comprise such a benefit input/output device, and/or (ii) communicate with the casino server 12 that manages the accounting associated with such ticket-in/ticket-out transactions (e.g., so as to track the issuance, redemption and expiration of such vouchers). One example of such ticket-in/ticket-out technology, the EZ Pay™ system, is manufactured by International Gaming Technology, headquartered in Reno, Nev.

It should be appreciated that one or more embodiments may include storing graphic and/or sound elements that are used to construct a menu of options available for a player's selection via a touch screen. These elements may be stored in any memory unit as described in the Rules of Interpretation. The menu may be displayed via any suitable display. In one embodiment, the menu may be implemented using only dedicated electromechanical switches. In one embodiment, a player operates an input device 34 of the gaming device 16 to cause such a menu to be displayed. In one embodiment, a gaming device 16 includes a touch screen and a touch screen controller (not shown) associated with a video monitor display device. The touch screen and touch screen controller may be operable to communicate with a video controller of the video monitor display device and a processor (e.g., processor of gaming device). Thus, a player may be enabled to indicate decisions by touching the touch screen in the appropriate places. In some embodiments, display of the menu of player options may preempt display of other information. For example, in one embodiment the same display device or screen used to display game play elements (e.g., video reels of a slot machine) during active game play may be used to provide a menu of available options. In another embodiment, a dedicated display device or screen may be used to display a menu of available options on a continuous, periodic, or other basis.

Of course, as would be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art, a gaming device 16 may comprise various combinations of such component devices. For example, in one or more embodiments, the gaming device 16 may include more than one display device, one or more other output devices, several input devices, and so on (e.g., two display screens, two audio speakers, a ticket-in/ticket-out device and several buttons).

The processor 32 may also communicate with a memory 40 and a communications port 48 (e.g., so as to communicate with one or more other devices). The memory 40 may be a computer readable memory as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation. The processor 32 and the memory 40 may each be, for example: (i) located entirely within a single computer or other device; or (ii) connected to each other by a remote communication medium, such as a serial port cable, telephone line or radio frequency transceiver. In one embodiment, the gaming device 16 may comprise one or more devices that are connected to a remote server computer for maintaining databases.

The memory 40 stores a program 42 for controlling the processor 32. The processor 32 performs instructions of the program 42, and thereby operates in accordance with the present disclosure, and particularly in accordance with the methods described in detail herein. The program 42 may be stored in a compressed, uncompiled and/or encrypted format. The program furthermore includes program elements that may be necessary, such as an operating system, a database management system and “device drivers” for allowing the processor to interface with computer peripheral devices. Appropriate program elements are known to those skilled in the art, and need not be described in detail herein.

Various forms of computer readable media may be involved in carrying one or more sequences of one or more instructions to the processor 32 (or any other processor of a device described herein) for execution. For example, the instructions may initially be borne on a magnetic disk of a remote computer. The remote computer can load the instructions into its dynamic memory and send the instructions over a telephone line using a modem. A modem local to a gaming device (or, e.g., a server) can receive the data on the telephone line and use an infrared transmitter to convert the data to an infrared signal. An infrared detector can receive the data carried in the infrared signal and place the data on a system bus for the processor. The system bus carries the data to main memory, from which the processor retrieves and executes the instructions. The instructions received by main memory may optionally be stored in memory either before or after execution by the processor. In addition, instructions may be received via a communication port as electrical, electromagnetic or optical signals, which are exemplary forms of carrier waves that carry data streams representing various types of information. Thus, the gaming device 16 may obtain instructions in the form of a carrier wave.

According to one embodiment, the instructions of the program may be read into a main memory from another computer-readable medium, such from a ROM. Execution of sequences of the instructions in program causes processor perform the process steps described herein. In alternate embodiments, hard-wired circuitry may be used in place of, or in combination with, software instructions for implementation of the processes of the present invention. Thus, embodiments of the present disclosure are not limited to any specific combination of hardware and software. As discussed with respect to aforementioned systems, execution of sequences of the instructions in a program of a peripheral device in communication with the gaming device may also cause the processor to perform some of the process steps described herein.

The memory 40 may store one or more databases 44 described herein. Some or all of the data stored in each database 44 is also described. The described entries of the databases 44 represent exemplary information only; those skilled in the art will understand that the number and content of the entries can be different from those illustrated herein. Further, despite any description of the databases 44 as tables, an object-based model could be used to store and manipulate the data types of the present invention and likewise, object methods or behaviors can be used to implement the processes of the present disclosure.

Where appropriate, a probability database 44A (e.g., see FIG. 4) may be utilized in the performance of the processes described herein. A probability database 44A may be stored in the data storage device in tabular form, or any other appropriate database form, as is well known in the art. The data stored therein may include a number of exemplary records or entries, each defining a random number. Those skilled in the art will understand that the probability database 44 may include any number of entries. The tabular representation may also define fields for each of the entries or records. The fields may specify: (i) a random number (or range of random numbers) that may be generated by the random number generator; and (ii) an outcome that indicates the one or more indicia comprising the outcome that corresponds to the random number of a particular record. A gaming device 16 may utilize a probability database 44A to determine, for example, what outcome corresponds to a random number generated by a random number generator 38 and to display the determined outcome. The outcomes may comprise the three symbols to be displayed along the payline of a three-reel slot machine.

Further, where appropriate, a payout database 44B (e.g., FIG. 5) may be utilized in the performance of the processes described herein. A payout database 44B may be stored in the data storage device in tabular form, or any other appropriate database form, as is well known in the art. The data stored therein includes a number of example records or entries, each defining an outcome that may be obtained on a gaming device that corresponds to a payout. Those skilled in the art will understand that the payout database may include any number of entries. The tabular representation also defines fields for each of the entries or records. The fields specify: (i) an outcome, which indicates the one or more indicia comprising a given outcome; and (ii) a payout that corresponds to each respective outcome. The outcomes may be those obtained on a three-reel slot machine.

A gaming device 16 may utilize the payout database 44B to determine whether a payout should be output to a player as a result of an outcome obtained for a game. For example, after determining the outcome to output on the gaming device 16, the gaming device 16 may access the payout database 44B to determine whether the outcome for output is one of the outcomes stored as corresponding to a payout. If it is, the gaming device may provide the corresponding payout to the player.

Other arrangements of payout databases 44A and probability databases 44B are possible. For example, the book “Winning At Slot Machines” by Jim Regan (Carol Publishing Group Edition, 1997) illustrates examples of payout and probability tables and how they may be derived. The entirety of this book is incorporated by reference herein for all purposes.

Additionally, where appropriate, a player database 44C (e.g., see FIG. 6) may be utilized to store data associated with specific players. A player database 44C may be used, for example, to store player wager data so that players wagering over a given threshold in a given amount of time may be rewarded for their patronage. The player database 44C may also contain other information that may be useful in, for example, promoting and managing player behaviors (e.g., information about the player's gaming preferences, gaming sessions, outstanding debts, lodging arrangements, and the like). Further, the player database 44C may store data regarding a given player's standing in a game session or bonus game, so that the player can continue the game session or bonus game at a plurality of game machines 16 that have common access to the player database 44C. Such player data may be stored in a relational database and retrieved or otherwise accessed by the processor after receiving a “key” data point from the player, such as a unique identifier read from the player's player tracking card and/or cashless gaming ticket.

Note that, although these databases 44 may be described as being stored in a gaming device 16, in other embodiments some or all of these databases 44 may be partially or wholly stored in another device, such as one or more of the peripheral devices, the peripheral device server, casino server 12 (as databases 28), kiosks, casino personnel devices, merchant POS terminals, and so on. Further, some or all of the data described as being stored in the databases 44 may be partially or wholly stored (in addition to or in lieu of being stored in the memory of the gaming device) in a memory of one or more other devices, such as one or more of the peripheral devices, another gaming device, the peripheral device server and/or the casino server 12.

Player Tracking and Accounting

As described, in some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may comprise a reader device for reading data from player tracking cards and/or smart cards, such that (i) players may be identified, and (ii) various data associated with players may then be determined (e.g., a number of credits of a certain type; a number of accumulated loyalty points; a number of accumulated game elements such as symbols, cards or hands; etc.). In one example, a card reader device may determine an identifier associated with a player (e.g., by reading a player tracking card comprising an encoded version of the identifier), such that the gaming device 16 may then access data (e.g., of a player database 44C, as described) associated with the player. In another example, a smart card reader device may determine data associated with a player directly by accessing a memory of an inserted smart card.

Thus, as known in the art, “smart cards” may incorporate (i) a memory, and (ii) means for accessing such a memory. For example, in one embodiment, the memory may store data related to aspects of the present invention. In one embodiment, data may be written to the smart card as a player plays one or more gaming devices 16 (e.g., such that various data may be updated on a continuous, periodic or event-triggered bases). Accordingly, in one or more embodiments one or more devices operable to carry out various processes of the present disclosure (e.g., a gaming device 16 or kiosk) may have associated therewith a smart card reader device, such that data may be read from the smart card pursuant to the execution of such processes. An example of a smart card system that may be used to implement one or more embodiments of the present invention is the s-Choice™ Smart Card Casino Management System from Smart Card Integrators, Inc.™.

Further, as known in the art, the gaming device 16 may comprise a player tracking module comprising (i) a card reader (e.g., a port into which player tracking cards may be inserted), (ii) various input devices (e.g., a keypad, a touch-screen), (iii) various output devices (e.g., a small, full-color display screen), and/or (iv) combinations thereof (e.g., a touch-sensitive display screen that accommodates both input and output functions). Various commercially available devices may be suitable for such an application, such as the NextGen™ interactive player tracking panel manufactured by IGT or the iVIEW display screen manufactured by Bally® Gaming and Systems.

Of course, other non-card-based methods of identifying players are contemplated. For example, a unique identification code may be associated with the player. The player may then be identified upon providing the code. For example, the code may be stored (e.g., within a database maintained within the gaming device 16 and/or the casino server 12) such that the player may enter the code using an input device 34 of a gaming device 16, and accordingly be identified. Alternately or additionally, player biometrics may serve as identification means (e.g., a player is identified via a thumbprint or retinal scan). In further embodiments, a barcode of a cashless gaming ticket may encode a player identifier. In still other embodiments, the player identifier may be stored on or associated with an RFID transponder.

Thus, as described, various data associated with a player may be tracked and stored (e.g., in an appropriate record of a centrally-maintained player database 44C), such that it may be accessed as desired (e.g., when determining promotional offers or rewards to be provided to players, when determining the status of player with respect to a particular game or period of gambling activity, and so on). Further, various statistics may be measured in association with a player (e.g., coin-in statistics, win/loss statistics) and similarly accessed.

Various systems for facilitating such monitoring are contemplated. For example, a two-wire system such as one offered by International Gaming Systems (IGT) may be used. Similarly, a protocol such as the IGT SAS™ or SuperSAS™ protocol may be used. The SAS™ and SuperSAS™ protocols allow for communication between gaming machines 16 and slot accounting systems and provide a secure method of communicating all necessary data supplied by the gaming device to the online monitoring system. One aspect of the SAS™ and SuperSAS™ protocols that may be beneficial in implementing aspects of the present invention are the authentication function which allow operators and regulators to remotely interrogate gaming devices 16 for important memory verification information, for both game programs, and peripheral devices. In another example, a one-wire system such as the OASIS™ System offered by Aristocrat Technologies™ or the SDS slot-floor monitoring system offered by Bally Gaming and Systems™ may be used. Each of the systems described above is an integrated information system that continually monitors slot machines and customer gaming activity. Thus, for example, any one of these systems may be used to monitor a player's gaming activity in order to determine player outcomes, coin-in statistics, win/loss statistics and/or any other data deemed relevant.

Other Devices

In some embodiments, a kiosk (not shown) may be configured to execute or assist in the execution of various processes of the present invention. In some embodiments, a kiosk may comprise a processor and a memory as described. A kiosk may also comprise various input devices (e.g., a keypad, a keyboard, a mouse, buttons, a port that receives player tracking cards, an optical scanner for reading barcodes or other indicia, a CCD camera, etc.), output devices (e.g., a display screen, audio speakers, etc.), benefit output devices (e.g., a coin tray or printer for printing cashless gaming tickets), combinations thereof (e.g., a “ticket-in/ticket-out” device, a touch-sensitive display screen, etc.), communications ports, and so on. Thus, a kiosk may comprise many of the features and components of the gaming device 16, though the kiosk itself may not necessarily be configured to enable gambling activity as a primary function. A kiosk may communicate with any or all of (i) a server or central controller (casino server 12), (ii) a gaming device 16, (iii) an inventory/reservation system of a casino-maintained property (e.g., a hotel), (iv) casino personnel devices, (v) merchant POS terminals, and so on. A number of kiosks may be stationed within casino premises (e.g., at various locations on a slot floor). In various embodiments, kiosks may execute or assist in the execution of (i) determining and outputting a player status or other types of data described herein (e.g., a kiosk receives a player tracking card, and outputs a number of accumulated reward which a player may be entitled to redeem), (ii) outputting payments to players (e.g., upon receipt of cashless gaming tickets, player tracking cards, smart cards, etc.), and/or (iii) any other process described herein. Thus, such a device may be configured to read from and/or write to one or more databases of the present invention. The memory of such a device may store a program for executing such processes.

In some embodiments, various casino employees may be equipped with or otherwise utilize one or more casino personnel devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) or other computing devices (e.g., personal computer terminals). A casino personnel device may comprise various input devices (e.g., a keypad, a touch-sensitive display screen, a card reader, an infrared bar code scanner, etc.), various output devices (e.g., an LCD screen), a processor, a memory and/or a communications port, as described herein with respect to other devices. In some embodiments, a casino personnel device may communicate with the gaming device 16, the casino server 12, kiosk, peripheral device, and/or an inventory/reservation system of a casino-maintained property (e.g., a hotel). Thus, a casino personnel device may be configurable to, among other things, (i) read from and/or write to one or more databases of the present invention, (ii) assist in payments made to players (e.g., a representative “scans” a cashless gaming receipt and determines a value associated with the receipt, and if the receipt is valid, provides payment equal to the value), and/or (iii) execute or assist in the execution of various other processes described herein. The memory of such a device may store a program for executing such processes.

In some embodiments, various component devices (e.g., any or all of the benefit output devices, output devices, input devices and/or input output devices described herein) may be embodied as peripheral devices (not shown). For example, such devices may not necessarily be components of the gaming device 16, though they may be configured in such a manner so as to communicate with one or more gaming device processors 32 or any other devices described herein. For example, a peripheral device such as a large display device may be associated with a plurality of gaming devices 16, and thus may not necessarily be considered a component of any one gaming device 16. Further, in some embodiments, certain peripheral devices such as card readers may be interchangeable between gaming devices 16, and thus may be considered a component of a first gaming device 16 while connected thereto, removed from the first gaming device 16, then connected to a second gaming device 16, and so on. In some embodiments, a peripheral device such as a USB-based portable memory device may store (i) one or more databases described herein, and/or (ii) a program for executing one or more process steps described herein. Such a peripheral device may then be utilized by casino personnel for upgrading/retrofitting existing gaming devices as described herein.

Retrofitting Existing Gaming Devices

In one or more embodiments, enabling gaming device 16 play wherein a credit balance may be negative, may be practiced by replacing and/or augmenting one or more components (e.g., hardware and/or software components) of an existing gaming device 16. Thus, in one or more embodiments, a retrofit or upgrade to existing gaming devices currently available for play within various casinos may be used.

For example, a memory 40 (e.g., computer chip) of the gaming device 16 may be replaced or added, the replacement or additional memory 40 storing a program 42 for instructing the processor 32 of the gaming device 16 to operate in accordance with one or more embodiments. In another example, data output via the gaming device 16 (e.g., graphical and/or textual data displayed on the gaming device) may be replaced or added.

In a specific example, the gaming device 16 may comprise various electronic components mounted to one or more printed circuit boards (PCBs). Such components may include various hardware described herein, such as a communications port 48 and various controllers of peripheral devices (e.g., a display controller), as well as a memory 40 for storing programming instructions (software) and a processor 32 for carrying out such instructions. One form of memory commonly found gaming devices is electronically erasable programmable read-only memory or erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM or EPROM). Thus, in one or more embodiments of the present invention, an EEPROM storing software with instructions related to the present disclosure (as well as instructions for carrying out other functions traditionally performed by the gaming device) may replace an EEPROM previously installed in a gaming device 16, such that the gaming device 16 may be configured to operate in accordance with various processes of the present disclosure.

For example, a “negative credit game play module” may be made available for purchase to various casino operators. The module, which may comprise various hardware and software (e.g., an EEPROM storing software instructions), may be installed in an existing gaming device 16 (e.g., a video-reel slot machine, a video poker machine, etc.), such that when the module is installed, players of the device may elect (i) to play a game offered by the gaming device that does not incorporate aspects of the present disclosure, or (ii) to play a game offered by the gaming device in a manner that utilizes aspects of the present disclosure. Thus, players who are familiar with the games offered by various gaming devices may elect to pay for them in a different or similar manner as they are accustomed to.

Accordingly, the gaming device 16 may be configured to allow a player to select one of two “modes” of the gaming device 16, and to enable the selected mode. If a player selects a “standard” mode, the gaming device 16 may be configured to operate in a manner similar to how it operated before the installation of the module (e.g., the gaming device 16 operates in a conventional manner, such that aspects of the present disclosure may not be utilized). If a player selects a “negative credit game play” mode, the gaming device 16 may then be operable to execute game play in accordance with one or more aspects of the present disclosure.

In one example of allowing a player to select one or more modes, a touch-sensitive display screen may be configured to output a prompt (e.g., a menu screen, as described) asking a player to select a mode of operation. Such a prompt may be output in occurrence to various trigger conditions (e.g., coins, bills or tickets are inserted; a credit balance increases from zero to some other number; a player presses a “play” button; a motion, weight, infrared or other sensor detects the presence of a player; etc.). Accordingly, a player may select a mode of operation (e.g., by pressing an appropriately labeled icon of a touch-sensitive display screen), and upon receiving the player's selection, the gaming device 16 may be configured to operate in the selected mode.

In other embodiments, as described, a peripheral device may be useful for implementing one or more embodiments of the present disclosure into the operation of a conventional gaming device. For example, in order to avoid or minimize the necessity of modifying or replacing a program already stored in a memory of a conventional gaming device, an external or internal module that comprises a peripheral device may be inserted in, connected to or otherwise associated with the gaming device. For example, a separate output device for tracking negative credits may be implemented.

In still further embodiments, rather than configure existing gaming devices to execute aspects of the present disclosure by installing or connecting new hardware and/or software, software may be downloaded into an existing memory of one or more gaming devices. U.S. Pat. No. 6,805,634 to Wells et al. teaches methods for downloading data to gaming devices in such a manner. The entirety of U.S. Pat. No. 6,805,634 is incorporated by reference herein for all purposes. Thus, in some embodiments, an existing gaming device may be reprogrammed to accommodate new functionality of the present invention without the need, or by minimizing the need, to remove and replace hardware within the gaming device.

Following is a description of process steps (see FIG. 13) which may be performed by, for example, (i) the gaming device 16, (ii) the casino server 12, (iii) devices operatively connected to gaming devices 16 and/or casino server 12 (e.g., retrofitted hardware devices, other devices such as kiosks or casino personnel devices, etc.), and (iv) any combination thereof. Thus, although the following description discusses the steps as performed by the gaming device 16, it is contemplated that the steps may be performed by any combination of the devices and computers described herein. Additionally, it should be understood that the steps may be performed in any order, and thus are not limited to the order in which they are described.

In some embodiments, a current credit balance associated with the gaming device 16 may be determined (block 100). As described, in some embodiments, the memory 40 may store such a balance of credits. Thus, in some embodiments, block 100 may comprise accessing the memory 40 to determine a current balance of credits. As described, such a memory 40 storing a balance of credits may be maintained by one or more of a variety of devices described herein, including but not limited to a gaming device 16, casino server 12, peripheral device, a smart card, and so on.

In some embodiments, determining a current credit balance may comprise determining a net credit balance (e.g., “net balance,” “net current balance,” “total balance,” “total current balance,” and so on), which may be determined by comparing credit balances of a first and second type. In some embodiments, such credit balances of different types may also then be stored in memory 40 (a first memory stores credit balances of both types, balances are stored in separate memories, and so on).

In one such example, as described, a secondary type of credits may offset, negate reduce or otherwise impact (negatively or positively) the value of a first type of credits. For example, as described, in some embodiments, “loaned” credits are subtracted from “standard” credits. For example, a player may have a balance of credits of a primary type (e.g., 12 standard game credits), as well as a balance of credits of a secondary type (e.g., 17 loaned game credits). However, the credits of the secondary type may reduce the value of credits of the primary type at a one-to-one ratio (though other ratios are contemplated). For example, the player has earned 12 standard credits but owes 17 loaned credits, the player's net balance may be −5. It should be noted that, throughout the present disclosure, various terms may be associated with such a secondary type of credits so as to illustrate their nature as explained in the Rules of Interpretation set forth below. Further, in some instances, such credits may be thought of as “debits” or reductions against a total balance.

It should be noted that, in one embodiment, a credit that may be categorized as a “loaned” credit may be a credit that is provided to a player without the player having to first provide consideration therefore and which credit the player may be required to repay via a primary credit the player may win as a result of a game play of a gaming device. However, in at least one embodiment, the player is not required to repay such a loaned credit via other means. Thus, for example, if a player is loaned ten (10) credits without first having to provide consideration therefore, any credits the player may win as a result of an outcome of a gaming device while wagering with such loaned credits may be used to repay the loaned credits. However, should the player end a play session without having won enough credits to repay the entirety of the loaned ten (10) credits, in at least one embodiment the player is not required to provide any consideration as a means of repayment of any remainder of the loaned ten credits that has not yet been repaid via the player's winnings.

In some embodiments, such credits may be accumulated or otherwise received in a variety of manners. For example, in one embodiment, as described further herein, if by result of a wager, a positive balance of a first type of credits (e.g., standard game credits) would be reduced to a negative amount, rather than display such a balance as a negative balance of the first type (e.g., a negative balance of standard game credits, such as −7), a separate meter may indicate a positive amount of credits of a secondary type (e.g., 7 loaned credits are accumulated). In other examples, such credits may be accumulated (i) based on the occurrence of one or more particular game results (e.g., reels of a slot game resolve to “−10−10−10”, such that 10 credits are subtracted from a primary balance or added to a secondary balance), (ii) through a player's failure (or success) in complying with a particular predetermined rule governing play (e.g., a player fails to maintain a certain rate of play, such as 10 spins per minute, and therefore is penalized one credit), (iii) based on the play associated with another player and/or gaming device (e.g., if a first player receives 10 credits, a second player loses 10 credits), and so on. In various embodiments, negative credits may comprise (i) credits of a balance that is currently less than zero, or (ii) a positive amount of credits that negatively affect (negates, offsets, reduces the value of) another type of credits (e.g., “loaned” credits reduce the value of “standard” credits).

Thus, it is contemplated that block 100 may be preformed in a variety of manners. For example, in some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may utilize credits of only one particular type (though a balance associated therewith may be negative or positive), and accordingly, block 100 may comprise accessing a memory 40 to determine a current balance. In other embodiments, the gaming device 16 may utilize credits of more than one particular type, and determining a current balance in block 100 may then comprise comparing a plurality of credit balances that may have an effect on one another, so as to determine a net balance.

In some embodiments, a wager amount may be determined (block 200) after receiving an input from a player. For example, a player may actuate one or more input devices 34 so as to indicate a wager amount, which may be associated with one or more game starts. For example, a player may indicate a wager amount by actuating one or more physical buttons or by pressing an area of a touch-sensitive display screen. In one example, a player may actuate a single input device 34 that indicates a wager amount (e.g., a physical button labeled “10 credits”). In another example, a player may increment or decrement a desired wager amount using one or more input devices 34 (e.g., a player presses an area of a touch-sensitive display screen three times, increasing a wager amount to be associated with an upcoming game play by three credits). Of course, as would be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art, various other player selections or inputs made by a player may affect such a wager amount. For example, a player may indicate a number of paylines of a slot machine game that should be active (e.g., four paylines), or a player may indicate a number of hands of video poker to receive (e.g., 50 hands), and thereby a wager amount per payline or hand may be multiplied by the number of paylines or hands to determine a total wager amount associated with a particular game play.

In some embodiments, a wager amount may not be determined until a player actuates an input signaling that the player desires to execute a game start. For example, a player may actuate a “spin” button, and accordingly, a wager amount may be determined based on previous inputs the player may have entered (e.g., before pressing the spin button, the player selected a wager amount of three credits, the selected amount being stored in RAM). In another example, a player may actuate a single input device 34 that signals a wager amount and a desire to execute a game start (e.g., a player presses a “Bet Three Credits” button, upon which such a gaming device would normally be configured to execute a game play). Accordingly, in some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may be programmed such that a game start may not be executed if the wager amount would result in a negative credit balance and such a credit balance is not permissible, as will be described herein.

In some embodiments, a wager amount associated with a particular game start may be based on an input received prior to (e.g., several game plays in advance of) a particular game start. For example, in some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may be configured to execute a plurality of game starts in a substantially automated manner (e.g., without receiving player input with respect to the execution of each game play). Such apparatus and methods are taught in commonly-owned, co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/331,438, filed Dec. 27, 2002, entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR AUTOMATICALLY OPERATING A GAME MACHINE,” the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes. For example, the gaming device 16 may be configured to automatically execute 100 game starts, each at a wager amount of three credits. Accordingly, for each of the game starts one through 100, one or more process steps described herein may automatically be performed (e.g., for each game start, a current balance is determined, a wager amount is determined, a determination is made as to whether the wager amount would result in a negative balance, and so on).

Based on a wager amount determined in block 200 and a current balance determined in block 100, it may be determined whether placing the wager amount (e.g., deducting the wager amount from the current balance of credits) would result in a negative balance (e.g., a balance of credits that is less than zero) (block 300).

For example, in some embodiments, a current balance determined in block 100 may comprise a positive balance of credits (e.g., 7 credits). Accordingly, in one such embodiment, determining whether a wager amount will result in a negative balance may comprise determining whether a positive amount of credits (e.g., including or not including zero) will result in any negative amount of credits (e.g., any number less than zero). For example, if a current balance of credits is seven credits, it may be determined that any wager amount of eight or more credits results in a negative balance. Thus, in some embodiments, if it is determined that a negative credit balance will result from a wager, the process proceeds to block 400.

In some embodiments, however, rather than determine whether any negative balance will result from a wager, block 300 may instead comprise determining whether a specific negative balance will result from a wager amount. For example, block 300 may comprise determining, based on a wager amount determined in block 200 and a current balance determined in block 100, whether a balance will result that is (i) a specific negative number (e.g., −200), (ii) a negative number that is less than a threshold negative number (e.g., any number less than −50 credits), (iii) a negative number between a range of negative numbers (e.g., between −101 and −200 credits), (iv) a negative number that is greater than a particular threshold number of credits less than a current balance (e.g., if a negative number that results from a wager is more than 50 coins less than a current balance), and so on. Thus, it should be noted that, in some embodiments, a current balance determined in block 100 may comprise a negative balance, such that block 300 may comprise determining whether a wager amount may result in a specific negative number (e.g., a number that is more negative than a current balance), a negative that is less than a threshold negative number, (e.g., a current balance is −96 and a threshold is set at −100, such that if a player intends to wager more than five coins play may be prohibited), and so on.

Accordingly, if it is determined in block 300 that a negative balance (e.g., any negative balance, a particular negative balance, a negative balance that is less than a threshold amount, and so on) will result from a wager amount determined in block 200, block 400 may comprise determining whether or not it is permissible to allow a negative balance of credits. Such a determination of whether or not it is permissible to allow a negative balance of credits may be based on one or more of a variety of factors.

Player Data. In some embodiments, such a determination may be based data associated with one or more players, such that a determination of whether or not to allow a negative credit balance may consider a player currently utilizing the gaming device 16. For example, in some embodiments, such a determination may be made based on data stored in a database such as a player database 44C. A player of a gaming device 16 may be identified in any of a variety of manners as described previously, such as by detecting the insertion of a player tracking card, receiving a player identifier in some other manner (e.g., via biometric means and/or receiving a PIN code), and so on, such that data measured or tracked in association with a player may then be stored as a record of an appropriate database (e.g., a database similar to the player database 44C).

Various player data may then be considered when determining whether or not it is permissible to allow a negative balance, including but not limited to (i) whether the player is a hotel guest (e.g., turning to FIG. 6, “Bob Jones” is a hotel guest, and therefore his balance is allowed to go negative); (ii) a status ranking associated with a player, which may be based on the player's historic play with a casino (e.g., turning to FIG. 6, “Chet Williamson” is a “Tier 4” player, and thus his balance is allowed to go negative to any point, whereas “Bob Jones,” being only a “Tier 1” player, may not be permitted a negative balance greater than −100 credits); (iii) whether or not the player has provided financial account information to the casino (e.g., has the player provided a credit card); (iv) whether the player has provided appropriate contact information (e.g., so long as a valid player tracking card is inserted, a negative balance may be permitted) and so on. It should be noted that any other types of data which may be tracked or measured in association with a player may be considered in a similar regard (e.g., a player's historic theoretical win, how much time a player has spent playing one or more casino games, and so on). Further factors which may be considered are described in commonly-owned, co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 10/852388, filed May 24, 2004, entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PROVIDING ELECTRONIC CREDITS AT A GAMING DEVICE WITHOUT FIRST REQUIRING PAYMENT THEREFOR,” the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

Of course, one of ordinary skill in the art would appreciate that combinations of such factors may be considered when making such determinations. For example, a player's balance may be allowed to go negative only if he is a hotel guest and has provided a valid credit card. Further, it should also be appreciated that a consideration of such data may impact not only a determination of whether or not to permit a negative credit balance at all, but may also impact a determination of whether or not to permit a negative credit balance lower than a certain threshold, within a certain range, and so on.

Thus, in some embodiments, turning to an exemplary data structure of an allowable negative balance database 44D depicted by FIG. 7A, such a database 44D may be accessed in block 400 to determine whether or not a negative credit balance is allowed based on various conditions. For example, as shown by FIG. 7A, any negative balance up to −49 credits may be allowed in conjunction with a particular gaming device 16 (e.g., a gaming device 16 identified as GD-100001), so long as a player tracking card has been inserted. In another example, a negative balance between −50 and −149 may be allowed only if a player has inserted a tracking card and is at least a “Tier 1” member of a casino rewards program.

It should be appreciated that such player data may be stored in one or more databases 44, which may be maintained by one or more devices (e.g., gaming devices, servers, smart cards, etc.). In one embodiment, such data may be encoded onto a player tracking card or cashless gaming ticket (e.g., such that when the ticket is read by a gaming device, the gaming device is programmed to interpret the encoded data and configure itself so as to allow a negative balance as indicated by the data).

Thus, such information associated with a player may be considered when determining whether or not to allow a negative credit balance. Such data may be useful when such a determination is made during routine transactional play of a gaming device, as opposed to situations wherein players may pre-pay for a session of a plurality of game starts (as described). For example, if player has not pre-paid for a session, and the player is allowed to generate a negative credit balance (e.g., thereby placing wagers without first providing payment), then it may be advantageous for a casino to collect and utilize player data such that payment may be provided (e.g., credits loaned to a player are charged to a hotel bill or credit card, and so forth).

Session Play Parameters. However, in some embodiments, as described, the gaming device 16 may be configured to receive a fixed price for a game session comprising a number of game starts (e.g., a $20 “contract” entitling the player to a predetermined amount of game play, such as a number of handle pulls or a length of time). In some embodiments, it may be determined in block 400 that it is permissible to allow a negative credit balance (e.g., any negative credit balance, a credit balance beneath a particular threshold, a particular negative credit balance, and so on) if a player has paid (or, for example, has previously agreed to pay but has not yet provided payment) a fixed price for a game session. For example, a fixed price charged to a player for such a gaming session may be calculated so as to ensure profitability for a casino once a session concludes (and a player has been paid any winnings), and built into such a calculation may be an analysis of the statistical effects of allowing a negative credit balance. For example, based on repeated mathematical simulation, it may be conclusive that a casino can profitably offer, for a gaming device with given probabilities and payouts, a $20 flat-rate session comprising 200 spins of a 25¢-per-spin slot game, wherein a player starts with a balance of 80 credits, and is allowed to accumulate a negative balance without penalty (e.g., the player pays no more than the $20 fixed price regardless of “how negative” his balance is at the end of the session).

However, pursuant to maintaining the profitability of such fixed price sessions or contracts, the gaming device 16 of the present disclosure may be programmed with various rules for determining whether or not it is permissible to allow a negative credit balance (e.g., any negative credit balance, a particular negative credit balance, and so on) given various parameters of a fixed-price session or gaming contract in which a player is engaged. It may be determined (e.g., by a gaming device) that a player is engaged in session play or contract play in a variety of manners, including but not limited to (i) accessing a database 44 of a gaming device 16, casino server 12 or other device to determine if the gaming device 16 and/or player is currently engaged in session play or contract play; (ii) detecting the insertion of a player tracking card or other type of card indicating that session play or contract play is active; (iii) receiving a signal from a separate device indicating that session play or contract play is active, such as the casino server 12; and so on. As stated, the above-referenced commonly-owned patents and applications related to session play and gaming contracts provide further appropriate description.

For example, in some embodiments, a determination of whether or not it is permissible to allow a negative credit balance (e.g., any negative credit balance, a particular negative credit balance, any negative balance for a particular period of time, and so on) may be based on any or all of the following various parameters of a fixed-price session or gaming contract in which a player may be engaged:

    • + a price or other cost associated with a providing gaming session or contract (e.g., if a fixed price of $20 or more for a session has been received, a negative credit balance of up to −300 credits may be allowed, whereas a larger negative balance may be allowed if a larger flat payment has been received; if an incremental session or contract fee of 1¢ per 25¢ wagered is received, a negative credit balance of up to −200 credits may be allowed, whereas a larger negative balance may be allowed if a larger incremental payment has been received; and so on);
    • + a duration of session or contract, whether measured in units of time or units of game play (e.g., during a one-hour session, a player's balance may go as far negative as −100; during a 700-spin session, a player's balance may go as far negative as −150; and so on);
    • + a duration remaining in a session or contract, whether measured in units of time or units of game play (e.g., for the first 50 hands of a 200-hand video poker session, a player may be allowed to go as far negative as −100, though for the next 50 hands the player may be allowed to go as far negative as −150);
    • + a duration of a session or contract spent with a negative credit balance (e.g., a player who has not spent any time “in the negative” may be allowed a greater negative balance than a player who has spent more time “in the negative”);
    • + attributes associated with game play executed by a player during a session or contract (e.g., a video poker player who has demonstrated more skill in executing strategically optimal hold/discard decisions may be allowed a greater negative balance);
    • + an average profit associated with offering a gaming session or contract, methods of calculation for which are described in co-pending U.S. Provisional Application. No. 60/679,138, filed May 9, 2005, entitled “SYSTEMS, METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR FACILITATING A FLAT RATE PLAY SESSION ON A GAMING DEVICE,” the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes (e.g., if an average profit associated with a session is $6.75, a player may be allowed a negative balance of up to −60 credits, whereas if an average profit associated with a session is $12.75, a player may be allowed a negative balance of up to −120 credits); and/or
    • + a credit line extended to a player (e.g., a player with a credit line of $1,000 may be allowed any negative balance equal to or less than −500 credits on a $1 denomination slot machine).

Thus, such session or contract parameters may be considered when determining in block 400 whether or not it is permissible to allow a negative credit balance. For example, in some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may be programmed such that if a player is engaged in session play or contract play, rules governing the allowance of a negative balance may be enforced based on the type of session or contract that is active (e.g., different sessions or contracts provided to players that are characterized by similar parameters may be thought of as sessions or contracts of the same type). For example, in some embodiments, a database 44E (see FIG. 7B) may correlate an identifier of a type of session or contract to (i) an allowable negative credit balance, and/or (ii) one or more conditions that may apply to the allowance of the negative credit balance. Turning specifically to FIG. 7B, if a player is engaged in gaming session GS-100001, the player may have no restriction on how far negative his balance may go. If a player is engaged in gaming session GS-100002, the player may be allowed a negative balance of up to −400 credits, for the duration of the session (e.g., thus, a determination to allow a negative credit balance may be based on whether or not a player is engaged in a gaming session). If a player is engaged in gaming session GS-100003, the player may be allowed a negative balance of up to −200 for the first 100 spins and a negative balance of up to −300 for the second 200 spins of the session. It should be appreciated that such conditions may be imposed in consideration of any of the above-described gaming session or contract parameters (e.g., a player may be allowed a first negative balance so long as he continues to play video poker according to optimal strategy, but if the player fails to play according to optimal strategy, he may be allowed a second negative balance instead).

Other considerations. A determination of whether or not to allow a negative credit balance (e.g., any negative credit balance, a particular negative credit balance, and so on) may consider various other factors.

For example, in one embodiment, the gaming device 16 may receive a signal from a separate device indicating to allow a negative credit balance (e.g., in association with a particular game play). For example, the gaming device 16 may receive such a signal from the casino server 12, a casino personnel device (e.g., a PDA-like device operated by a casino employee), and so on. In other embodiments, a determination of whether or not to allow a negative credit balance may be based on (i) time/date considerations (e.g., larger negative balances are allowed at certain times of day and/or days of week), (ii) a level of utilization of one or more casino games (e.g., if a large percentage of gaming devices are currently occupied or utilized, as detected by the insertion of player tracking cards, larger negative credit balances may be permitted), (iii) a rate of play associated with a game device (e.g., larger negative balances are allowed if a player averages at least a certain number of game plays per unit time), (iv) miscellaneous operator or manufacturer-specific rules concerning negative balances (e.g., a system of the present invention may comprise functionally for a casino manager to continually or periodically alter boundaries or rules regarding negative balances as he sees fit), and so on.

Thus, in some embodiments, it may be determined that it is permissible to allow a negative credit balance. For example, the gaming device 16 and/or the casino server 12 may allow a negative credit balance beneath a certain threshold so long as one or more pre-established conditions are satisfied (e.g., as indicated by databases 44D or 44E). If it is determined that a negative balance is permissible, the process of FIG. 13 continues.

In other embodiments, it may be determined that it is not permissible to allow a negative credit balance. In such embodiments, the gaming device 16 may be programmed to perform various functions in response to such a determination. For example, if a player requests a wager that would result in a negative balance, and the negative balance is not permissible, the gaming device 16 may be configured to (i) output a message explaining the disallowance (e.g., “Sorry, you don't have that many credits”); (ii) recommend an alternate wager amount (e.g., “You may only wager up to 73 credits”); (iii) output an offer to a player to allow the wager and resulting negative credit balance, so long as the player agrees to perform a certain activity or accept an altered game parameter. For example, if a negative balance resulting from a wager is first determined unallowable, a player may still place the wager if he agrees to accept an altered game rule such as a disadvantageous change to a probability or payout in association with a future game play, purchase goods or services from or otherwise fulfill an obligation with a third party, partake in a survey or perform some other value-added activity, and so on. Such methods are described in commonly-owned U.S. application Ser. No. 10/341,450, filed Jan. 10, 2003, entitled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR PLAYING A GAME INCLUDING A MORTGAGING OPTION,” and U.S. application Ser. No. 10/121,243 filed Apr. 11, 2002, entitled “METHODS AND SYSTEMS FOR FACILITATING PLAY AT A GAMING DEVICE BY MEANS OF THIRD PARTY OFFERS”; the entirety of both are incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

In some embodiments, a player may be engaged in a gaming session or contract (e.g., a player has pre-paid for an hour of game play), in which a player may continue to execute game play until the player has depleted a credit balance to a certain balance amount, which may be a negative balance amount. For example, a player may purchase for $40 the right to execute as many game plays as desired within an hour, so long as the player's balance does not fall beneath −200 credits, at which point the session may terminate (e.g., the player may no longer be allowed to execute game play). Accordingly, in some embodiments, the block 400 may comprise determining whether or not it is permissible to allow a negative balance, and if it is not permissible, terminating a game session or otherwise preventing further play of a gaming device (e.g., for a predetermined period of time, until further payment is provided by a player, and so on).

If it is determined in block 400 that a negative credit balance is permissible, the control system may then adjust a current balance such that it is equal to the negative balance (block 500).

For example, in some embodiments, block 500 may comprise adjusting a positive balance such that it is equal to the negative balance (e.g., a player with 10 credits places a 20-credit wager, and therefore reduces his balance to −10 credits). In other embodiments, block 500 may comprise adjusting a first negative balance such that it is equal to a second negative balance (e.g., a player has −78 credits, places a one-credit wager, and therefore receives a balance of −79 credits).

In further embodiments, block 500 may comprise adjusting a plurality of balances. For example, block 500 may comprise adjusting a first and a second balance, such that when the first and second balances are summed, the net result is equal to the desired negative balance. For example, as described, a player may possess a balance of standard game credits as well as a balance of loaned game credits, such that the balance of loaned game credits must be subtracted (e.g., at a one-to-one ratio, at some other ratio) from the balance of standard game credits in order to determine a true net balance. Thus, in one example, if a player has a balance of five standard game credits and places a wager of 10 credits, the player's balance of standard game credits may be reduced to zero, and the player's balance of loaned game credits may be increased to five. Thus, it should be noted that, in one embodiment wherein the gaming device 16 may comprise such a plurality of balances of different types (e.g., debits or loan credits which are deducted from standard credits at a one-to-one ratio), only one such balance may be positive at any one time (e.g., it may be impossible or impermissible for a player to possess both loaned credits and standard credits at the same time). However, in other embodiments (as will be described further herein), it may be possible for a gaming device to simultaneously maintain a positive balance of standard credits as well as a positive balance of debits or loaned credits, so long as a reconciliation process is performed in advance of a cashout (e.g., debits are subtracted from credits before a cashout is allowed).

As described previously, in some embodiments, adjusting a balance of credits may comprise adjusting a value stored in memory of the gaming device 16, the casino server 12 or other device. For example, stored within memory 40 of the gaming device 16 may be a value indicating a current credit balance. Such a value may either be negative or positive, such that if it is determined in block 400 that a negative balance is permissible, in block 500, the gaming device 16 processor 32 may send an instruction such that the value in memory 40 is adjusted to reflect the negative amount (e.g., a database record representing a current credit balance is changed from 11 to −1 as the result of a wager).

Further, as described, in some embodiments, a plurality of credit balances may be associated with a gaming device. Accordingly, in some embodiments, block 500 may comprise adjusting a plurality of values stored in memory (e.g., of a gaming device and/or server), each value associated with a type of credits (e.g., a standard game credits value is reduced and a loaned game credits value is increased). For example, if a first balance type may affect a second balance type (e.g., a first balance type reduces the value of a second balance type), each of the values may be adjusted such that a desired net result is reached (e.g., if a net credit balance of −5 is desired, a value indicating a balance of standard credits equals zero and a value indicating a balance of loaned credits equals five).

The control system then displays an indication of a negative credit balance indicated by one or more of such stored values (block 600).

In some embodiments, block 600 may comprise displaying an indication of a negative balance. A particular negative credit balance may be determined in a variety of manners. For example, a particular negative credit balance may be determined at block 300. In one embodiment, the gaming device 16 may receive a signal from another device (e.g., the casino server 12) indicating a negative balance to display. Alternately or additionally, a negative credit balance to be displayed may be determined by accessing one or more values stored in memory (e.g., of the casino server 12, gaming device 16, and so on) indicating one or more current balances and/or negative balance amounts to be displayed; it should be noted that in some embodiments, before indicating a negative balance, a net balance of two types of credits must be first be determined, and accordingly, block 600 may comprise comparing balances of a first and second type to determine a net credit balance (e.g., a specific negative balance).

Various methods of displaying an indication of a negative balance of credits are contemplated. For example, as is known in the art, an output device 36 may present a numeric indication of a balance of credits. For example, a display screen and/or LED meter may be utilized to display a numeric indication of a credit balance, such as “−103.” Thus, the present invention contemplates displaying a negative credit balance as a numeral, perhaps utilizing a hyphen (commonly understood when placed in front of a numeral as a “negative symbol”) in conjunction therewith. An illustration of an exemplary gaming device display screen 50 output, as shown in FIG. 9, depicts such an embodiment. Of course, various adjustments or alterations in design may be made to such output devices to accommodate such presentation (e.g., a conventional LED meter may be made wider so as to accommodate a negative symbol, and so on). Further, various other characters or text may be utilized in place of or in conjunction with a numeral to indicate a negative balance. For example, in one embodiment, the gaming device 16 may output a negative balance as written text (e.g., “Your balance is negative six credits”). In another example, a negative number may appear as a numeral in parenthesis (e.g., “(53)”) or brackets, conventions commonly employed in accounting practices.

In some embodiments, as described, a negative balance may be indicated as a result of a plurality of credit balances that affect one another. For example, as described, credits of a first type (e.g., standard credits) may be offset by credits of a second type (e.g., loaned credits). Accordingly, in some embodiments, the control system may output indications of a plurality of credit balances, such as by outputting two credit balance meters on a display screen. For example, turning to an illustration of an exemplary gaming device display screen output depicted by FIG. 10, a display screen may comprise two credit balance meters 52, 54, one (54) which tracks “credits” (standard credits) and one (52) which tracks “loaned credits” (e.g., which count against standard credits in a one-to-one ratio).

In some embodiments, various icons, symbols, graphics or other elements may be utilized in place of or in conjunction with a numeral to indicate a negative balance (or to indicate a balance of a first or second type of credits which must be summed or otherwise compared to determine a net balance). For example, in some embodiments, a credit balance may be depicted as a thermometer (FIG. 11A), scale, measuring stick, stock chart (FIG. 11B), bar chart, measuring cup, or any other graphic element that may be used for purposes of measurement. For example, turning to an illustration of exemplary gaming device display screen outputs depicted by FIG. 11B, a negative credit balance may be illustrated as a currently negative stock, currently negative thermometer reading (FIG. 11A), and so on. In some embodiments, such icons, symbols or other graphics may change in size, shape, style or color as a balance amount changes. In some embodiments, a first icon, symbol or graphic may be associated with a credit balance of a first type (e.g., a first icon is associated with a positive balance of credits), whereas a second icon, symbol or graphic may be associated with a credit balance of a second type (e.g., a second icon is associated with a negative amount of credits). Further, it should be noted that, in some embodiments, as will be described further herein, the control system may track or measure a player's wins, losses, wager amounts, credit balance, and so on (e.g., such that a graphic indicating a player's history, such as the stock chart-like graphic depicted by FIG. 11B, may be output).

Alternately or additionally, various visual effects such color, shading, contrast, etc., may be utilized to accompany, emphasize or otherwise illustrate the presentation of a negative credit balance. For example, in some embodiments, a balance of a particular type may appear in association with a particular color (e.g., a negative balance appears in red while a positive balance appears in green; a balance of a first type of credits appears in red while a balance of a second type appears in green; and so on). In another example, a background associated with a display screen may change in color, brightness or contrast in association with a credit balance or credit balance type (e.g., a background is red while a balance is negative and green while a balance is positive, a background gradually loses or gains brightness as a player's balance approaches and/or falls beneath zero, and so on).

In some embodiments, a current balance may be positive, and a player may request a wager amount that would result in a negative balance. In one example of such an embodiment, one or more display alterations that would commonly result from a change from a negative to a positive balance (e.g., a change to a credit balance meter, a change associated with an icon or graphic, a change in color or brightness) may be withheld until after one or more game plays have been completed. For example, a player may place a wager that would result in a change from a positive to a negative credit balance (e.g., a player has three coins and wagers five, thereby resulting in a balance of −2 coins), though one or more display alterations that would normally ensue when a balance changes from a positive to a negative state may be withheld until the result of the wager is determined. For example, a player of the above example may win 20 coins, and therefore, a change in color associated with a display screen may never occur (e.g., as the player had a balance of −2 for only a brief period of time until the game play concluded, yielding him 20 coins and a positive balance of 18). In other words, in some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may determine not to alter one or more display properties associated with a change in credit balance until after a game play has been resolved in its entirety.

In some embodiments, displaying an indication of a negative balance to a player (block 600) may comprise displaying auxiliary information to a player regarding the negative balance. For example, in some embodiments, a message or other indication may be output to a player, such as (i) a “warning” message that a balance is currently negative, is negative beyond a certain threshold, has been negative for a certain period of time, and so on; (ii) an indication of a number of credits of a particular type which must be won in order to reach a particular balance (e.g., “For every single-coin wager, you must win at least 10 credits to finish this session with a positive balance”); (iii) an indication of a number of credits a player has wagered since a balance has been zero or negative (e.g., “You've wagered 217 credits of the house's money”); (iv) offers which a player may accept to reduce or eliminate a negative balance (e.g., offers to accept promotions from a casino or third-party or perform various value-added activities as described herein); and so on.

Various embodiments of the present disclosure incorporate methods for operating the gaming device 16 with a negative credit balance, which may have resulted from the above-described process for adjusting a balance such that it results in a negative balance. Numerous such methods will now be described.

Negative balances and cashout procedures. In some embodiments, various actions may be performed in association with a cashout, cashout request, conclusion or termination of a gaming session, and so on.

In some embodiments, it may be desirable to disable various functionality associated with the gaming device 16 should a current balance be a negative balance (e.g., any negative balance, a negative balance beneath a particular threshold, and so on). For example, if a player possesses a negative balance of credits, a positive balance of “loaned” credits or debits, or a net balance of credits that is negative once credits of two different types are summed or otherwise compared, functionality that would normally allow a player to cashout may be disabled. For example, a player may have a balance of −27 credits, and therefore, upon the player's request to cashout (e.g., performed by actuating an input device such as a cashout button), one or more mechanisms may be disabled. For example, in one embodiment, a player in such a situation may not be provided with a cashless gaming ticket (e.g., a ticket printer is disabled). Further, in some embodiments, should a player with a negative balance request a cashout, the gaming device 16 may be configured to output a message to a player, the message perhaps informing the player that (i) the player has no credits of cash value to redeem for currency, (ii) the player “owes” a certain amount of credits (e.g., which may be “paid off” in a manner described below), (iii) the player needs a certain amount of credits before he will have any credits of cash value to redeem (e.g., if a player's balance is −11, the gaming device 16 may output a prompt indicating “You need 12 more credits before you can cash out”), and so on.

In other embodiments, upon the player's request to receive a cashout and/or upon the termination of a gaming session (e.g., a pre-paid 100-spin gaming session concludes), if a current balance is negative, a player may receive a voucher, ticket, card or other medium indicating the current negative balance. For example, in one embodiment, a player may be provided with a cashless gaming ticket indicating a negative amount of credits. In some embodiments, such tickets may be characterized by various indicia, markings or other alterations. In some embodiments, such indicia may encode data, such as an identifier or code (e.g., such that a database record may be accessed based on the identifier to determine a negative balance, player identity, and so on), or a negative balance amount (e.g., a barcode encodes a negative balance amount of −17 coins). In other embodiments, such indicia, markings or other alterations may serve to distinguish such from conventional cashless gaming tickets featuring positive credit balances. For example, such “negative” cashless gaming tickets may comprise a large icon that when viewed would quickly illustrate that the ticket comprises a negative balance, may comprise text indicating that the ticket comprises a negative balance, may comprise a different color or shading, may be printed on using material (e.g., a different color paper substrate), and so on.

In some embodiments, various benefits may be provided to players possessing one or more such cashless gaming tickets or vouchers indicating negative balances (e.g., refunds, comp points, goods, services, buffet passes, and so on). In some embodiments, the value associated with such benefits may be based on the value associated with such tickets (e.g., larger or smaller benefits for larger or smaller negative balances).

In some embodiments, as described, the gaming device 16 may comprise a plurality of balances of credits (e.g., a balance of a first type and balance of a second, perhaps offsetting type). Accordingly, in some embodiments, a cashless gaming ticket may indicate a plurality of credit balances. For example, a cashless gaming ticket may indicate a balance of a first type of credits (e.g., 19 standard game credits) and a balance of a second type of credits (e.g., 13 loaned game credits). In some embodiments, if a first balance type affects a second balance type, a net balance may alternately or additionally be depicted by such a cashless gaming ticket or voucher (e.g., a ticket depicts 19 standard game credits, 13 loaned game credits, and a “Cashout Balance” of six credits).

In some embodiments, an electronic indication of a negative balance may be stored by the gaming device 16, the casino server 12, smart card, and so on. For example, periodically, upon the conclusion of a game play, upon the conclusion of a gaming session and/or upon receiving a cashout request from a player, a negative balance amount may be stored. Thus, for example, a player may terminate play of the gaming device 16, and remove a player tracking card. Should the player then insert the player tracking card (or otherwise identify himself in any other manner described herein) into a different gaming device 16 (or the same gaming device 16 thereafter), a negative credit balance may then be determined in association with the player (e.g., a player database 44C or similar database 44 stores indications of negative credit balances in association with players). In some embodiments, the player may then be prompted to perform a reconciliation or “pay off” process, as described below, before further play is permitted.

Reconciliation of debts. In some embodiments, a balance of negative credits (or positive balance of “loaned” credits or debits) associated with a player and/or gaming device 16 may be eliminated by means of a reconciliation or “pay off” process.

Such a process may be executed (e.g., by a gaming device) at various times and/or in response to various triggering conditions, including but not limited to:

(i) upon receiving a player's request to execute a reconciliation (e.g., a player actuates an input device, such as a button labeled “Convert credits,” “Pay off credits/debt,” “Reconcile,” and so on),

(ii) upon receiving a signal from a separate device (e.g., a server),

(iii) upon the resolution of a game play (e.g., after each game play, after certain game plays such as losing or winning game plays, and so on),

(iv) upon cashout (e.g., a player actuates a “Cash Out” button),

(v) upon the conclusion of a gaming session,

(vi) upon achieving a particular balance (e.g., once a player reaches a balance of −100 credits, a reconciliation process is triggered),

(vii) periodically (e.g., every minute), and/or

(viii) continually (e.g., each time a credit balance changes).

In some embodiments, as described, a player may be responsible for repaying a negative balance of credits. For example, in various embodiments, a player may be responsible for repaying a negative balance of credits before further game play and/or wagering is allowed, before a game session concludes, before a certain time/date, before the occurrence of a particular event, and so on. In other embodiments, a player may not be responsible for repaying all or a portion of a negative credit balance (or a positive balance of “loaned” credits or debits). For example, in one embodiment, if a player has pre-paid a fixed price for a gaming session, and the gaming session concludes with a negative balance (e.g., any negative balance, a negative balance above a certain threshold, and so on), the player may not be responsible for repayment (e.g., such that all a player “pays” for the session is the fixed price). In another example, a player may not be responsible for repaying all or a portion of a negative credit balance if the player is of a certain status, has been playing for a certain amount of time, etc. Generally, in other words, any of the conditions for which a negative balance may be permitted (block 400) may be applied to a determination of whether or not a player must repay a portion or all of a negative credit balance (or positive balance of “loaned” credits or debits).

In some embodiments, if repayment is required (in portion or in full), a player may repay during a reconciliation process. During such a process, a balance of negative credits (or positive balance of “loaned” credits or debits) may be reconciled or “paid off” such that a player may no longer be obligated to repay. In some embodiments, a player may repay any credits owed by providing further payment via a gaming device payment accepting mechanism (e.g., a player inserts a cashless gaming ticket, inserts cash, inserts coins, draws funds from an electronic account, and so on, such that an amount of credits owed may be repaid using the newly-provided funds). Alternately or additionally, a player may reconcile an amount owed by exchanging one type of credits for another. For example, a player may possess 20 loaned credits and 30 standard credits. The player may then “pay off” the loaned credits using the standard credits (e.g., in a one-to-one ratio), such that the player may no longer owe any loaned credits (e.g., an thereby possess only 10 standard credits). Alternately or additionally, a player may reconcile an amount owed in a variety of other manners.

For example, in one embodiment, a player may repay an amount of credits by agreeing to purchase or purchasing a flat-rate gaming session. In another embodiment, a play may provide comp points as repayment. In yet another embodiment, a player may only repay an amount owed using a particular type of credits or particular type of currency (e.g., using only winnings earned while a credit balance is positive). Still further, in exchange for a repayment of credits owed, a player may agree to accept an altered game rule such as a disadvantageous change to a probability or payout in association with a future game play, purchase goods or services from or otherwise fulfill an obligation with a third party, partake in a survey or perform some other value-added activity, and so on. In a still further embodiment, a player may be withheld from further gambling until reconciliation is (partially or wholly) complete (e.g., an identified player may be prevented from playing a slot machine).

In some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may be configured to output one or more display or menu screens designed to facilitate such reconciliation. For example, turning to an exemplary illustration of a gaming device display screen 56 output depicted by FIG. 12, in one embodiment, a player may utilize a touch-screen to select any or all of a method of repayment (e.g., “game credits” or “comp points”), an amount to be repaid in association with a method, and so on. It should of course be appreciated that the functionality exhibited by such a singular screen may be spread throughout a plurality of such screens (e.g., players are stepped through a series of screens), and that further such screens may be necessary to complete a reconciliation process (e.g., after selecting an “add funds” option, a separate screen displays an indication of funds added as a player inserts cash, coins, and so on).

In some embodiments, various players may receive an advantage during a reconciliation process. For example, based on a variety of factors such as player data (e.g., various previously-described statistics associated with a player's gaming history, such as rewards club status level, theoretical win generated, etc.), a measured rate of play and/or length of time playing, session considerations (e.g., a number of sessions a player has bought, a length or cost associated with a particular session), time/date considerations, utilization or capacity considerations, and so on, various parameters of a reconciliation process may be adjusted. For example, a payoff amount or amount owed may be reduced (e.g., if a player meets certain criteria, such as by maintaining a certain rate of play, and so on). In another example, a rate at which a player may exchange a first type of credits for a second type of credits may be altered (e.g., for certain players, each standard game credit pays off two loaned game credits). In yet another example, a time or event before which a player must repay an amount of credits owed may be altered (e.g., a time is extended for certain players).

Sessions beginning with negative balances. As described, in some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may be operable to execute a plurality of game plays in exchange for a single, fixed payment (e.g., 100 spins for $10).

Thus, it should be noted that in some embodiments, a negative balance may be arrived at in various manners (e.g., a manner other than a result of placing a wager). For example, in one embodiment, a session-based game may begin with a negative credit balance, such that a credit balance may not initially be positive. For example, a player may play a gaming session (e.g., purchase a flat-rate block of a plurality of game plays) that begins with a negative credit balance, whereby the player may win a prize or payout at the end of the session (perhaps as well as winning various payouts throughout the session) based on the player's ability (through achieving winning game results) to reduce the negative balance, eliminate the negative balance and/or turn the negative balance into a positive balance (e.g., a game begins at −1,000 credits, and if a player is able to gain a positive balance by the end of the session, the player wins a jackpot). In one embodiment, an initial negative balance (i.e., the negative credit balance at which the session begins) may be based on a fixed price and/or one or more other parameters associated with a session (e.g., the greater the fixed price the lesser the initial negative balance; the longer the session the greater the initial negative balance; and so on).

Tracking negative play. As described, in some embodiments, various parameters may be tracked or measured in association with play of the gaming device 16. For example, the gaming device 16 and/or the casino server 12 may track or measure various statistics regarding “negative play” occurring on the gaming device 16 (e.g., wagering which has occurred while a balance is zero and/or a negative number).

For example, in some embodiments, the gaming device 16 and/or the casino server 12 may track an amount of play (e.g., an amount of time, a number of game plays, an amount wagered, and so on) spent while negative (e.g., with any balance equal to and/or less than zero). Thus, in some embodiments, the control system may determine whether a wager amount will result in a negative balance (e.g., any negative balance, a negative balance beneath a particular threshold, etc.), and if so, increment a value indicating (i) an amount of time elapsed while a credit balance is negative (e.g., so long as a credit balance remains negative, such a value may continually increment, though the value may cease to increment while a balance is positive), (ii) a number of game plays executed while a starting credit balance is negative, and/or (iii) an amount wagered while a balance is negative. Thus, in some embodiments, such values may be measured, tracked and/or stored. For example, in some embodiments, such values may be stored in a database similar in structure to an exemplary negative play database 44F depicted by FIG. 8.

In some embodiments, such data may then be output by a device, such as the gaming device 16, kiosk, casino personnel device, and so on. For example, in one embodiment, such data may be continually or periodically displayed to a player of the gaming device 16 (e.g., a corner of a display screen depicts “15:02 spent in negative this session”). In another embodiment, a player may request such data (e.g., a player presses a button labeled “About my session”) via the gaming device 16 or kiosk, such that the data may be accessed (e.g., based on a received player identifier) and output. In yet another embodiment, such data may be output via a cashless gaming ticket or other substrate output via the gaming device 16, kiosk or any other device. In yet another embodiment, a player may utilize a device such as a personal computer, cellular phone, mobile terminal, PDA, interactive television set, in a manner such that such data may be accessed (e.g., via a network, such as the Internet) and viewed using the device. In various embodiments, any or all of such data may be output, and may be organized or labeled in a variety of manners (e.g., a total amount wagered while negative may appear labeled as “Total Played with House's Money,” “Total Free Play,” “Total Amount Owed,” and so on, perhaps depending on various reconciliation parameters associated with a gaming device and/or player). Further, in some embodiments, a variety of other data may be similarly measured, stored and/or output, including but not limited to (i) an amount of credits won while negative, (ii) a number of game indicia accumulated while negative (e.g., slot machine reel symbols, cards, and so on), (iii) a number of “points” of a loyalty or rewards program earned while negative, (iv) a length of time in between game plays while negative, and so on.

It should also be noted that such data may also be measured, stored and/or output in association with a positive credit balance or credit balance of any other distinguishable type (e.g., an amount of time a player has spent with a positive balance may similarly be tracked). Thus, a player (or other interested party, such as a casino operator, gaming device manufacturer, gaming regulator, tax authority, and so on) may view statistics associated with gaming while credit balances are negative or positive. For example, utilizing data such as (i) a total amount won while positive, (ii) a total amount wagered while positive, (iii) a total amount won while negative, and/or (iv) a total amount wagered while negative, various conclusions can be drawn (e.g., a player typically wagers more while a balance is positive, a player typically takes longer breaks in between game plays when a balance is negative, and so on). Further, it may be useful to track such data related to negative and positive balances separately for accounting purposes. For example, only wagers placed while a balance is positive may be counted as revenue or “coin-in,” perhaps until a player reconciles an amount owed (more detail on this feature is presented below). In another example, only payouts achieved while a balance is positive may count as historic winnings associated with a player. Thus, tracking such data may be useful for a variety of reasons.

Altering payouts, probabilities or other parameters when credit balance is negative. In some embodiments of the present invention, various parameters may be altered when a gaming device credit balance is in a negative state (as opposed to a positive state). For example, in some embodiments, the present invention may comprise (i) determining whether a current credit balance is in a negative or positive state, (ii) executing a game play, (iii) determining whether the current credit balance has changed state as a result of the game play, and if so (iv) adjusting a gaming device parameter. In other words, a gaming device of the present invention may be operable in a negative or positive “state” or “mode,” in which various attributes or parameters may change.

For example, if a current gaming device balance is negative (as opposed to positive), a variety of parameters may be altered, including but not limited to:

(i) a payout associated with one or more game results (e.g., “Cherry-Cherry-Cherry” pays 10 credits while in a positive state, but 12 credits while in a negative state);

(ii) a probability associated with achieving one or more game results (e.g., a player is more likely to achieved “Cherry-Cherry-Cherry” when negative than when positive);

(iii) a rate at which points of a rewards or loyalty program are earned (e.g., a player earns fewer or no “comp” points per game play when a credit balance is negative);

(iv) a display property, such as a color, light, brightness level, contrast level, icon type, graphic type, font type, and so on (e.g., as described, a display screen background turns red when a credit balance is negative);

(v) a rate at which various collectable game elements may be accumulated (e.g., a player may collect/save a greater number of “cherry” symbols or other element for which the player may eventually earn a payout or other benefit); and

(vi) a standard, maximum and/or minimum allowable wager per game play (e.g., a player is allowed to wager a larger or smaller amount per game play while a credit balance is negative).

Thus, the gaming device 16 operating in a negative “mode” (as opposed to a positive “mode”) may be characterized by a different look, feel, play style and so on. For example, in one or more embodiments, as described, payouts and/or probabilities associated with game play may be altered while the gaming device 16 is in such a mode or state. For example, a particular type of payout may only be available when the gaming device 16 is in such a mode or state (e.g., a “super jackpot” becomes active only when a player's balance is negative). In another example, a player may be more likely to achieve a particular outcome while a credit balance is negative (e.g., a probability associated with the outcome “Bell-Bell-Bell” increases). In yet another example, a player may receive a larger payout for an outcome if a credit balance is negative (e.g., a video poker outcome of “Full House” pays a 20-coin bonus when a balance is negative).

In another embodiment, a magnitude of a change in probability or payout may be based on a player's balance. For example, in one embodiment, as a player's balance becomes more and more negative, one or more payouts (according to a predetermined pay schedule) may increase in size (e.g., a payout for “Bar-Bar-Bar” pays 15 credits when a balance is positive, but pays 20 credits when a balance is between −20 and −30, 30 credits when a balance is between −30 and −40, and so on). In one embodiment, a payout for achieving one or more particular game results may be equal to an amount of coins that, when added to a currently negative balance, will result in a balance of zero credits or a positive balance. For example, a payout for the slot machine outcome “Snapback-Snapback-Snapback” may be a positive amount of credits equal to a currently negative balance, and the outcome may only be attainable when a credit balance is currently negative. For example, if a player with a balance of −5 credits achieves “Snapback-Snapback-Snapback,” the player may earn five credits, whereas a player with a balance of −117 credits achieving “Snapback-Snapback-Snapback” may win 117 credits, perhaps up to a certain limit (e.g., the maximum potential payout for the outcome is 200 coins).

In another example, a payout achieved may be based on an amount of time, amount wagered and/or number of game starts executed during which a player's balance is negative. For example, a player having executed 100 game starts while a balance is negative may receive a larger payout for a particular outcome than a player who has only executed 50 game starts while a balance is negative.

In another example, an outcome achieved while a credit balance is a certain negative number (e.g., −17) may pay an amount of credits such that a positive number that is of equal distance from a balance of zero credits may be achieved (e.g., 17). Thus, for example, an outcome such as “Positive Swap-Positive Swap-Positive Swap” may pay 34 credits when a balance is −17 (e.g., resulting in a positive balance of 17 credits), 30 credits when a balance is −15 (e.g., resulting in a positive balance of 15 credits), and so on.

Session/game balance vs. machine balance. In some embodiments, as described, the gaming device 16 may be operable to offer game sessions for a fixed price. For example, a player may insert funds, purchase a first flat-rate game session, complete the session, purchase a second flat-rate game session, and so on.

Accordingly, in some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may separately store an (i) amount of credits associated with a session or game, as well as (ii) an amount of credits stored on a machine which may be applied to a plurality of such games. For example, a player may deposit $50 of currency into the gaming device 16. The player may then purchase a one-hour gaming session for a flat price of $20, thus reducing the “machine balance” to $30. The player may then be given an amount of session or game credits for play during the hour-long session (e.g., $20 may buy 80 credits of 25¢ in value, or may buy some separate value of game credits, such that a prize may be determined at the end of the session based on the game credits accumulated). Thus, in some embodiments, a balance of session/game credits may be negative (e.g., during a session or game, a balance of credits is a negative number), though a balance of machine credits may still be positive (e.g., the player still has $30 with which to purchase further game play).

Balance-status paytable. In some embodiments, the gaming device 16 may comprise a paytable viewable by players (e.g., at all times, by accessing a screen through a menu system, and so on), as is known in the art (e.g., a chart correlates outcomes that may be achieved to payouts that will be made if a player achieves an associated outcome).

In one embodiment, such a paytable may illustrate (i) one or more winnings outcomes that may be achieved through play of the gaming device 16 (e.g., “Plum-Plum-Plum,” “Bar-Bar-Bar,” and so on), (ii) one or more payouts that may be earned for achieving such a winning outcome (e.g., “Bar-Bar-Bar” pays 20 coins), as well as (iii) an indication of a resulting credit balance should an outcome/payout should be achieved (e.g., should a player hit “Bar-Bar-Bar,” a resulting balance would be “−42 credits”). For example, a section of a paytable for a game result of “Bar-Bar-Bar” may appear accordingly:

Outcome Payout New Balance
Bar-Bar-Bar 20 −42

Thus, the present disclosure contemplates outputting a paytable via a display screen, such that entries in a “new balance” column may be continually updated based on a player's current balance (e.g., to calculate such a “new balance” figure, a potential payout amount is added to a current balance amount). It should be noted that such an embodiment may be advantageous should the gaming device 16 comprise a credit balance that may be negative, as patrons may not be used to performing calculations with negative numbers (e.g., the paytable illustrates what a player's balance would be should he win a payout with a negative balance, minimizing the occurrence of discrepancies).

In some embodiments, when a credit balance is negative, various information may be output to a player indicating manners in which the balance may be turned positive. In one example, if a player's balance is −78 credits, any single pay combination of a viewable paytable that is greater than or equal to −78 credits may be highlighted or emphasized in some regard (e.g., such that the player knows he needs at least a full house to break out of the negative in one hand). In another example, a player may be informed of other manners in which a negative balance may be turned positive (e.g., marketing offers the player may accept, and so on).

“Betting” a negative amount of credits. In some embodiments, a player may be able to wager a negative amount of credits, such that a player may “win” by achieving an outcome that generally would yield no payout. For example, when wagering a negative amount of credits, a paytable may be “reversed” such that outcomes that normally would be considered non-winning outcomes (e.g., Bar-Blank-Lemon) may pay an amount of credits, whereas outcomes that would normally be considered winning outcomes (e.g., “Cherry-Cherry-Cherry”) may result in the loss of the “negative” wager amount. For example, a player may “wager” −5 credits, thus signaling the reversal of the paytable in association with a particular game play, such that if a player achieves a “losing” outcome (e.g. Bar-Blank-Lemon), the player may win an amount of credits as indicated by a secondary paytable, whereas if the player achieves a “winning” outcome (e.g., “Cherry-Cherry-Cherry”), the player may lose his wager amount (e.g., the player loses five credits).

Control of the Coin-in, Coin-out Meters

As alluded to elsewhere, gaming devices 16 and other coin operated devices (e.g., arcade games) normally have meters associated with them that account for financial activity on the machine. These meters, called “coin-in meters” and “coin-out meters” (referred to collectively herein as coin tracking meters), measure the wagers placed on the gaming device and the payouts provided by the gaming device respectively. Other meters, such as the “bill-in meter” account for cash inserted into the gaming device. By way of contrast, the term “credit meter” refers to the current equity the player has in the gaming device usually by counting available units of wager as that term is defined in the Rules of Interpretation below. The interested reader is directed to U.S. Pat. No. 6,743,095 to Cole et al. for a more detailed discussion of the mechanics of a conventional coin-in meter.

A first technique to manage the coin-in and coin-out meters is to treat the entire session as a single wager. Exemplary methodology of this technique is presented with reference to FIG. 14. In particular, the player establishes equity in the gaming device 16 (block 700). The player may establish equity by inserting bills into a bill acceptor (thereby causing the bill-in meter to increment), inserting a cashless gaming receipt, or other technique as has been explained elsewhere in this disclosure. Establishing equity effectively creates a machine balance on the gaming device 16. The player may then purchase a session of game play (block 702). The cost of the session is deducted from the machine balance. For example, if the player inserted a one hundred dollar bill into the gaming device 16, the machine balance is initially $100.00. If the player then purchases a ten dollar session, the machine balance is decremented to $90 and the player is provided a number of game starts as dictated by the terms of the purchased session (block 704). The balance of the session credit meter of the gaming device 16 is set according to the rules of the session as well and the coin-in meter is incremented appropriately (block 706). In this simple embodiment, the coin-in meter is incremented by the value of the session. That is, extending the example above, if the value of the session is ten dollars, the coin-in meter is incremented by the number of credits corresponding to ten dollars (e.g., in a quarter denomination game, ten dollars equals forty credits). Further, the session credit meter may be set to zero. The player begins initiating game starts (block 708).

The control system determines if the session has terminated (block 710). If the answer to block 710 is no, then the player continues to initiate game starts (block 708). While the player is initiating game starts, no further changes are made to the coin-in and coin-out meters, although the player's credit balance as shown on the session credit meter goes up and down as described above, subtracting the value of wagers made and adding values associated with winning outcomes.

Once block 710 is answered affirmatively, that the session has ended, either because the player has initiated a cash out event or because the player has exhausted the number of hands provided under the rules of the session, the control system determines if the player is due a payout (block 712). That is, the control system determines if the player has a positive credit balance (either by checking to see if the session credit meter is negative, subtracting the loaned credits from the session credit meter or other technique as desired). If the answer to block 712 is no, the player is not due a payout, then the process ends. If, however, the player is due a payout, then the gaming device 16 provides a payout and increments the coin-out meter by a corresponding number of credits (block 714). The payout may be an increase in the machine balance, a printed cashless gaming receipt, dispensing of coins through a coin hopper or the like. Then the process ends. The approach of FIG. 14 is but one approach to the metering issue. However, this approach may not satisfy system-side requirements such as regular incrementing of the coin-in meter to establish a player's activity on the gaming device 16. As yet another concern with the method of FIG. 14, regulatory and tax authorities may view each game start as a separate wager and require accounting for each separate wager rather than session level accounting.

An alternate approach is to increment the coin-in meter incrementally for each game start using a prorated or amortized value for the game start and then increment the coin-out meter at the end of the session based on the amount (if any) of payout made to the player. This approach allows the system to recognize player activity and reward player activity appropriately. An illustrative flow chart of this approach is presented in FIG. 15.

Again, the method starts with the player establishing equity in the gaming device 16 (block 750). The player purchases a session (block 752). The control system determines a prorated credit value per hand (block 754). For example, if twenty-five hands of max coin (where max coin means that the player wagers the maximum number of credits per hand, which is—for a standard GAME KING® Video Poker machine—five credits), quarter denomination video poker are purchased for ten dollars, the credit per hand is 1.6 credits ($10/25 hands=$0.40/hand (which at $0.25/credit)=1.6 credits/hand). That is, twenty-five hands at 1.6 credits/hand is the same as the forty credits of equity the player actually provided to the gaming device 16 at the time the session was purchased. Note that use of such fractional credits on the meters is known as tokenization within the gaming industry. One exemplary tokenization treats each unit on the coin-in meter as a cent. Thus, the twenty-five units on the coin-in meter reflects a quarter being wagered on the gaming device 16. For the example, 1.6 credits results in forty units being incremented on the coin-in meter.

The player is then provided the game starts according to the session rules (block 756) and the session credit meter is set according to the session rules (block 758), which, in an exemplary embodiment means that the session credit meter is set to zero. The player then initiates a game start, and the coin-in credit meter is incremented by the prorated amount (block 760). In the example, the coin-in credit meter is incremented by 1.6 credits or forty units. The game start is resolved (block 762) and the session credit meter is adjusted (block 764). Adjustments include decrementing the session credit meter for the wager and incrementing the session credit meters for any winnings. In the example, if the player lost on the first game start, the balance on the session credit meter would be negative five credits.

The control system determines if the session has terminated (block 766). If the answer is no, the process repeats as indicated. If the answer is yes, the session has terminated, then the control system determines if the session is an early termination (i.e., are there still game starts remaining in the session?) (block 768). If the answer to block 768 is yes, the control system reconciles the coin-in for any unused game starts (block 770). In the example, if the player terminates after fifteen game starts, the control system adds sixteen credits to the coin-in meter to account for the game starts purchased with the initial ten dollars, but not played.

If the answer to block 768 is no, or after block 770, the control system determines if the player is due a payout (block 772). Such a determination is made by examining the session credit meter. If the session credit meter reflects a positive value, then the positive value is due the player. If the answer to block 772 is no, then the process ends. The negative balance of the session credit meter is cleared and no change is made to the coin-out meter since no coins have been paid. If, however, the player is due a payout, then the value, in number of credits, is transferred to the coin-out meter and the player is provided equity (block 774). The process then ends.

Use of the embodiment of FIG. 15 reflects that the coin-in meter is incremented for each game start and for any unused game starts, but in no event is the coin-in meter incremented more than the value of the money provided by the player to purchase the session. Likewise, the coin-out meter is only incremented if the session ended with a payout to the player. Thus, the coin-out meter is conditionally incremented with the condition being whether the session credit meter ended with a positive balance (whether calculated by comparing loaned credits to normal credits, evaluation of a single credit meter or the like as described above).

While effective from a given point of view, the embodiment of FIG. 15 may still over simplify what is really happening to the player's equity. Depending on point of view, game starts made by the player when the player has positive credit balance have a different cost to the player than game starts made by the player when the player has a negative credit balance. In the latter case, the player has no real cost other than the prorated cost of the game start within the session. In the former case, the player is spending not only the prorated cost of the game start (the amortized component), but also the credits that the player otherwise could have cashed out. It is possible that some regulators, taxing authorities, or other entities may wish to track this extra or re-invested “coin-in”.

Likewise, winnings given to the player have a different effect if the winning takes the player to a positive credit balance or are added to a positive credit balance compared to a win that leaves the player with a negative balance. In the latter case, there truly has been no coin-out. I.e., there is no cost to the gaming device 16 or gaming establishment for that win because so long as the session balance is negative, the player cannot cash out for value. In the former case (i.e., there is a positive balance after the resolution of the game start), however, the portion of the win which is positive is available to the player for a cash out and thus, much like in transactional play where a player wins, but reinvests the win in additional game plays, the award should be reflected on the coin-out meter.

An example of a more robust gaming device 16A is presented in block diagram format in FIG. 16. The gaming device 16A has the processor 32, which is operatively coupled to an equity input 62 (which may be a cash acceptor, a coin acceptor, a cashless gaming receipt acceptor, or the like as desired), an equity output 64 (which may be a coin hopper, a cashless gaming receipt printer, or the like as desired), a coin-in meter 66, a coin-out meter 68, and a session credit meter 70. The processor 32 uses a condition comparator 72 to facilitate embodiments of the present disclosure. The condition comparator 72 may be implemented in software, hardware, or some combination of the two, but an exemplary purpose of the condition comparator 72 is to evaluate a condition associated with the session credit meter 70. Note that the structure of FIG. 16 may be used in the embodiment of FIG. 15, with the condition comparator 72 performing the block 772. Other structures may be used in either embodiment as desired. For example, the condition comparator 72 may be located in the casino server 12 or other location as desired.

Turning now to FIG. 17, the player establishes equity (block 800) and purchases a session (block 802). The control system determines the prorated credit per game start (block 804) as previously described. The player is provided a number of game starts according to the rules of the session (block 806) and the session credit meter 70 is set according to the rules of the session (e.g., at zero) (block 808).

The player initiates a game start (block 810). The condition comparator 72 determines if the session credit meter 70 is at a positive value (meaning the gaming device 16 has not loaned credits to the player to initiate the game start as described above) (block 812) before the value of the wager is subtracted therefrom. If the session credit meter 70 is not positive, then the coin-in meter 66 is incremented by the prorated amount (sometimes referred to as the amortized component) (block 814). If, however, the session credit meter 70 is positive, then the control system increments the coin-in meter 66 by the pro-rated amount plus the portion of the wager that is funded from the positive portion of the session credit meter 70 (sometimes referred to as the conditional component) (block 816). For example, if the session credit meter 70 is at plus sixteen credits, and the wager is five credits, then the entire portion of the wager is funded from the session credit meter 70 and the coin-in meter 66 is incremented by the prorated value plus the five credits from the session credit meter 70 (i.e., amortized component plus conditional component). If, however, the session credit meter 70 is at plus three credits and the wager if five credits, then the coin-in meter 66 is incremented by the prorated value plus three credits.

The game start is then resolved (block 818) by determining an outcome for the game start (e.g., win (with amount as appropriate), loss, push, etc.). The condition comparator 72 then determines if the result of the resolution made the session credit meter 70 positive (block 820). Also included in this determination is whether an already positive session credit meter's balance was increased. If the answer is no, then the process continues. If, however, the answer to block 820 is yes, the session credit meter 70 is positive after the game resolution, then the coin-out meter 68 is incremented by the amount of the result that was positive (block 822). For example, if the session credit meter 70 was at plus fifteen credits after the wager was deducted and before resolution and the result was a fifteen credit win, then all fifteen credits would be added to the coin-out meter 68. If, however, the session credit meter 70 was at minus eight credits after the wager was deducted and before resolution, and the result was a ten credit win, then two credits would be added to the coin-out meter 68.

The control system then determines if the session has ended (block 824). The control system reconciles for any unused game starts for the session (block 826) and then the process ends. Otherwise, the process continues as noted.

It should be appreciated that use of the embodiments set forth in FIGS. 15-17 may allow the gaming devices 16, 16A to interface with existing back-end systems, player bonusing systems and the like. Such interoperability may make the gaming devices 16, 16A more acceptable to gaming establishment operators who then do not have to change existing infrastructure. In particular, player reward clubs which are usually based on “action” on machines will recognize that the player has continuous action and thus the player will be rewarded for time on device. In contrast, treating the session as a single wager may make it appear as if the player is inactive.

Further note that while tokenization allows for the coin-in and coin-out meters to operate at denominations that differ from the unit of wager, in gaming devices that do not have tokenization, a fractional credit meter may be used. Such a fractional credit meter may accumulate fractions of credits until an integer credit is surpassed, then pass the integer credit to the appropriate coin-in and coin-out meters.

Coin-In Meter Treatment Example

In this example, the fixed (i.e., prorated) component of the wager is determined by the retail price divided by the number of hands. For example, if 200 hands cost $40.00, the fixed component of the wager is $0.20 per hand. In effect, this amortizes the retail price over the hands. It also has the benefit of keeping the coin-in meter active throughout the session, triggering standard activity rules for bonusing systems, etc. The change in the coin-in meter from the fixed component of the wager is not displayed to the user in the session credit meter 70 (sometimes referred to herein as the balance meter).

The conditional coin-in meter increments by different values depending on whether the credits taken from the session credit meter are taken from positive or negative territory when making the wager. Because a wager made with “negative territory credits”, that is credits taken from credit meter in the negative range, do not change the economic cash out value of the session (that is, if the player is at −25 credits and then makes a 5 credit wager to end at −30 credits, his cash-out value is zero both before and after the wager), the conditional coin-in component (see discussion of block 816) to the wager is zero. To put it another way, the player is playing with the house's money and it has no immediate cash-out value. The coin-in meter is incremented by the fixed component ($0.20 in the example) plus the conditional coin-in component (zero) for a total coin-in increment of $0.20.

When a wager is made in positive territory (the player has 25 credits and wagers 5 with a resulting balance before the outcome of 20 credits), the player's cash out value does actually diminish by 5 credits, so there is immediate cash-out value to this wager. In this case, the conditional component of coin-in is 5 credits. The coin-in meter is incremented by the amortization component ($0.20 in the example) plus the conditional coin-in component (5 credits×$0.25/credit=$1.25) for a total coin-in increment of $1.45.

Care must be taken when the wager takes the balance meter from positive to negative territory, for example from 3 credits to −2 credits. The amortization component of the wager is, of course, constant (at $0.20 in our example), but (for purposes of the present example embodiment) the conditional coin-in component is only incremented for the positive credits wagered, or 3 credits in the example. The coin-in meter is incremented by the fixed component ($0.20 in the example) plus the conditional coin-in component (3 credits×$0.25/credit=$0.75) for a total coin-in increment of $0.95.

In some embodiments, a player who purchases a session defining, for example, a predetermined or maximum number of hands, may cash out and terminate the session prior to completing the predetermined or maximum number of hands. In some embodiments, if the player elects early cash out, the coin-in meter is incremented by the unamortized cost of the games remaining. For example, if the player has 80 hands remaining and elects early cash out, an additional 80×$0.20=$16 is added to the coin-in meter. This is to fully account for the initial purchase cost.

Coin-Out Meter Treatment

In accordance with some embodiments, the coin-out meter is managed through a conditional coin-out mechanism analogous to the conditional coin-in mechanism. There is no fixed component to the coin-out meter.

When a player receives a payout in negative territory, for example winning 10 credits taking him from −30 credits to −20 credits, the cash out value of the session is unchanged, again representing no immediate cash-out value. The conditional coin-out increment is zero, and therefore the coin-out meter is unchanged.

When a player receives a payout in positive territory, for example, winning 10 credits taking him from 20 to 30 credits, the cash-out value of the session improves by 10 credits so there is economic value to this win. In this case, the conditional coin-out increment is 10 credits. The coin-out meter is incremented by the value of the conditional coin-out meter increment (10 credits×0.25/credit=$2.50).

Care must be taken when the wager takes the session credit meter from negative to positive territory, for example from −15 to 5 credits. The conditional coin-out increment is the positive credits won, or 5 credits in this example. The coin-in meter is incremented by the value of the conditional coin-out increment (5 credits×$0.25/credit=$1.25).

Note that these principles may be extended past session play to other types of negative balance play depending on the reasons that the player is allowed to play with a negative balance and the repayment rules available to the player relative to the negative balance.

Yet another technique to account for coin-in for wagers made with a negative balance is to use promotional credits. Such promotional credits are sometimes used for free spins as part of player comp programs. Thus, if a player initiates a game start and some portion of the wager is funded with negative credits, then the credits that are negative are deemed promotional credits for determining coin-in. Likewise, wins that are used to pay off negative credits are not counted towards coin-out. Reference to an internal credit balance, a session credit balance or other technique may be used as desired to track whether it is appropriate to increment the coin-in and coin-out meters (i.e., has an appropriate condition been met).

Note further that while the session has been described as being a session of a predetermined number of game starts, the session could instead be defined by a time duration. In such an instance, the amortization component of the coin-in increment would be calculated by measuring the actual time elapsed form the previous wager multiplied by the amortization rate, calculated by dividing the retail price of the session the amount of time. For example, if thirty minutes of wagering were sold for $20, the amortization rate would be calculated as ($20/(30 min*60 secs)=$0.111/second. When a wager is placed six seconds after the preceeding wager, the amortization component of the coin-in increment would be $0.666. At the end of the time period, any unamortized amounts, such as those accumulated after the last wager before the end of the session, would be accounted for by incrementing the coin-in meter.

While the above discussion has focused on the condition being whether the conditional meter 70 is positive or negative, it is also possible that some other condition could be used. The condition may be equivalent to the positive/negative threshold or may be some other condition as desired. For example, one condition could be whether the balance on the conditional meter is greater or lesser than the amount of the wager. Another condition might be whether the amount of the wager is greater than the absolute value of the balance on the conditional credit meter 70. Still other conditions could be used if desire.

Without limitation some ways of expressing the concepts of the current disclosure are presented below. The disclosure contemplates a method comprising: determining an initiation of an event at a gaming device and adjusting a meter of the gaming device by a first amount if a first condition is true and a second amount if a second condition is true wherein the meter comprises a meter value which may or may not displayed to a player of the gaming device. The method may further determine initiation of the event by determining whether a game start of a wagering game has been initiated. The method may further determine initiation of the event by determining whether a wager has been placed on a game of the gaming device. The method may further determine initiation of the event by determining a win of an award at the gaming device. The method may define the first condition and the second condition as mutually exclusive. In this method, the meter may be a coin-in meter for tracking wagers made at the gaming device.

The method may further define that the first condition is a value of a credit meter displayed to a player upon the placement of the wager, but prior to the wager being deducted from the credit meter being at least equal to a value of the wager and the second condition is defined to be that the value of the credit meter displayed to the player, upon placement of the wager, but prior to the wager being deducted from the credit meter being less than the value of the wager. In effect, the second condition is actually two conditions. When the credit meter is less than the wager and greater than zero is one condition. The second condition is when the credit meter is less than zero. Between the wager and zero, the amount varies linearly, when less than zero the amount is a constant.

The method may further define the first condition to be a value of a credit meter displayed to a player, upon the placement of the wager but prior to the wager being deducted from the credit meter, being greater than zero and the second condition is the value of the credit meter displayed to the player, upon the placement of the wager but prior to the wager being deducted from the credit meter, being zero or less than zero.

The method may further define the first condition to be the wager being drawn from a balance of cashable credits and the second condition is the wager being drawn from a balance of non-cashable (e.g., promotional) credits.

The method may further define the first condition as a value of a credit meter displayed to a player, upon placement of the wager but prior to the wager being deducted from the credit meter, having a first relationship to a predetermined value. The second condition may be defined to be the value of the credit meter displayed to the player upon placement of the wager, but prior to the wager being deducted from the credit meter, having a second relationship to the predetermined value.

The method may further define that the first amount is greater than the second amount.

The method may further define that the first amount comprises a first component and a second component while the second amount comprises only the second component.

The method may further define that at least one of the first component and the second component is attributable to a wager placed at the gaming device.

The method may further define that the first component comprises a variable component which varies based on a value of a credit balance determined upon a wager being placed but prior to the wager being deducted from the credit balance and that the second component comprises a fixed component which remains constant over a plurality of game plays of a game.

The method may further define that the event is initiated during a session of a game at the gaming device, wherein the session comprises the plurality of game plays and for which game plays a player prepays prior to initiating a first game play of the plurality of game plays.

The method may further define that the second component and therefore the second amount is based on a duration of the session. The duration may be measured in time, wagers, or wins as desired.

The method may further include determining the second amount and thereby the second component based on a duration of the session.

The method may further define that the meter comprises a coin-out meter for tracking a cumulative value of awards won at the gaming device.

The method may further include determining a value of an award won at the gaming device as a result of the wager.

The method may further include determining at least one of the first amount and the second amount based on the value of the award.

The method may further define that the second amount is zero.

The method may further define that the second condition is a value of a credit meter displayed to the player, after the placement of the wager and before any adjustment of the meter based on the determining the value of the award, is not greater than zero.

The method may further include decrementing a credit meter of the gaming device by a third amount in response to the placement of the wager, the credit meter comprising a meter a value of which is output to the player.

The method may further define that the third amount is at least one of the first amount and the second amount.

The method may further act as though the credit meter comprises a mechanism for tracking a player's progress through a wagering game.

The method may further include determining that the player is engaged in session play, in which the player has prepurchased a plurality of rounds of a wagering game.

A device associated with the present disclosure may include a processor, and a memory operable to communicate with the memory, the memory storing a program, wherein the processor is operable to: determine an initiation of an event at a gaming device; and adjust, upon determining the initiation and based on the event, a meter of the gaming device by a first amount if a first condition is true and a second amount if a second condition is true, wherein the meter comprises a meter a value of which is not displayed to a player of the gaming device.

The device may further include a display operable to display a result of the wagering game.

The device may further include at least one of: a portable device and a handheld device.

The device may further be a device a primary function of which is to facilitate gambling.

A computer readable medium associated with the present disclosure may include a program that has instructions to: determine an initiation of an event at a gaming device; and adjust, upon determining the initiation and based on the event, a meter of the gaming device by a first amount if a first condition is true and a second amount if a second condition is true, wherein the meter comprises a meter a value of which is not displayed to a player of the gaming device.

Another method associated with the present disclosure may include determining an initiation of a game play of a wagering game, wherein the game play is part of a session for which a player has previously provided payment; determining, upon the initiation, a value of a credit balance displayed to a player initiating the game play; and increasing a coin-in meter of a gaming device by a first amount if the value of the credit meter is less than a predetermined value; and a second amount if the value of the credit meter is at least equal to the predetermined value, wherein the coin-in meter is operable to track a cumulative economic value of wagers placed at the gaming device.

Another method associated with the present disclosure may include determining, during a session, an award won as a result of a wagering game, wherein the session comprises a plurality of game plays for which a player pays a single price; determining a value of a credit balance displayed to a player; and increasing a coin-out meter of a gaming device by a first amount if the value of the credit meter is less than a predetermined value, and a second amount if the value of the credit meter is at least equal to the predetermined value, wherein the coin-out meter is operable to track a cumulative economic value of awards won at the gaming device.

Rules of Interpretation

Numerous embodiments are described in this disclosure, and are presented for illustrative purposes only. The described embodiments are not, and are not intended to be, limiting in any sense. The presently disclosed invention(s) are widely applicable to numerous embodiments, as is readily apparent from the disclosure. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the disclosed invention(s) may be practiced with various modifications and alterations, such as structural, logical, software, and electrical modifications. Although particular features of the disclosed invention(s) may be described with reference to one or more particular embodiments and/or drawings, it should be understood that such features are not limited to usage in the one or more particular embodiments or drawings with reference to which they are described, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The present disclosure is neither a literal description of all embodiments nor a listing of features of the invention that must be present in all embodiments.

Neither the Title (set forth at the beginning of the first page of this disclosure) nor the Abstract (set forth at the end of this disclosure) are to be taken as limiting in any way as the scope of the disclosed invention(s).

The term “product” means any machine, manufacture and/or composition of matter as contemplated by 35U.S.C. §101, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The terms “an embodiment”, “embodiment”, “embodiments”, “the embodiment”, “the embodiments”, “one or more embodiments”, “some embodiments”, “one embodiment” and the like mean “one or more (but not all) disclosed embodiments”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The terms “the invention” and “the present invention” and the like mean “one or more embodiments of the present invention.”

A reference to “another embodiment” in describing an embodiment does not imply that the referenced embodiment is mutually exclusive with another embodiment (e.g., an embodiment described before the referenced embodiment), unless expressly specified otherwise.

The terms “including”, “comprising” and variations thereof mean “including but not limited to”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The terms “a”, “an” and “the” mean “one or more”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The term “plurality” means “two or more”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The term “herein” means “in the present disclosure, including anything which may be incorporated by reference”, unless expressly specified otherwise.

The phrase “at least one of”, when such phrase modifies a plurality of things (such as an enumerated list of things) means any combination of one or more of those things, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the phrase at least one of a widget, a car and a wheel means either (i) a widget, (ii) a car, (iii) a wheel, (iv) a widget and a car, (v) a widget and a wheel, (vi) a car and a wheel, or (vii) a widget, a car and a wheel.

The phrase “based on” does not mean “based only on”, unless expressly specified otherwise. In other words, the phrase “based on” describes both “based only on” and “based at least on”.

Where a limitation of a first claim would cover one of a feature as well as more than one of a feature (e.g., a limitation such as “at least one widget” covers one widget as well as more than one widget), and where in a second claim that depends on the first claim, the second claim uses a definite article “the” to refer to the limitation (e.g., “the widget”), this does not imply that the first claim covers only one of the feature, and this does not imply that the second claim covers only one of the feature (e.g., “the widget” can cover both one widget and more than one widget).

Each process (whether called a method, algorithm or otherwise) inherently includes one or more steps, and therefore all references to a “step” or “steps” of a process have an inherent antecedent basis in the mere recitation of the term ‘process’ or a like term. Accordingly, any reference in a claim to a ‘step’ or ‘steps’ of a process has sufficient antecedent basis.

When an ordinal number (such as “first”, “second”, “third” and so on) is used as an adjective before a term, that ordinal number is used (unless expressly specified otherwise) merely to indicate a particular feature, such as to distinguish that particular feature from another feature that is described by the same term or by a similar term. For example, a “first widget” may be so named merely to distinguish it from, e.g., a “second widget”. Thus, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers “first” and “second” before the term “widget” does not indicate any other relationship between the two widgets, and likewise does not indicate any other characteristics of either or both widgets. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers “first” and “second” before the term “widget” (1) does not indicate that either widget comes before or after any other in order or location; (2) does not indicate that either widget occurs or acts before or after any other in time; and (3) does not indicate that either widget ranks above or below any other, as in importance or quality. In addition, the mere usage of ordinal numbers does not define a numerical limit to the features identified with the ordinal numbers. For example, the mere usage of the ordinal numbers “first” and “second” before the term “widget” does not indicate that there must be no more than two widgets.

When a single device or article is described herein, more than one device or article (whether or not they cooperate) may alternatively be used in place of the single device or article that is described. Accordingly, the functionality that is described as being possessed by a device may alternatively be possessed by more than one device or article (whether or not they cooperate).

Similarly, where more than one device or article is described herein (whether or not they cooperate), a single device or article may alternatively be used in place of the more than one device or article that is described. For example, a plurality of computer-based devices may be substituted with a single computer-based device. Accordingly, the various functionality that is described as being possessed by more than one device or article may alternatively be possessed by a single device or article.

The functionality and/or the features of a single device that is described may be alternatively embodied by one or more other devices that are described but are not explicitly described as having such functionality and/or features. Thus, other embodiments need not include the described device itself, but rather can include the one or more other devices which would, in those other embodiments, have such functionality/features.

Devices that are in communication with each other need not be in continuous communication with each other, unless expressly specified otherwise. On the contrary, such devices need only transmit to each other as necessary or desirable, and may actually refrain from exchanging data most of the time. For example, a machine in communication with another machine via the Internet may not transmit data to the other machine for weeks at a time. In addition, devices that are in communication with each other may communicate directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries.

A description of an embodiment with several components or features does not imply that all or even any of such components and/or features are required. On the contrary, a variety of optional components are described to illustrate the wide variety of possible embodiments of the present disclosure. Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no component and/or feature is essential or required.

Further, although process steps, algorithms or the like may be described in a sequential order, such processes may be configured to work in different orders. In other words, any sequence or order of steps that may be explicitly described does not necessarily indicate a requirement that the steps be performed in that order. The steps of processes described herein may be performed in any order practical. Further, some steps may be performed simultaneously despite being described or implied as occurring non-simultaneously (e.g., because one step is described after the other step). Moreover, the illustration of a process by its depiction in a drawing does not imply that the illustrated process is exclusive of other variations and modifications thereto, does not imply that the illustrated process or any of its steps are necessary to the invention, and does not imply that the illustrated process is preferred.

Although a process may be described as including a plurality of steps, that does not indicate that all or even any of the steps are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other processes that omit some or all of the described steps. Unless otherwise specified explicitly, no step is essential or required.

Although a product may be described as including a plurality of components, aspects, qualities, characteristics and/or features, that does not indicate that all of the plurality are essential or required. Various other embodiments within the scope of the described invention(s) include other products that omit some or all of the described plurality.

An enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are mutually exclusive, unless expressly specified otherwise. Likewise, an enumerated list of items (which may or may not be numbered) does not imply that any or all of the items are comprehensive of any category, unless expressly specified otherwise. For example, the enumerated list “a computer, a laptop, a PDA” does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are mutually exclusive and does not imply that any or all of the three items of that list are comprehensive of any category.

Headings of sections provided in this disclosure are for convenience only, and are not to be taken as limiting the disclosure in any way.

A few terms are specifically defined for use with the present disclosure and are defined below.

Game: A wagering activity whereby a player posts consideration, usually monetary in form, in exchange for a chance at winning a payout. The definition is intended to include basic games and bonus games.

Game Device, Gaming Device, Game Machine, Gaming Machine: Any electrical, mechanical or electromechanical device that, in a manner well known in the art, accepts wagers, determines an outcome and determines winnings based on the outcome. The outcome may be randomly generated, as with a slot machine; may be generated through a combination of randomness and player skill, as with video poker; or may be generated entirely through player skill. Gaming devices may include slot machines (both video and mechanical reels), video poker machines, video blackjack machines, video roulette machines, video keno machines, video bingo machines, pachinko machines, video lottery terminals, handheld gaming devices, and the like.

Cash Out, Cashout: A process whereby a gaming device player is tendered payment. Payment may be in the form of currency (e.g., coins), tokens, cashless gaming ticket, electronic credits, or any other suitable means as known in the art. In some embodiments, a player may actively request a cashout (e.g., by actuating a “Cash Out” button). In one embodiment, a monetary amount may be transferred from a gaming device to an account associated with a player (e.g., a financial account such as a credit card account or a casino maintained account) as a result of a cash out.

Credit Balance, Current Balance, Balance: An indication of an amount of currency that a player may be entitled to cash out. In one embodiment, a credit balance is an indication of a number of electronic credits that may be available to a player for wagering. A credit balance may be associated with a gaming device and/or a particular player (e.g., a credit balance may be stored in gaming device memory and/or on a server in association with a player identifier). In some embodiments, a current balance may be indicated by an output device such as an LED “credit meter.” Further, in some embodiments, a credit balance may comprise a negative balance of credits (defined further herein).

Game Play, Play, Handle Pull, Spin, Game Start: A single play of a game at a gaming device that generates a singular, corresponding outcome (e.g., a player pulls the handle of a slot machine and the reels resolve to “Bar-Lemon-Plum”). In some embodiment, a game play may comprise a bonus round.

Game Session, Gaming Session, Session: A gambling event with a beginning and end that may encompass a number of game plays. For example, a gaming session may comprise a consecutive number of game starts executed by a player using one or more gaming devices. The end of a session may be determined voluntarily (in which the player elects to stop play) or involuntarily (in which the gaming device terminates play). In one embodiment, a session begins when a player inserts a player tracking card and ends when the player cashes out. In some embodiments, a player may pay a fixed price for a game session comprising a number of game plays (e.g., a $20 “contract” entitling the player to a predetermined amount of game play, perhaps specific to a particular time period and/or gaming device). Apparatus and methods which, among other things, permit and enable various ways of providing flat-rate game sessions or “contract play,” and which are appropriate for use in accordance with the present disclosure are disclosed in: U.S. Pat. No. 6,077,163, filed Jun. 23, 1997, entitled “GAMING DEVICE FOR A FLAT RATE PLAY SESSION AND A METHOD OF OPERATING SAME”; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/001,089, filed Nov. 2, 2001, entitled “GAME MACHINE FOR A FLAT RATE PLAY SESSION AND METHOD OF OPERATING SAME”; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/420,066, filed Apr. 21, 2003, entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR EMPLOYING FLAT RATE PLAY”; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/636,520, filed Aug. 7, 2003, entitled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR COMMUNICATING GAME SESSION INFORMATION”; U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/600,211, filed Aug. 10, 2004, entitled “SYSTEMS, METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR ADMINISTERING GAMING CONTRACTS”; and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/637,338, filed Dec. 17, 2004, entitled “GAMING DEVICE OFFERING A FLAT RATE PLAY SESSION AND METHODS THEREOF”; the entirety of each are incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

Negative Credit Balance, Negative Balance of Credits, Negative Balance: In some embodiments, a negative balance of credits may comprise a balance of credits that is less than a certain amount, such as zero. For example, if it is permissible to allow a negative credit balance, a player with a balance of seven credits may place a 10-credit wager and receive a non-winning outcome, thereby resulting in a balance of −3 credits. In other embodiments, a negative balance of credits may comprise a positive amount of a secondary type of credits. For example, a player may have a positive balance of credits of a primary type (e.g., 12 “standard” game credits), as well as a positive balance of credits of a secondary type (e.g., 17 “loaned” game credits). In one such example, credits of the secondary type may offset, negate or reduce the value of credits of the primary type. For example, if the player has earned 12 standard credits but owes 17 loaned credits, the player's net credit balance may be −5. Thus, in some embodiments, a negative credit balance may comprise a net credit balance that is determined to be negative after comparing two or more balances of credits that may affect one another (e.g., comparing a balance of primary type of credits with a balance of secondary type of credits). In some embodiments, a primary type of credits may comprise credits for which the player has provided consideration (e.g., the player inserts $20 into a gaming device and in exchange receives an amount of electronic credits added to the credit meter balance of the gaming device). In some embodiments, a secondary type of credits comprises electronic credits which are provided to a player and available for wagering to a player but for which credits the player has not provided consideration prior to the credits being provided to the player (e.g., a casino “loans” electronic credits to a player or otherwise allows the player to play with credits for which the player has not paid). In some embodiments, zero may comprise a negative credit balance (e.g., credit balances of zero and any negative numbers may be treated similarly with respect to various processes or methods described herein). Other embodiments comprising negative credit balances will be described in more detail further herein.

Negative Credits: In various embodiments, negative credits may comprise (i) credits of a balance that is currently less than zero (e.g., if a credit balance is −5, a player can be thought to posses five negative credits), (ii) a positive amount of credits that negatively affect (negate, offset, reduce the value of) another type of credits (e.g., “loaned” credits reduce the value of “standard” credits), and/or (iii) non-cashable or otherwise illiquid credits (e.g., that have been loaned to a player, which the player may or may not be obligated to repay). Various terms may be associated with such credits so as to illustrate their nature. For example, such credits may be termed negative credits, loaned credits, financed credits, borrowed credits, mortgaged credits, advanced credits, subtractive credits, credits to be subtracted, “whammy” credits, penalty credits, illiquid credits, “free” credits or game plays (e.g., if such credits are provided to a player and the player needn't repay them), or any other substitute or otherwise appropriate term. Further, in some instances, such credits may be thought of as “debits” or reductions against a total balance or amount payable to a player. In some embodiments, negative credits may comprise credits against which any payouts won by a player will be applied, until all the negative credits are repaid. For example, if a player is associated with a balance of negative five credits (“−5”) and wins a payout of eight credits (“+8”), the first five of these won credits may be applied to the negative five credits, so as to repay the negative five credits or offset the negative credits, resulting in a balance of three credits (“+3”) as a result of the win. In one embodiment, a player may not be allowed to cash out negative credits.

Outcome, Result, Game Result: The result of one or more game plays. For example, a handle of a three-reel slot machine is pulled, and the reels resolve to an outcome of “Plum-Orange-Orange.” An outcome may correspond to a payout amount as detailed further herein.

Payout: A benefit provided to a player as the result of an outcome (e.g., at the end of a bonus round, a player is paid 120 credits). For example, in some embodiments, a payout comprises a number of credits added to a balance represented by an electronic credit meter (e.g., a winning outcome of “Lemon-Lemon-Lemon” pays five credits). In some embodiments wherein a current credit balance is negative, adding credits to such a balance may have the effect of reducing the negative number (e.g., if a player has a balance of −23 credits and the player wins 11 credits, the current balance becomes −12). Thus, in some embodiments, a payout may comprise the forgiveness of a loan. A payout need not necessarily be provided to a player at the time an outcome corresponding to the payout is determined and/or by the gaming device that determines the outcome.

Player Tracking Card: Most casinos issue plastic cards (resembling frequent shopper cards) to players as a way of identifying the player at a slot machine or table game. As is well known in the art, such cards typically have encoded thereon (in machine-readable and/or human readable form) a player identifier (e.g., a six digit number) which uniquely identifies the player (e.g., because the number is associated with a record in a player database that includes corresponding player information). At a slot machine, the player inserts the card into a reader device and the player identifier is read from the card, most often magnetically or optically. From the player identifier which the reader device reads, the corresponding player information may in turn be read from the database, typically via a network connection between the reader device and a device hosting the database. In some embodiments, a smart card comprising a memory may be used in addition to or in place of a player tracking card. Further, in some embodiments, players may be identified in a variety of other manners as described herein.

A player “wagers” at least a single “unit of wager” to pay for a game start. In many gaming devices, a unit of wager may be referred to as a credit. Many gaming devices allow multiple credits to be wagered concurrently in exchange for an improved paytable or more paylines. A unit of wager may be equivalent to a full dollar amount ($1, $5), a fractional dollar amount, a coin (e.g., $0.05 (nickel) or $0.25 (quarter)), or specified amount of another currency (e.g., a specified number of comp points). Some paytables may be expressed as a number of coins won relative to a number of coins wagered. In such instances, the term coin is the same as a unit of wager. Because gaming devices are embodied in different denominations, it is relevant to note that a coin, credit, or unit of wager on a first device may not be identically valued as a coin, credit, or unit of wager on a second device. For example, a credit on a quarter slot machine (on which the credit is equivalent to $0.25) is not the same as a credit on a five dollar slot machine (on which the credit is equivalent to $5.00). Accordingly, it should be understood that in embodiments in which a player may cash out credits from a first gaming device that operates based on a first denomination (e.g., a quarter-play slot machine) and establish, using only the cashed out credits, a credit balance on a second gaming device that operates based on a second denomination (e.g., a nickel-play slot machine), the player may receive a different number of credits on the second gaming device than the number of credits cashed out at the first gaming device. An interesting discussion of this concept can be found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,277,424, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

“Determining” something can be performed in a variety of manners and therefore the term “determining” (and like terms) includes calculating, computing, deriving, looking up (e.g., in a table, database or data structure), ascertaining, recognizing, and the like.

A “display” as that term is used herein is an area that conveys information to a viewer. The information may be dynamic, in which case, an LCD, LED, CRT, LDP, rear projection, front projection, or the like may be used to form the display. The aspect ratio of the display may be 4:3, 16:9, or the like. Furthermore, the resolution of the display may be any appropriate resolution such as 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p or the like. The format of information sent to the display may be any appropriate format such as standard definition (SDTV), enhanced definition (EDTV), high definition (HD), or the like. The information may likewise be static, in which case, painted glass may be used to form the display. Note that static information may be presented on a display capable of displaying dynamic information if desired.

The present disclosure frequently refers to a “control system”. A control system, as that term is used herein, may be a computer processor coupled with an operating system, device drivers, and appropriate programs (collectively “software”) with instructions to provide the functionality described for the control system. The software is stored in an associated memory device (sometimes referred to as a computer readable medium). While it is contemplated that an appropriately programmed general purpose computer or computing device may be used, it is also contemplated that hard-wired circuitry or custom hardware (e.g., an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC)) may be used in place of, or in combination with, software instructions for implementation of the processes of various embodiments. Thus, embodiments are not limited to any specific combination of hardware and software. In some embodiments, the control system may function as a computer server and may control the actions of gaming devices. Alternately or additionally, the control system may contain or otherwise be configured to read data from and/or write data to one or more databases regarding, among other things, probability data, payout data, player data, and so on. In some embodiments, outcomes may be “centrally-determined” by such a control system and promulgated to one or more gaming devices, such that they may be received by players. In one embodiment, the control system may in turn be in communication with another electronic device that is distinct from a gaming device, which electronic device may be operable to (i) direct the control system to perform certain functions and/or (ii) read data from and/or write data to the control system. For example, the control system may comprise a slot server or Data Collection Unit (DCU) that controls and/or communicates with a bank of slot machines, which control system is in turn in communication with a casino server that is in communication with a plurality of control systems. In another embodiment, the control system may be operable to communicate with the one or more gaming devices via another electronic device (e.g., a DCU), such as a server computer operable to communicate with a plurality of slot machines. For example, in one embodiment, the control system may be operable to communicate with a plurality of computing devices, each computing device operable to communicate with a respective plurality of gaming devices.

A “processor” means any one or more microprocessors, CPU devices, computing devices, microcontrollers, digital signal processors, or like devices. Exemplary processors are the INTEL PENTIUM or AMD ATHLON processors.

The term “computer-readable medium” refers to any medium that participates in providing data (e.g., instructions) that may be read by a computer, a processor or a like device. Such a medium may take many forms, including but not limited to, non-volatile media, volatile media, and transmission media. Non-volatile media include, for example, optical or magnetic disks and other persistent memory. Volatile media include DRAM, which typically constitutes the main memory. Transmission media include coaxial cables, copper wire and fiber optics, including the wires that comprise a system bus coupled to the processor. Transmission media may include or convey acoustic waves, light waves and electromagnetic emissions, such as those generated during RF and IR data communications. Common forms of computer-readable media include, for example, a floppy disk, a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic tape, any other magnetic medium, a CD-ROM, DVD, any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of holes, a RAM, a PROM, an EPROM, a FLASH-EEPROM, flash memory, a USB memory stick, a dongle, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave, or any other medium from which a computer can read.

Various forms of computer readable media may be involved in carrying sequences of instructions to a processor. For example, sequences of instruction (i) may be delivered from RAM to a processor, (ii) may be carried over a wireless transmission medium, and/or (iii) may be formatted according to numerous formats, standards or protocols. For a more exhaustive list of protocols, the term “network” is defined below and includes many exemplary protocols that are also applicable here.

It will be readily apparent that the various methods and algorithms described herein may be implemented by a control system and/or the instructions of the software may be designed to carry out the processes of the present disclosure.

Where databases are described, it will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that (i) alternative database structures to those described may be readily employed, and (ii) other memory structures besides databases may be readily employed. Any illustrations or descriptions of any sample databases presented herein are illustrative arrangements for stored representations of information. Any number of other arrangements may be employed besides those suggested by, e.g., tables illustrated in drawings or elsewhere. Similarly, any illustrated entries of the databases represent exemplary information only; one of ordinary skill in the art will understand that the number and content of the entries can be different from those described herein. Further, despite any depiction of the databases as tables, other formats (including relational databases, object-based models, hierarchical electronic file structures, and/or distributed databases) could be used to store and manipulate the data types described herein. Likewise, object methods or behaviors of a database can be used to implement various processes, such as those described herein. In addition, the databases may, in a known manner, be stored locally or remotely from a device that accesses data in such a database. Furthermore, while unified databases may be contemplated, it is also possible that the databases may be distributed and/or duplicated amongst a variety of devices.

As used herein a “network” is an environment wherein one or more computing devices may communicate with one another. Such devices may communicate directly or indirectly, via a wired or wireless medium such as the Internet, LAN, WAN or Ethernet (or IEEE 802.3), Token Ring, or via any appropriate communications means or combination of communications means. Exemplary protocols include but are not limited to: Bluetooth™, TDMA, CDMA, GSM, EDGE, GPRS, WCDMA, AMPS, D-AMPS, IEEE 802.11 (WI-FI), IEEE 802.3, SAP, SAS™ by IGT, OASIS™ by Aristocrat Technologies, SDS by Bally Gaming and Systems, ATP, TCP/IP, gaming device standard (GDS) published by the Gaming Standards Association of Fremont Calif., the best of breed (BOB), system to system (S2S), or the like. Note that if video signals or large files are being sent over the network, a broadband network may be used to alleviate delays associated with the transfer of such large files, however, such is not strictly required. Each of the devices is adapted to communicate on such a communication means. Any number and type of machines may be in communication via the network. Where the network is the Internet, communications over the Internet may be through a website maintained by a computer on a remote server or over an online data network including commercial online service providers, bulletin board systems, and the like. In yet other embodiments, the devices may communicate with one another over RF, cable TV, satellite links, and the like. Where appropriate encryption or other security measures such as logins and passwords may be provided to protect proprietary or confidential information.

Communication among computers and devices may be encrypted to insure privacy and prevent fraud in any of a variety of ways well known in the art. Appropriate cryptographic protocols for bolstering system security are described in Schneier, APPLIED CRYPTOGRAPHY, PROTOCOLS, ALGORITHMS, AND SOURCE CODE IN C, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2d ed., 1996, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety.

The present disclosure provides, to one of ordinary skill in the art, an enabling description of several embodiments and/or inventions. Some of these embodiments and/or inventions may not be claimed in the present disclosure, but may nevertheless be claimed in one or more continuing applications that claim the benefit of priority of the present disclosure.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/25
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32
European ClassificationG07F17/32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Nov 4, 2009ASAssignment
Owner name: IGT, NEVADA
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Effective date: 20090810
Owner name: IGT,NEVADA
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Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:WALKER DIGITAL, LLC;US-ASSIGNMENT DATABASE UPDATED:20100225;REEL/FRAME:23456/940
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Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:WALKER DIGITAL, LLC;US-ASSIGNMENT DATABASE UPDATED:20100420;REEL/FRAME:23456/940
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Jul 3, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: WALKER DIGITAL, LLC, CONNECTICUT
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Effective date: 20070702