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Publication numberUS20080076540 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/534,222
Publication dateMar 27, 2008
Filing dateSep 22, 2006
Priority dateSep 22, 2006
Publication number11534222, 534222, US 2008/0076540 A1, US 2008/076540 A1, US 20080076540 A1, US 20080076540A1, US 2008076540 A1, US 2008076540A1, US-A1-20080076540, US-A1-2008076540, US2008/0076540A1, US2008/076540A1, US20080076540 A1, US20080076540A1, US2008076540 A1, US2008076540A1
InventorsEiji Aida
Original AssigneeKonami Gaming Incorporated
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Gaming system allowing jackpot system selection
US 20080076540 A1
Abstract
In a gaming system according to the present invention, a server monitors jackpot values and the availability of a plurality of jackpot systems, and thereby produces list outputs of the jackpot values and the available gaming machines. The gaming system provides players with the lists displayed in a screen, and allows each player to select one of the available gaming machines in accordance with the jackpot values. When the jackpot systems are separated from each other and the server, the server reserves the gaming machine selected by a player by using the lists. The selected gaming machine is locked unless the server verifies customer ID data entered into the selected gaming machine. When the server virtually constructs all the jackpot systems, the server will link a virtual gaming machine, which a player has selected by using the lists, to a gaming terminal that the player actually operates.
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Claims(6)
1. A gaming system comprising a plurality of gaming machines, a plurality of jackpot controllers, a gaming machine reservation terminal, and a server that are interconnected therebetween to communicate with each other, wherein:
the gaming machines each comprise
a jackpot checking unit configured to inform one of the jackpot controllers of a bet from a player, and to access the jackpot controller to check whether or not a jackpot has been won;
a player tracking unit configured to detect the availability of the gaming machine and then inform the server of the availability thereof, and configured to receive customer ID data from the player and then send the customer ID data to the server; and
a reservation checking unit configured to decide whether or not to allow the player to play a game in accordance with an instruction from the server;
the jackpot controllers are each configured to decide whether or not one of the gaming machines has won a jackpot under a lottery process in response to a bet placed by the player on the gaming machine;
the gaming machine reservation terminal is configured to display a list of jackpot values that are controlled by the respective jackpot controllers and a list of the available gaming machines, and then allow a customer to select one of the available gaming machines, and inform the server of a linkage of customer ID data of the customer and the selected gaming machine; and
the server comprises
a jackpot value monitoring unit configured to monitor the value of the jackpot of each of the jackpot controllers;
an available gaming machine monitoring unit configured to monitor the availability of each of the gaming machines through the player tracking units of the gaming machines;
a gaming machine selection controller configured to produce list output of the jackpot values and the available gaming machines; and
a gaming machine reservation controller configured to register the linkage of the gaming machines and the customer ID data of customers who have selected one of the gaming machines by using the gaming machine reservation terminal, and configured to instruct each of the gaming machines whether or not to allow the player to play a game based on a comparison between the customer ID data of the player that is received from the gaming machine and the registered customer ID data that has been linked to the gaming machine.
2. A gaming system according to claim 1, wherein
one or more of the jackpot controllers increment the value of a jackpot each time the player places a bet on a gaming machine.
3. A gaming system according to claim 1, wherein each of the gaming machines includes the gaming machine reservation terminal.
4. A gaming system according to claim 1, wherein the server further comprises a customer management unit comprising
a player tracking controller configured to authenticate the player of the gaming machine, based on customer ID data received from the gaming machine; and
a customer database configured to store customer information linked to customer ID data.
5. A gaming system comprising a plurality of gaming terminals and a server that are interconnected therebetween to communicate each other, wherein:
the gaming terminals are each configured to display game content and jackpot values in accordance with data sent from the server, and inform the server of data that a player enters into the gaming terminal; and
the server comprises
a plurality of virtual gaming machines each configured to run a game program, and then send game content to one of the gaming terminals that is linked to the virtual gaming machine and receive the player's response from the gaming terminal;
a plurality of virtual jackpot controllers each configured to decide whether or not one of the virtual gaming machines has won a jackpot under a lottery process, in response to a bet placed by the player on the virtual gaming machine;
a jackpot value monitoring unit configured to monitor the value of a jackpot that is controlled by each of the virtual jackpot controllers;
an available virtual gaming machine monitoring unit configured to monitor the availability of each of the virtual gaming machines; and
a virtual gaming machine selection controller configured to provide list output of the jackpot values to one of the gaming terminals, allow the player who uses the gaming terminal to select an available, virtual gaming machine based on the jackpot values displayed by the gaming terminal, and allow the selected, virtual gaming machine to be linked to the gaming terminal.
6. A gaming system according to the claim 5, wherein
one or more of the virtual jackpot controllers increment the value of the jackpot each time the player places a bet on a virtual gaming machine.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a gaming system, and in particular, a gaming system that comprises a plurality of jackpot systems.

2. Background Information

The value of a jackpot, i.e., the largest award that a player can win on a gaming machine, is one of the most attractive features for players who select gaming machines in a casino. The higher the value of a jackpot is, the more attractive a gaming machine is. In general, one or more gaming machines are linked to a common jackpot controller, and constitute a single jackpot system. The jackpot controller uses a lottery process to determine whether or not to provide a jackpot to one of the linked gaming machines. Jackpot values vary with jackpot systems. In some jackpot systems, two or more jackpot values are selectable (cf. U.S. Pat. No. 5,851,147). In a progressive jackpot system, a jackpot controller repeatedly increments a jackpot value by a percentage of each bet on gaming machines linked to the jackpot controller until a jackpot is won on one of the gaming machines (cf. U.S. Pat. No. 5,116,055).

In recent years, a casino will usually have many jackpot systems in a huge area. Accordingly, players who want to play games on gaming machines in a jackpot system having higher jackpot value have to walk around the huge casino and compare the jackpot values of many different systems. Furthermore, once the players have selected a gaming machine on which they want to play games, the gaming machine may be unavailable when they return to play. Thus, it is difficult to reduce the time required to select a gaming machine, and in particular, reduce the waiting time for available gaming machines linked to a jackpot system that a player wants to play, and therefore, it is difficult to both improve occupancy rates of gaming machines and maintain a player's interest in gaming at a high level.

In view of the above, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art from this disclosure that there exists a need for an improved gaming system which allows players to select jackpot systems more easily and more reliably. This invention addresses this need in the art as well as other needs, which will become apparent to those skilled in the art from this disclosure.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A gaming system according to one aspect of the present invention comprises a plurality of gaming machines, a plurality of jackpot controllers, a gaming machine reservation terminal, and a server that are interconnected therebetween to communicate with each other.

The gaming machines each comprise a jackpot checking unit, a player tracking unit, and a reservation checking unit. The jackpot checking unit is configured to inform one of the jackpot controllers of a bet from a player, and to access the jackpot controller to check whether or not a jackpot will be won. The player tracking unit is configured to detect the availability of the gaming machine and then inform the server of the availability. The player tracking unit is also configured to receive customer ID data from the player and then send the customer ID data to the server. The reservation checking unit is configured to decide whether or not to allow the player to play the game in accordance with an instruction from the server. Preferably, the reservation checking unit locks or unlocks the gaming machine in accordance with the instruction.

The jackpot controllers are each configured to decide whether or not one of the gaming machines wins a jackpot under a lottery process, in response to the player's bet of the gaming machine. Here, one or more of the jackpot controllers may be a progressive jackpot controller, that is, it may increment a jackpot value at every reception of a player's bet of a gaming machine.

The gaming machine reservation terminal is configured to display a list of jackpot values that are controlled by the respective jackpot controllers and a list of the available gaming machines, and then allow a customer to select one of the available gaming machines, and inform the server of the linkage of customer ID data of the customer and the selected gaming machine. Preferably, the gaming machine reservation terminal is served as a kiosk terminal that is separated from any of the gaming machines, or alternatively, may be included in each of the gaming machines.

The server comprises a jackpot value monitoring unit, an available gaming machine monitoring unit, a gaming machine selection controller, and a gaming machine reservation controller. The jackpot value monitoring unit is configured to monitor the jackpot value of each of the jackpot controllers. The available gaming machine monitoring unit is configured to monitor the availability of each of the gaming machines through the player tracking units of the gaming machines. The gaming machine selection controller is configured to produce list outputs of the jackpot values and the available gaming machines. The gaming machine reservation controller is configured to register the linkage of the gaming machines and the customer ID data of customers who have selected one of the gaming machines by using the gaming machine reservation terminal. The gaming machine reservation controller is also configured to instruct each of the gaming machines whether or not to allow a player to play a game, based on a comparison between the customer ID data of the player that is received from the gaming machine and the registered customer ID data that has been linked to the gaming machine. Preferably, the server further comprises a customer management unit, which comprises a player tracking controller configured to authenticate a player of the gaming machine, based on customer ID data received from the gaming machine, and a customer database configured to store customer information linked to customer ID data.

In the above gaming system according to the present invention, a player can promptly and easily know every jackpot value of many jackpot systems by viewing the display of the gaming machine reservation terminal, without walking around in a huge area filled with gaming machines. In addition, the player can easily and reliably select one available gaming machine in a jackpot system with a favorable jackpot value by making a reservation of the gaming machine through the gaming machine reservation terminal. Indeed, the server will lock the reserved gaming machine by using its reservation checking unit until customer ID data of a player received from the gaming machine matches the registered customer ID data (or a predetermined time has elapsed from the reservation), and accordingly, only an authorized player who has reserved the gaming machine can play games on the gaming machine. Thus, the time needed to select a gaming machine can be reduced, and therefore, the occupancy rates of gaming machines will improve, and players can gain more opportunities to play games on a gaming machine linked to a favorable jackpot system.

A gaming system according to another aspect of the present invention is a server-based gaming system, and it comprises a plurality of gaming terminals and a server that are interconnected therebetween to communicate with each other. The gaming terminals are each configured to display game content and jackpot values in accordance with data sent from the server, and inform the server of data that a player has entered into a gaming terminal. In other words, the server will run a game program, and the gaming terminal will primarily relay various kinds of data exchanged between the player and the game program.

The server comprises a plurality of virtual gaming machines, a plurality of virtual jackpot controllers, a jackpot value monitoring unit, an available virtual gaming machine monitoring unit, and a virtual gaming machine selection controller. The virtual gaming machines are each configured to run a game program, and then send game content to one of the gaming terminals that is linked to the virtual gaming machine and receive a player's response from the gaming terminal. The virtual jackpot controllers are each configured to decide whether or not one of the virtual gaming machines has won a jackpot under a lottery process, in response to a player's bet placed on the virtual gaming machine. Preferably, one or more of the virtual jackpot controllers is a progressive jackpot controller, that is, it will increment the jackpot value each time it receives a player's bet placed on a virtual gaming machine. The jackpot value monitoring unit is configured to monitor the jackpot value controlled by each of the virtual jackpot controllers. The available virtual gaming machine monitoring unit is configured to monitor the availability of each of the virtual gaming machines. The virtual gaming machine selection controller is configured to provide list outputs of the jackpot values to one of the gaming terminals, and then allow the player who uses the gaming terminal to select an available, virtual gaming machine based on the jackpot values displayed by the gaming terminal, and allow the selected, virtual gaming machine to be linked to the gaming terminal.

In the server-based gaming system according to the present invention, a player can promptly and easily know every jackpot value of many jackpot systems by viewing the display of the gaming terminal. Furthermore, the player can promptly and easily select one available virtual gaming machine in a virtual jackpot system having a favorable jackpot value, and immediately start gaming on the selected virtual gaming machine by using the gaming terminal. Thus, the time needed to select a virtual gaming machines can be reduced, and therefore, the occupancy rates of virtual gaming machines are improved, and players can gain more opportunities to play games on virtual gaming machines linked to a favorable virtual jackpot system.

These and other objects, features, aspects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description, which, taken in conjunction with the annexed drawings, discloses a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring now to the attached drawings which form a part of this original disclosure:

FIG. 1 is a network diagram that shows a gaming system according to Embodiment 1 of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view that shows the appearance of a gaming machine included in one of the jackpot systems shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a block diagram that shows the configuration of a standalone jackpot system shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram that shows the configuration of a linked jackpot system shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a front view of a gaming machine reservation terminal shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a block diagram that shows the configuration of the gaming machine reservation terminal shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a block diagram that shows the configuration of a server shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is a flow chart that shows a reservation process of a gaming machine in a jackpot system according to Embodiment 1 of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a network diagram that shows a gaming system according to Embodiment 2 of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is a block diagram that shows the configuration of a gaming terminal shown in FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a block diagram that shows the configuration of a server shown in FIG. 9; and

FIG. 12 is a flow chart that shows a starting process of the gaming system shown in FIG. 9.

BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

Selected embodiments of the present invention will now be explained with reference to the drawings. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art from this disclosure that the following descriptions of the embodiments of the present invention are provided for illustration only and not for the purpose of limiting the invention as defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.

Embodiment 1

A gaming system according to Embodiment 1 of the present invention is preferably installed in a casino where, as shown in FIG. 1, a plurality of jackpot systems (hereafter, JPSs) 10S, 10L and one or more gaming machine reservation terminals 30 are provided in a large area and connected to a server complex 40 through a LAN 20. The JPSs are divided into two types: a standalone type 10S and a linked type 10L. The standalone JPS 10S consists of a single gaming machine (cf. FIG. 3). The linked JPS 10L includes two or more gaming machines (cf. FIG. 4).

Each of the gaming machines is, preferably, a video slot machine 11 shown in FIG. 2, which comprises a box-shape cabinet 1 with a front panel 2. Three display windows 3A, 3B, and 3C are provided on the upper portion, the middle portion, and the lower portion of the front panel 2, respectively. A player tracking unit 4 is installed between the upper display window 3A and the middle display window 3B. The player tracking unit 4 includes a touch panel 4A and a card slot 4B. On the front panel 2, a coin inlet 5A, a bill/ticket inlet 5B, a ticket outlet 6, and buttons 7 with various functions are provided between the middle display window 3B and the lower display window 3C, and a coin outlet 8A, a coin receiver 8B, and a speaker 9 for providing sound effects are installed below the lower display window 3C.

The three display windows 3A, 3B, and 3C reproduce various images, for example, images for use in decoration such as the logo of a game developer, images for use in advertisements, images for use in visual effects in games, and visualized information on games such as pay tables, illustrations of game content, and jackpot values. In particular, the upper display window 3A displays two (or more) levels JV1, JV2 of jackpot, and the middle display window 3B displays three (or more) symbol columns, the number of available credits of a player, the amount of a bet, and the amount of an award that the player wins.

The player tracking unit 4 is linked to the server complex 40 through the LAN 20 of the casino (cf. FIG. 1). A player who will start gaming on the gaming machine 11 first inserts his or her ID card into the card slot 4B. The ID card has been prepared and provided to each customer in advance, generally when the customer has been registered with the server complex 40 at the reception desk or the like in the casino. The ID card stores identification data (customer ID data) of the customer. A card reader installed in the card slot 4B reads the customer ID data from the ID card inserted in the card slot 4B, and then the player tracking unit 4 sends the customer ID data to the server complex 40. The server complex 40 then authenticates the player based on the received customer ID data. Here, if necessary, the server complex 40 may require the player to enter additional personal information through the touch panel 4A. The ID card also stores the number of points provided to the player based on the amount of money that the player has spent in the casino. For example, the player can receive a bonus such as a free accommodation coupon based on the number of the points. After successful authentication, the touch panel 4A will display the number of the points. When the player finishes gaming on the gaming machine 11, the player tracking unit 4 preferably updates the points stored in the ID card based on the money that the player has spent on the gaming machine 11, and informs the server complex 40 of the updated points.

Coins and bills that the player enters into the coin inlet 5A and the bill/ticket inlet 5B, respectively, are counted by a coin counter installed inside the cabinet 1, and then, the total amount of the coins and bills are displayed on the middle windows 3B as credits of the player. The player may also enter a ticket into the bill/ticket inlet 5B. On the surface of the ticket, the amount of the player's credits is printed with numbers and bar code. The amount of the credits is decoded by a ticket reader installed in the bill/ticket inlet 5B from the bar code printed on the ticket, and then the amount of the credits is displayed on the middle display window 3B.

The player operates the gaming machine 11 by using the buttons 7. For example, by using one or more buttons 7, the player can select one or more winning lines of the symbol matrix displayed on the middle display window 3B, and then the selected winning line will be shown in the middle display window 3B. The player then enters a bet into the gaming machine 11, and the amount of the bet will be displayed on the middle display window 3B. The player will then push a spin button, and the symbols displayed on the middle display window 3B will start moving in the vertical direction. After that, the player pushes one or more stop buttons, and then the symbols will stop column by column. When the selected winning line of the stopped symbol matrix includes a winning combination, the player will win an award depending on the bet and the probability of the winning combination. The player will then push a payout button, and coins equivalent to the player's credit will be discharged out of the coin outlet 8A from a coin hopper installed in the cabinet 1 and stored in the coin receiver 8B. Alternatively, a ticket will come out of the ticket outlet 6. On the ticket, the amount of the player's credits will be printed in numeral letters and a bar code by a ticket printer installed in the ticket outlet 6. At the time of the payout, the player can also use the buttons 7 to select either coins or a ticket.

In the standalone JPS 10S, the configuration of the gaming machine 11 is mainly divided into a gaming unit 12, the player tracking unit 4, and a standalone jackpot unit 13, as shown in FIG. 3. The three units 12, 4, and 13 include a communication handler 12A, 4C, and 13A, respectively, and thereby communicate with each other and the LAN 20.

The gaming unit 12 provides gaming functions and visual/sound effects by using control over devices installed in the cabinet 1. As shown in FIG. 3, the gaming unit 12 includes a gaming controller 12B, display/speaker drivers 12C, a user interface 12D, a coin counter and a coin hopper 12E, and a reservation checking unit 12F. The gaming controller 12B runs various programs and thereby controls other components of the gaming unit 12. In particular, the gaming controller 12B generates and then uses random number(s) in a lottery process for each game. Depending on the random number(s), for example, the arrangement of the stopped symbols that are displayed in the middle display window 3B can include a winning combination. In addition, by using the display/speaker drivers 12C, the gaming controller 12B controls images appearing in the three display windows 3A, 3B, 3C, and sounds come out of the speaker 9 (cf. FIG. 2). In particular, the gaming controller 12B will query the standalone jackpot unit 13 about the jackpot values JV1 and JV2, and thereby display the jackpot values JV1 and JV2 in the upper display window 3A. The user interface 12D relays various instructions from the buttons 7 to the gaming controller 12B. The gaming controller 12B manages the amount of the player's credits, which is equivalent to the amount of money inserted into the coin inlet 5A and the bill/ticket inlet 5B and counted by the coin counter 12E (or which the ticket reader decodes from the ticket inserted in the bill/ticket inlet 5B). The gaming controller 12B also performs payout of the player's credits in coins discharged from the coin hopper 12E (or by using a ticket on which the amount of the credits printed by the ticket printer). The reservation checking unit 12F receives instructions from the server complex 40 through the communication handler 12A and the gaming controller 12B, and according to the instructions, decides whether or not to allow the player to play games (details of will be described later). Preferably, the reservation checking unit 12F will lock or unlock the gaming controller 12B in accordance with the instructions.

The player tracking unit 4 includes another controller 4D separated from the gaming controller 12B (cf. FIG. 3). The controller 4D runs programs and thereby controls other components of the player tracking unit 4. In particular, by using the card reader 4E, the controller 4D reads data (in particular, customer ID data and the number of points) from an ID card that a player inserts into the card slot 4B (cf. FIG. 2), and in addition, detects the availability of the gaming machine 11. The controller 4D also receives input from the touch panel 4A. The controller 4D then sends the received data to the server complex 40 and further informs the server complex 40 of the detected availability, through the communication handler 4C and the LAN 20. When the player finishes gaming on the gaming machine 11, the controller 4D preferably updates the points stored in the ID card based on the money that the player has spent on the gaming machine 11, and informs the server complex 40 of the updated points.

The standalone jackpot unit 13 includes a jackpot checking unit 13B and a jackpot controller 13C. The jackpot checking unit 13B monitors the player's betting through the communication handler 13A, and informs the jackpot controller 13C of each bet of the player. Each time the player bets, the jackpot controller 13C performs a lottery process independent of the lottery processes of the gaming unit 12, thereby deciding whether or not the player will win a jackpot. Here, the jackpot controller 13C may be a progressive jackpot controller, that is, it may increment jackpot values JV1 and JV2 (cf. FIG. 2) by a percentage of every bet of the player until the player wins a jackpot. The jackpot checking unit 13B then accesses the jackpot controller 13C to check the latest jackpot values and whether or not a jackpot has been won. If the jackpot controller 13C decides that the player has won a jackpot, the jackpot checking unit 13B instructs the gaming controller 12B to inform the player of the winning of the jackpot, and then increase the player's credits by the jackpot value JV1 or JV2. If the jackpot controller 13C is a progressive one, it further resets the jackpot values JV1 and JV2.

As shown in FIG. 4, the linked JPS 10L comprises two or more gaming machines 11, which each include a linked jackpot unit 14, in addition to the gaming unit 12 and the player tracking unit 4 described above. The three units 12, 4, and 14 include a communication handler 12A, 4C, and 14A, respectively, and thereby communicate with each other and the LAN 20. The linked JPS 10L further comprises a linked jackpot controller 15 and a grand display 16, which include a communication handler 15A and 16A, respectively, and thereby communicate with each other and the communication handlers 14A of the gaming machine 11, and further the LAN 20. Thus, the plurality of the gaming machines 11 are linked to the single jackpot controller 15 in the linked JPS 10L. Here, each of the gaming units 12 queries the linked jackpot unit 14 about the jackpot values JV1 and JV2 (cf. FIG. 2), and thereby, all the gaming units 12 display the common jackpot values JV1 and JV2 in the upper display windows 3A. In addition, the grand display 16 comprises a display 16B with a large screen, which can be seen from many areas in the casino, and queries the linked jackpot unit 14 about the jackpot values JV1 and JV2, thereby displaying the jackpot values JV1 and JV2 on the large screen.

In each gaming machine 11, the jackpot checking unit 14B monitors the player's betting through the communication handler 14A, and informs the linked jackpot controller 15 of each bet of the player. In the linked jackpot controller 15, each time the player bets on one of the gaming machines 11, the jackpot controller 15B performs a lottery process independent of any of the lottery processes of the gaming machines 11, thereby deciding whether or not one of the gaming machine 11 will win a jackpot. Here, the jackpot controller 15B may be a progressive jackpot controller, that is, it may increment jackpot values JV1 and JV2 by a percentage of every bet of the players on the gaming machines 11 until the player wins a jackpot. The jackpot checking units 14B then accesses the jackpot controller 15B to check the latest jackpot values and whether or not a jackpot has been won. If the jackpot controller 15B decides that one of the gaming machines 11 has won the jackpot, the jackpot checking unit 13B of the gaming machine 11 that has won the jackpot will instruct the gaming unit 12 to inform the player that he or she has won the jackpot and then increase the player's credits by the jackpot value JV1 or JV2. If the jackpot controller 15B is a progressive one, it further resets the jackpot values JV1 and JV2.

The gaming machine (hereafter, GM) reservation terminal 30 is preferably served as a kiosk terminal that is separated from any of the gaming machines 11 and placed, for example, near the reception desk of the casino. Alternatively, the GM reservation terminal 30 may be included in each of the gaming machines 11. The GM reservation terminal 30 comprises a touch panel 30A, a card slot 30B, and a printer 30C as shown in FIG. 5, and a selection/reservation (S/R) unit 31 and a player tracking unit 32 as shown in FIG. 6. The two units 31 and 32 include a communication handler 31A and 32A, respectively, and thereby communicate with each other and the LAN 20. The GM reservation terminal 30 receives lists of jackpot values and available gaming machines of all the JPSs 10S and 10L from the server complex 40 through the LAN 20, and displays the lists on the touch panel 30A. The GM reservation terminal 30 then allows a customer to select an available gaming machine of one of the JPSs based on the displayed lists, and informs the server complex 40 of the linkage of customer ID data of the customer and the selected gaming machine (details to be described later).

The S/R unit 31 includes a controller 31B, display/speaker drivers 31C, a user interface 31D, and a print driver 31E. The controller 31B runs various programs and thereby controls other components of the S/R unit 31. In particular, the controller 31B requests list outputs of jackpot values and available gaming machines of all the JPSs 10S, 10L from the server complex 40. Furthermore, by using the display/speaker drivers 31C, the controller 31B displays the above lists and a guidance screen on the touch panel 30A, and provides a user with voice announcements from a speaker installed in the body of the S/R unit 31. The user interface 31D detects which area on the touch panel 30A the user touches, and informs the controller 31B or the server complex 20 of the detected area. Here, the user interface 31D may receive a user's input through a keyboard or a pointing device, instead of the touch panel 30A. The controller 31B further uses the print driver 31E to provide the user with written information from the printer 30C, especially a map indicating a route to the available gaming machine that the user has selected.

The player tracking unit 32 is similar to the player tracking unit 4 of each gaming machine 11. The player tracking unit 32 includes another controller 32B separated from the above controller 31B. The controller 32B runs programs and thereby controls other components of the player tracking unit 32. In particular, by using a card reader 32C installed in the card slot 30B, the controller 32B reads data (in particular, customer ID data) from an ID card that a user inserts into the card slot 30B.

As shown in FIG. 7, the server complex 40 consists of a plurality of servers, which in particular include a selection control server 41, a customer management server 42, and a reservation control server 43. The three servers 41, 42, and 43 comprise a communication handler 41A, 42A, and 43A, respectively, and thereby communicate with each other and the LAN 20.

The selection control server 41 comprises a gaming machine (hereafter, GM) selection controller 41B, a jackpot value monitoring unit 41C, and an available gaming machine (hereafter, GM) monitoring unit 41D. The GM selection controller 41B runs various programs and thereby controls other components of the selection control server 41. The jackpot value monitoring unit 41C monitors the latest jackpot value(s) of each of the JPSs 10S and 10L. The available GM monitoring unit 41D monitors the availability of each of the gaming machines 11 through the player tracking units 4 of the gaming machines 11. At regular time intervals, or at the reception of a request from the GM reservation terminal 30, the GM selection controller 41B accesses the jackpot value monitoring unit 41C and the available GM monitoring unit 41D, and then produces list outputs of the jackpot values and the available gaming machines.

The customer management server 42 comprises a player tracking controller 42B and a customer database 42C, which are interconnected and thereby communicate with each other. The player tracking controller 42B receives the customer ID data from the gaming machine 11 and the GM reservation terminal 30 through the LAN 20, and then verifies the received customer ID date against authorized customer ID data stored in the customer database 42C, thereby authenticating players of the gaming machines 11 and users of the GM reservation terminal 30. If necessary to authenticate the player/user, the player tracking controller 42B may require the gaming machine 11/GM reservation terminal 30 to display a message that instructs the player/user to enter additional personal information (e.g. a personal identification number) through the touch panel 4A/30A, and will then verify the received personal information against personal information of authorized customers that is stored in the customer database 42C. In addition, the player tracking controller 42B may update the player's points stored in the customer database 42C based on the data received from the gaming machine 11. The customer database 42C stores personal information of the registered customers. In the customer database 42C, the registered personal information is linked to specific customer ID data.

The reservation control server 43 comprises a gaming machine (hereafter, GM) reservation controller 43B, which communicates with the LAN 20 through the communication handler 43A. The GM reservation controller 43B receives from the GM reservation terminal 30 the data representing the linkage of customer ID data of a user and the gaming machine selected by the user, and then registers the linkage. The GM reservation controller 43B further instructs each of the gaming machines 11 whether or not to allow a player to play a game, based on comparison between the player's customer ID data received from the gaming machine 11 and the registered customer ID data that has been linked to the gaming machine 11. In addition, the GM reservation controller 43B produces a map indicating a route from the GM reservation terminal 30 to the gaming machine selected by the user.

In Embodiment 1 of the present invention, the JPSs 10S, 10L, the GM reservation terminal 30, and the server complex 40 collaborate with each other according to a flow chart shown in FIG. 8, and thereby allow customers to select and reserve an available gaming machine of the JPS 10S or 10L with favorable jackpot values in the following steps.

STEP S0: The selection control server 41 monitors the latest jackpot value(s) and the availability of each of the JPSs 10S and 10L. More specifically, the selection control server 41 sends a request to each of the JPSs 10S and 10L at regular time intervals, and then the JPSs 10S and 10L send back the latest jackpot value(s) and availability of the gaming machines. The selection control server 41 then produces list outputs of the latest jackpot values and the available gaming machines. Here, the GM reservation terminal 30 may request the list of the jackpot values to the selection control server 41 at regular time intervals, and always display the latest jackpot values of all the JPSs 10S and 10L on the touch panel 30A.

STEP S1: A customer who wants to reserve a gaming machine will first insert his or her ID card into the card slot 30B of the GM reservation terminal 30. The card reader 32C installed in the card slot 30B then reads the customer ID data from the ID card inserted in the card slot 30B, and then sends the read customer ID data to the customer management server 42.

STEP S2: The customer management server 42 verifies the received customer ID data. After successful verification, the customer management server 42 allows the selection control server 41 to send the list of the latest jackpot values of all the JPSs 10S and 10L to the GM reservation terminal 30, preferably in a menu-screen form.

STEP S3: The GM reservation terminal 30 displays the received menu screen on the touch panel 30A, and thereby the latest jackpot values of each of the JPSs 10S and 10L are displayed in one area J1, J2, J3, or J4 of the touch panel 30A, as shown in FIG. 5. Accordingly, the customer will immediately know the latest jackpot values of all the JPSs 10S and 10L. The GM reservation terminal 30 then allows the customer to touch one of the areas J1, J2, J3, and J4 on the touch panel 30A. When the customer touches, for example, the area J1 where the customer's favorable jackpot values are displayed, the GM reservation terminal 30 detects the touched area J1, and informs the selection control server 41 of a JPS whose jackpot values are displayed on the touched area J1. The selection control server 41 then sends the list of available gaming machines of the JPS to the GM reservation terminal 30, preferably in a menu-screen form.

STEP S4: The GM reservation terminal 30 displays the received menu screen on the touch panel 30A, and thereby the list of the available gaming machines of the selected JPS is displayed on the touch panel 30A, preferably in a layout-diagram form. The GM reservation terminal 30 then allows the customer to touch one of the positions on the touch panel 30A where images corresponding to the available gaming machines are displayed. When the customer touches one of the positions corresponding to a gaming machine on which the customer wants to play games, the GM reservation terminal 30 detects the touched position, and sends data indicating an available gaming machine corresponding to the touched position with the customer ID data linked thereto to the reservation control server 43. The reservation control server 43 receives from the GM reservation terminal 30 the data with the customer ID data linked thereto, and then registers the linkage of the customer ID data and the selected gaming machine.

STEP S5: The reservation control server 43 sends a reservation command to the selected gaming machine, whose reservation checking unit 12F then locks the gaming controller 12B. After successful locking, the reservation checking unit 12F sends a response to the reservation control server 43.

STEP S6: The reservation control server 43 then instructs the GM reservation terminal 30 to inform the customer of a successful reservation. At the same time, the reservation control server 43 produces a map indicating a route from the GM reservation terminal 30 to the gaming machine selected by the customer. The GM reservation terminal 30 then displays the map on the touch panel 30A, and provides the customer with the map printed by the printer 30C in response to an instruction of the customer through the touch panel 30A or the like.

STEP S7: A player who wants to start gaming on a gaming machine 11 first will insert his or her ID card into the card slot 4B. The card reader installed in the card slot 4B will read the customer ID data from the ID card, and then the player tracking unit 4 will send the customer ID data to the customer management server 42 and the reservation control server 43. Then, the customer management server 42 will verify the received customer ID data, and the reservation control server 43 will compare the received customer ID data with the registered customer ID data that has been linked to the gaming machine 11. After the verification, and when the received customer ID data matches the registered customer ID data, the reservation control server 43 will instruct the gaming machine 11 to allow the player to play games. According to the instruction, the reservation checking unit 12F of the gaming machine 11 will unlock the gaming controller 12B. Note that when there is no verified customer ID data for a predetermined time after the reservation control server 43 sent a reservation command to the gaming machine 11, the reservation control server 43 will eliminate the linkage of the registered customer ID data and the gaming machine 11, and instruct the reservation checking unit 12F of the gaming machine 11 to unlock the gaming controller 12B, and thereby free the gaming machine 11.

In the above gaming system of Embodiment 1, customers can promptly and easily know every jackpot value of many JPSs 10S and 10L by watching the display 30A of the GM reservation terminal 30, without walking around in a huge area filled with gaming machines 11. In addition, the customers can easily and reliably select one available gaming machine 11 in a JPS 10S or 10L with a favorable jackpot value by reserving the gaming machine 11 through the GM reservation terminal 30. Indeed, the reserved gaming machine 11 will be locked by the reservation checking unit 12F until customer ID data of a player who will start gaming on the gaming machine 11 matches the customer ID data registered in the reservation control server 43 (or a predetermined time has elapsed from the reservation), and accordingly, only an authorized player who has reserved the gaming machine can play games on the gaming machine 11. Thus, the time for selection of gaming machines can be reduced, and therefore, the occupancy rates of gaming machines will improve, and customers can gain more opportunities to play games on a gaming machine linked to a favorable JPS.

Embodiment 2

Like the above gaming system according to Embodiment 1, a gaming system according to Embodiment 2 of the present invention is preferably installed in a casino where, as shown in FIG. 9, a plurality of gaming terminals 50 are provided in a large area and connected with a server complex 60 through a LAN 20. In contrast to the gaming system according to Embodiment 1, the gaming system according to Embodiment 2 is a server-based gaming system where the server complex 60 runs various game programs and each of the gaming terminals 50 primarily relays various kinds of data exchanged between the players and the game programs running in the server complex 60 through the LAN 20.

The gaming terminal 50 is preferably a machine that is fixed on a floor in the casino and has an appearance similar to that of the gaming machine 11 shown in FIG. 2. Alternatively, the gaming terminal 50 may be a portable device that is wireless connected to the LAN 20 through one of access points scattered throughout the casino. In the case of FIG. 2, like the gaming machine 11 according to Embodiment 1, the gaming terminal 50 comprises three display windows 3A, 3B, and 3C, a player tracking unit 4, a coin inlet 5A, a bill/ticket inlet 5B, a ticket outlet 6, various buttons 7, a coin outlet 8A, a coin receiver 8B, and a speaker 9. Those provide a player with the same functions as the similar components of the gaming machine 11 according to Embodiment 1 (details are described above). Accordingly, the player operates the gaming terminal 50 in the same manner as the gaming machine 11.

In contrast to the configuration of the gaming machine 11 shown in FIG. 3, the configuration of the gaming terminal 50 is mainly divided into a gaming unit 51 and the player tracking unit 4, as shown in FIG. 10. The two units 51 and 4 include a communication handler 51A and 4C, respectively, and thereby communicate with each other and the LAN 20. The gaming unit 51 displays game contents (e.g. a matrix of symbols and the amounts of the player's credits, bets, and awards), jackpot values, and reproduces visual/sound effects in accordance with data sent from the server complex 60. The gaming unit 51 also informs the server complex 60 of data that the player enters into the gaming terminal 50. As shown in FIG. 10, the gaming unit 51 includes a controller 51B, display/speaker drivers 51C, a user interface 5D, and a coin counter and a coin hopper 51E. The controller 51B controls other components of the gaming unit 51 according to instructions received from the server complex 60. In particular, by using the display/speaker drivers 51C, the controller 51B controls images appearing in the three display windows 3A, 3B, 3C, and sounds come out of the speaker 9 (cf. FIG. 2). The user interface 51D relays various instructions from the buttons 7 to the server complex 60 through the controller 51B. The server complex 60 manages the amount of the player's credits, which is equivalent to the amount of money inserted into the coin inlet 5A and the bill/ticket inlet 5B and counted by the coin counter 51E (or which the ticket reader decodes from the ticket inserted in the bill/ticket inlet 5B). According to instructions from the server complex 60, the controller 51B performs the payout of the player's credits in coins discharged from the coin hopper 51E (or by using a ticket on which the amount of the credits printed by the ticket printer). The player tracking unit 4 have the same configurations and functions as the player tracking unit 4 of the gaming machine 11 described above and FIG. 3.

As shown in FIG. 11, the server complex 60 consists of a plurality of servers, which in particular include a game server 63, a selection control server 64, a terminal management server 65, and a customer management server 66. The four servers 63, 64, 65, and 66 are integrally controlled by a system controller 61 and connected to the LAN 20 through a common communication handler 62.

The game server 63 virtually constructs a gaming system that comprises a plurality of virtual jackpot systems (hereafter, VJPSs) 63S and 63L. Like real JPSs shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the VJPSs are divided into two types: a standalone type 63S and a linked type 63L. The standalone VJPS 63S consists of a virtual jackpot controller 63A and a single virtual gaming machine (hereafter, virtual GM or VGM) 63B. The linked VJPS 63L includes a linked virtual jackpot controller 63C and two or more virtual GMs 63D. When linked to one of the real gaming terminals 50 by the terminal management server 65, each of the virtual GMs 63B and 63D runs a game program, and then sends game contents to the linked gaming terminal 50, and receives player's responses from the linked gaming terminal 50.

In the standalone VJPS 63S, the virtual jackpot (hereafter, JP) controller 63A informs the gaming terminal 50 linked to the virtual GM 63B of jackpot values JV1 and JV2 (cf. FIG. 2), and thereby, the linked gaming terminal 50 displays the jackpot values JV1 and JV2 in the upper display window 3A. The virtual JP controller 63A performs a lottery process independent of the lottery processes of the virtual GM 63B every time the player bets on the linked gaming terminal 50, thereby deciding whether or not the player wins a jackpot. Here, the virtual JP controller 63A may be a progressive jackpot controller, that is, it may increment jackpot values JV1 and JV2 by a percentage of every bet of the player until the player wins a jackpot. If deciding that the player wins a jackpot, the virtual JP controller 63A instructs the linked gaming terminal 50 to inform the player of the winning of the jackpot and then increase the player's credits by the jackpot value JV1 or JV2. If the virtual JP controller 63A is a progressive one, it further resets the jackpot values JV1 and JV2.

In the linked VJPS 63L, a linked virtual JP controller 63C is linked to each of the virtual GMs 63D. The linked virtual JP controller 63C informs each of the gaming terminals 50 linked to one of the virtual GMs 63D of jackpot values JV1 and JV2, and thereby, the linked gaming terminals 50 display the common jackpot values JV1 and JV2 in the upper display windows 3A. The linked virtual JP controller 63C performs a lottery process independent of any lottery processes of the virtual GMs 63D at every time when the players bet on the linked gaming terminals 50, thereby deciding whether or not one of the virtual GMs 63D wins a jackpot. Here, the linked virtual JP controller 63C may be a progressive jackpot controller, that is, it may increment jackpot values JV1 and JV2 by a percentage of every bet of the players until one of the virtual GMs 63D wins a jackpot. After deciding that one of the virtual GMs 63D wins a jackpot, the linked virtual JP controller 63C will instruct the gaming terminal 50 linked to the winning virtual GM 63D to inform the player that he or she has won the jackpot, and then increase the player's credits by the jackpot value JV1 or JV2. If the linked virtual JP controller 63C is a progressive one, it further resets the jackpot values JV1 and JV2.

The selection control server 64 comprises a virtual gaming machine (hereafter, VGM) selection controller 64A, a jackpot value monitoring unit 64B, and an available virtual gaming-machine (hereafter, VGM) monitoring unit 64C, which are interconnected and thereby communicate with each other. The VGM selection controller 64A runs various programs and thereby controls other components of the selection control server 64. The jackpot value monitoring unit 64B monitors the latest jackpot value(s) of each of the VJPSs 63S and 63L. The available VGM monitoring unit 64C monitors the availability of each of the VGMs 63B and 63D. At regular time intervals, or at the reception of a request from the gaming terminals 50, the VGM selection controller 64A will access the jackpot value monitoring unit 64B and the available VGM monitoring unit 64C, and then produce list outputs of the jackpot values and the available VGMs 63B and 63D. The VGM selection controller 64A further provides the list outputs to one of the gaming terminals 50, and then allows the player who uses the gaming terminal 50 to select an available VGM 63B or 63D based on the jackpot values displayed by the gaming terminal 50, and instructs the terminal management server 65 to link the selected VGM 63B or 64D to the gaming terminal 50.

The terminal management server 65 comprises a gaming terminal controller 65A and a log server 65B, which are interconnected and thereby communicate with each other. The gaming terminal controller 65A manages the linkage between the VGMs 63B, 63D and the gaming terminals 50, and in particular, establishes or terminates the connection therebetween. The log server 65B stores and updates a table showing the linkage.

Like the customer management server 42 according to Embodiment 1, the customer management server 66 comprises a player tracking controller 66A and a customer database 66B, which are interconnected and thereby communicate with each other. The player tracking controller 66A receives customer ID data from one of the gaming terminals 50 through the LAN 20, and then verifies the received customer ID date against authorized customer ID data stored in the customer database 66B, thereby authenticating the player of the gaming terminal 50. If necessary to authenticate the player, the player tracking controller 66A may require the gaming terminal 50 to display a message that instructs the player to enter additional personal information (e.g. a personal identification number) through the touch panel 4A, then verifying the received personal information against personal information of authorized customers that is stored in the customer database 66B. In addition, the player tracking controller 66A may update the player's points stored in the customer database 66B based on the data received from the gaming terminal 50. The customer database 66B stores personal information of the registered customers. In the customer database 66B, the registered personal information is linked to specific customer ID data.

In Embodiment 2 of the present invention, the gaming terminals 50 and the server complex 60 collaborate with each other according to a flow chart shown in FIG. 12, and thereby allow players to select and promptly play games on an available VGM 63B or 63D of one of the VJPSs 63S and 63L with favorable jackpot values in the following steps.

STEP S11: A player who wants to play games on a gaming terminal 50 will first insert his or her ID card into the card slot 4B of the gaming terminal 50. The card reader 4E installed in the card slot 4B will then read the customer ID data from the ID card inserted in the card slot 4B, and send the read customer ID data to the customer management server 66.

STEP S12: The customer management server 66 will verify the received customer ID data. After the successful verification, the customer management server 66 will allow the selection control server 64 to send the list of the latest jackpot values of all the VJPSs 63S and 63L to the gaming terminal 50, preferably in a menu-screen form.

STEP S13: The gaming terminal 50 will display the received menu screen on the middle display window 3B, and thus the latest jackpot values of each of the VJPSs 63S and 63L will be displayed in one area J1, J2, J3, or J4 of the middle display window 3B, as the screen image shown in FIG. 5. Accordingly, the player will immediately know the latest jackpot values of all the VJPSs 63S and 63L. The selection control server 64 will then instruct the gaming terminal 50 to allow the player to select one of the areas J1, J2, J3, and J4 on the middle display window 3B by using the buttons 7 and the like. When the player selects, for example, the area J1 where the player's favorable jackpot values are displayed, the gaming terminal 50 will detect the selected area J1, and inform the selection control server 64 of a VJPS 63S or 63L whose jackpot values are displayed on the selected area J1. The selection control server 64 will then send the list of available VGMs 63B or 63D of the selected VJPS 63S or 63L to the gaming terminal 50, preferably in a menu-screen form.

STEP S14: The gaming terminal 50 displays the received menu screen on the middle display window 3B, and thereby the list of the available VGMs 63B or 63D of the selected VJPS 63S or 63L is displayed on the middle display window 3B. The selection control server 64 then instructs the gaming terminal 50 to allow the player to select one of the displayed available VGMs 63B or 63D. The gaming terminal 50 will detect and send the selected VGM 63B or 63D to the selection control server 64.

STEP S115: The selection control server 64 will instruct the terminal management server 65 to link the selected VGM 63B or 63D to the gaming terminal 50. The selected VGM 63B or 63D will then start running a game program, and send game content to the linked gaming terminal 50. In parallel with that, the virtual JP controller 63A or 63C linked to the selected VGM 63B or 63D will send the latest jackpot values to the linked gaming terminal 50. The gaming terminal 50 will then display the received game contents and jackpot values, and reproduce visual/sound effects according to data sent from the VGM 63B or 63D. The gaming terminal 50 will also inform the VGM 63B or 63D of the data that the player enters into the gaming terminal 50.

In the above server-based gaming system of Embodiment 2, players can promptly and easily know every jackpot value of many VJPSs 63S and 63L by watching the displays of the gaming terminal 50, without walking around in a huge area filled with gaming terminals 50. Furthermore, the players can promptly and easily select one available VGM 63B or 63D in a VJPS 63S or 63L with favorable jackpot values, and immediately start gaming on the selected VGM 63B or 63D by successively using the gaming terminal 50. Thus, the time for selection of VGMs can be reduced, and therefore, the occupancy rates of VGMs will be improved, and players can gain more opportunities to play games on a VGM linked to a favorable VJPS.

General Interpretation of Terms

In understanding the scope of the present invention, the term “configured” as used herein to describe a component, section or part of a device includes hardware and/or software that is constructed and/or programmed to carry out the desired function. In understanding the scope of the present invention, the term “comprising” and its derivatives, as used herein, are intended to be open ended terms that specify the presence of the stated features, elements, components, groups, integers, and/or steps, but do not exclude the presence of other unstated features, elements, components, groups, integers and/or steps. The foregoing also applies to words having similar meanings such as the terms, “including”, “having” and their derivatives. Also, the terms “part,” “section,” “portion,” “member” or “element” when used in the singular can have the dual meaning of a single part or a plurality of parts. Finally, terms of degree such as “substantially”, “about” and “approximately” as used herein mean a reasonable amount of deviation of the modified term such that the end result is not significantly changed. For example, these terms can be construed as including a deviation of at least ±5% of the modified term if this deviation would not negate the meaning of the word it modifies.

While only selected embodiments have been chosen to illustrate the present invention, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art from this disclosure that various changes and modifications can be made herein without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims. Furthermore, the foregoing descriptions of the embodiments according to the present invention are provided for illustration only, and not for the purpose of limiting the invention as defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.

Referenced by
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US8360875 *Jun 5, 2008Jan 29, 2013Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty LimitedJackpot display system
US8753198 *Jun 12, 2008Jun 17, 2014Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty LimitedReservation controller, gaming system and a reservation method
US20090098935 *Jun 12, 2008Apr 16, 2009Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty LimitedReservation controller, gaming system and a reservation method
US20090124336 *Jun 5, 2008May 14, 2009Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty LimitedJackpot Display System
US20120122529 *Dec 15, 2010May 17, 2012Bally Gaming, Inc.System and method for augmented gaming venue using a mobile device
US20130184066 *Dec 20, 2012Jul 18, 2013Martin Stephen LyonsJackpot Display System
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/26
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/3234, G07F17/3258
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32K12, G07F17/32E6B
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 18, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: KONAMI GAMING INCORPORATED, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:AIDA, EIJI;REEL/FRAME:018408/0934
Effective date: 20060921