US 20080087289 A1
Smoke control systems and processes for controlling tobacco smoke, in association with a gaming table in which the smoke control system does not interfere with the gaming and allows the table to be used for both smoking and non-smoking applications.
1. A system for controlling tobacco smoke in association with a gaming table for playing card games, by exhausting contaminated air from the ambient air in front of said gaming table which is typically occupied by a user of the gaming table and an ash tray for lighted cigarettes, comprising a multiplicity of smoke collection devices positioned on the playing surface of the gaming table in close proximity to regions of where players who are smoking and their ashtrays would be positioned, yet sufficiently separated from the region in which the player would have the items used in playing so as to not to unduly interfere with the card game, said smoke collection devices each comprising (1) an exhaust fan having filtering means, (2) a retractable inflow vent positionable in either an active/open, outwardly-directed position when a smoker is using the table or an inactive/closed position when no such smoker is present and (3) an outflow zone through which air filtered through said filtering means is passed.
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8. A method for controlling tobacco smoke in association with a gaming table for playing card games, comprising (1) exhausting contaminated air through an upwardly and outwardly directed retractable vent from the ambient air in the multiplicity of regions which are typically occupied by the users of the gaming table and an ash tray for lighted cigarettes regions of the playing surface of the gaming table where players who are smoking and their ashtrays would be positioned, yet sufficiently separated from the region in which the player would have the items used in playing so as to not to unduly interfere with the card game, (2) separately filtering said exhausted air from each said retractable vent and (3) discharging said filtered air.
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This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/850,793, filed Oct. 12, 2006.
This invention relates to smoke control systems and processes. More particularly, the invention relates to smoke control systems and processes for controlling tobacco smoke in the ambient air near a gaming table.
Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), which is also commonly referred to as second hand smoke, is smoke from the use of tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Since use of cigarettes is more widespread than cigars or pipes, for convenience the term cigarettes will be used herein to refer all of these tobacco products. ETS is composed of more than 3800 different chemical compounds and is of considerable health and social responsibility concern. ETS is comprised of both particulates and gas-phase contaminants. The particulate contaminants in ETS are, in significant part, very small solids and liquid substances (e.g., tars) that are light enough to be entrained in the air and are of respirable-size which have a higher probability of penetrating deep into human lungs. In addition to size considerations, the particulates are composed of diverse organic and inorganic material. The gas-phase contaminants in ETS include a wide array of combustion gases and other organic chemicals, which pose additional complexity and concerns. Optimal removal of tobacco smoke from ambient air requires the removal of both particulates and gas-phase contaminants. Enclosed areas where large numbers of people gather such as restaurants, offices, waiting rooms and auditoriums, often contain sizable filtration and/or ventilation systems to remove ETS and other contaminants from the ambient air. Many such establishments place their filtering systems in a remote region of a room where contaminated air tends to accumulate. These systems usually draw the contaminated air from the room and filter the air or vent it through an outlet while replacing it with filtered air or with fresh air from outside the room. Large air filtration and/or ventilation systems have found wide spread use in an effort to significantly reducing the concentration of noxious substances in a sizable region, in conjunction with general heating and cooling equipment. However, because these large systems must usually be placed at a remote location away from the usual sources of the contamination, e.g., near the ceiling at the center or a corner of a room, they often do not keep the ambient air sufficiently free of noxious substances, particularly in areas wherein the contaminants are introduced.
Relatively small air filtration units, which purify air close to a contamination source, may be useful by individuals in minimizing their exposure to noxious substances at some specific locations. Although small air filtration units have served some limited purposes, they do not provide entirely satisfactory service for a number of technical and/or practical reasons. Such air filtration units often do not have sufficient contaminant removal capacity, are noisy, consume significant power, are difficult to inspect and service, are not designed for ease of use and/or do not efficiently remove the contaminants at the source. Additionally, there are practical implementation obstacles resulting from the lack of acceptance and/or individuals' failure to utilize, maintain or activate them.
ETS is a particularly important issue in the gaming industry, since the great popularity of gaming tables and gaming machines have resulted in very large number of these gaming tables and machines being used in casinos, often with a large number of them being cofigured in very close proximity. In casino applications, due to the large number of users who smoke tobacco during use, a large amount of ETS is produced from numerous diverse points of emission. The gaming environment is designed to be comfortable for the user, with various components of environmental quality (including temperature, air quality, noise level, etc.) each being important (e.g.; extensive filtration of the air may beneficially reduce the level of contaminants in the air but may be unacceptable from a noise level or air movement standpoint).
ETS is important from a health, comfort and regulatory perspective in view of the impact upon persons using gaming tables, but it is also a significant concern to the housing keeping of the casino and function of the equipment in the casino. For example, most modern gaming machines contain electronic components which requires cooling thereof and this is commonly accomplish by providing for the passage of ambient air through the interior of the machines (e.g.; by an internal fan and associated vents in the exterior of the machine which allows for ambient air to flow in the interior regions for which cooling is desired). However, the presence of ETS in the introduced ambient air can harm the electronic components and require extra maintenance.
Though some prior attempts to deal with the foregoing problems appeared to be technically possible and/or may appear to been suitable, the known technologies and systems used do not provide for removal of tobacco smoke from ambient air in gaming table applications in a practical and efficient manner in view of the spatial constraints on the surface of the table to avoid interference with the cards, chips etc., power considerations, noise constraints and maintenance considerations. Further because of the expense and varying individual design of gaming tables, casinos would be adverse to buying specially constructed new tables. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,441,279 seeks to address smoke issues affecting the casino table operator, by providing an air barrier around the operator. But that approach would replace existing casino gaming tables and would involve placement of fixed inlets vents along the outer periphery of the table top near the table rail in positions which would both interfere with the gaming play (i.e.; the outer periphery of the table top is where players would place their cars and chips) and would not effectively recapture smoke from the smoking players' ashtrays or exhalation (because of the vents' positions and the fact that the vents are flat and flush mounted to the table surface. Further, the prior use of centralized air filter assembly for the multiple vents can give rise to noise and maintenance problems, as well as size constraints (e.g.; the centralized air filter assembly and associated ducting made them unsuitable to be retrofitted to existing tables. Even assuming that the technical challenges of prior approaches were met, equally important consumer acceptance considerations and ease of use challenges exist, particularly by smokers who may have lesser concerns about ETS or their actions in contributing to ETS, and would be less likely to utilize available means, if the devices interfered with or even appeared to interfere with, the play on the gaming table or were not easily retrofittable.
The invention provides systems for controlling tobacco smoke in association with a gaming table for playing card games, by exhausting contaminated air from the ambient air in front of said gaming table which is typically occupied by a user of the gaming table and an ash tray for lighted cigarettes, comprising a multiplicity of smoke collection devices positioned on the playing surface of the gaming table in close proximity to regions of where players who are smoking and their ashtrays would be positioned, yet sufficiently separated from the region in which the player would have the items used in playing so as to not to unduly interfere with the card game, said smoke collection devices each comprising (1) an exhaust fan having filtering means, (2) a retractable inflow vent positionable in either an active/open, outwardly-directed position (toward the smoker) when a smoker is using the table or an inactive/closed position when no such smoker is present and (3) an outflow zone through which air filtered through said filtering means is passed.
The present invention also provides methods of controlling tobacco smoke in association with a gaming table for playing card games, comprising (1) exhausting contaminated air through an upwardly and outwardly directed movable vent from the ambient air in the regions which are typically occupied by a user of the gaming table and an ash tray for lighted cigarettes regions of the playing surface of the gaming table where players who are smoking and their ashtrays would be positioned, yet sufficiently separated from the region in which the player would have the items used in playing so as to not to unduly interfere with the card game, (2) filtering said exhausted air and (3) discharging said filtered air.
The smoke control systems and processes for controlling tobacco smoke of the present invention are useful with all types of gaming tables and are easily retrofitted to existing tables. The multiplicity of individual smoke collection devices each take minimal space beneath the playing surface and operate in an efficient manner which does not interfere with the gaming
Gaming tables, including poker and blackjack tables, which are the most common form, exist in various forms. In using a gaming table, a user typically risks a sum of money or something else of value (typically represented by “chips”, on the outcome of the game in the hope of winning). Often these gaming tables are used by high-stakes players and others, who are adverse to any distractions, including those interfering with the placement of the cards, chips etc. which they are using.
The smoke control systems of the present invention are used in association with gaming tables. The term association as used herein means that the smoke control system and the gaming tables are structurally incorporated by having the smoke control system being integrally incorporated into the table top of gaming table on new or existing tables by retrofitting them. Each smoke control device is preferably electrically operated by the dealer/operator of gaming table (e.g.; an electrical control connection from the dealer/operator to activate the smoke control including raising the retractable inflow vent and activating the exhaust fan when the gaming table is in use by a smoker). The inflow is retractable by any of a variety of means. For example, the vent housing may be structured to be pivotably connected to the overall assembly, thereby allowing the vent to be moved from a closed position (within the gaming table surface) to an open position, which extends upwardly from the gaming table surface and outwardly facing toward the smoker and ashtray position. Each smoke control device is preferably appropriately spatially positioned on the surface of the gaming table in such close proximity to the region in which smoke is produced by a smoker using the gaming table that such smoke can be effectively drawn into the smoke control system.
The exhaust fans used in accordance with this invention should be of sufficient capacity to exhaust the smoke contaminated air from the region immediately adjacent to the front of the gaming table (i.e.; the region in which a lighted cigarette would be placed and the area in which the user of the table who would be smoking would sit or stand), yet not create either an amount of draw of air or exhaust of air of such velocity and volume as to undesirably impact the user (e.g.; ideally the user would not feel or hear the exhaust fan's operation). Most typically, the exhaust fans are driven by an electrical motor using the same power supply as gaming machines use. Examples of suitable fans include (1) an axial cooling fan, Model No. 4715FS-12-B50, 115 v, 17 watts, 205 amps, 3300 rpm, 56 dBA, 110 cfm made and (2) 4100 N Series Tubeaxial fan, each made by EBM-PAPST, Inc. which have various models with dBA rating between 44 and 65 and cfm capacities of between 94 and 180). Other exhaust fan suitable for this purpose will be apparent to those skilled in the art.
In the selection of optimal fans in the practice of the present invention, the distance from the intake to the fan to the region in which smoke from the contaminant sources is important. For example, when a lighted cigarette in an ashtray is placed approximately 3-4 inches or less from the intake of an EBM-PAPST, Inc. Model 4114HN3 fan rated as 160 cfm, essentially the entire visible plume of smoke from the cigarette is seen flowing in a straight path toward the fan intake. As the ash tray/lighted cigarette is moved to 6 inches away from the fan, the plume is seen to rise and form an arc-like somewhat diffuse stream toward the fan's intake, with the stream containing the vast majority of the smoke from the cigarette. As the ash tray/lighted cigarette is moved to about 8 inches from the fan, the plume is seen to rise vertically and diffuse in the surrounding air, with the fan seemingly having little or nor impact in capturing portions of the plume. When an otherwise similar fan, but with a 180 cfm capacity, is used, smoke can effectively be captured from a lighted cigarette approximately 8 inches from the fan.
A variety of means may also be preferably employed to automatically actuate an exhaust fan functionally associated with the gaming table when said table is in use by a smoker [including actuating the system upon the initiation of use and the cessation of operation of the system upon termination of use or at a predetermined time (e.g.; 5 minutes) thereafter]. For example, the exhaust fan can be electrically activating in response to the initiation of use of the gaming table by a player (e.g.; in response to the being seated at the table). Additional examples include (i) a sensing means (e.g.; an electric eye or motion detector) may be used detecting the presence of a potential player at a predetermined position near the gaming table and (ii) a smoke detector which would detect when the level of smoke in the area in front of the gaming table exceeded a predetermined concentration (e.g.; above “normal” background levels, to indicate that there a smoking user of the gaming table). Such automated devices can provide that when a user approaches the table, the user's presence or smoke, which the user generates, is detected and the fan is activated (via an electrically activated switch). When the user ceases to be present, the fan is shut down either immediately or after a predetermined period of time after the presence of the user is no longer detected.
Filters suitable for use in the present invention should be selected to assure that the appropriate level of contaminant removal is achieved in a practical and efficient manner in view of the spatial constraints and consumer acceptance consideration. Air cleaners (which as the term commonly used when the principle function of the device is particulate removal) are usually classified by the method employed to remove the particulate, namely: mechanical filters, electronic air cleaners, ion generators and/or “hybrid” combinations utilizing one or more of these methods. For example, mechanical filters are typically filters which consist of a low packing density coarse glass fibers, vegetable fibers etc., often coated with a viscous substance to act as an adhesive for particulate material or flat filters made of “electret” media consisting of permanently charged plastic film or fiber. Electronic air cleaners (often called electrostatic precipitators or charged media-media filters) use an electric field to trap charged particles. Ion generators also use static charge to remove particles by adding charge to the particles.
The performance of air cleaners in removing particulates depends on a number of factors including the (1) volume of air flow through cleaner, (2) the efficiency of the particulate capture mechanism, (3) the degradation rate of the capture efficiency caused by loading, (4) the mass of particles entering the device, (5) the characteristics of the particles (e.g.; size and whether they are liquid or solid), and (6) the amount of entering air which by-passes the capture mechanism. There are various methods to measure performance, such as the weight arrestance test described in ASHRAE Standard 52-76, Military Standard 2823, etc.
Removal devices for gaseous pollutants typically rely on solid sorbents (e.g.; activated carbon). The performance of solid sorbents depends on a number of factors including the air flow rate through the sorbent, the concentration of pollutants, the presence of other gases or vapors (e.g.; humidity), the physical and chemical characteristics of both the pollutants and the sorbent (e.g.; weight, polarity, size, shape), the configuration of the sorbent in the device, the quantity of sorbent used and the sorbent bed depth and the amount of entering air which bypasses the capture mechanism. Filters may also be used to provide a scent to the filtered air, (e.g.; by coating the filter with a material such as ellagic acid, which neutralizes and/or dissolves some of the odorous contaminants.
Filtration media particularly usable in the present invention are media treated with materials that captures and/or kills airborne bacteria and viruses entrained in the air being filtered. Such media include filters coated with materials with antimicrobial properties which remain active for reasonable time periods. These “sanitizer-treated” surfaces neutralize most bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae and yeast on contact.
In the consideration of seemingly suitable filters for use in a gaming environment, no single existing device or media was found to be sufficient to efficiently achieve the desired cleansing of the air yet satisfy the above constraints and other considerations. Instead, it was determined that a unique filtration approach and positioning, in conjunction with the other aspects of the present invention was required.
In accordance with the present invention, most of the above filtration-related constraints could be met and other considerations satisfied if the filter used in the smoke removal system of the present invention is a composite filter including both an electrostatically charged filter (e.g.; an Electrostat® filter media as commercially provided by Ahlstrom) and a fibrous filter. In one preferred embodiment of this invention, a multiple layer filter would be used further comprising the following materials:
(1) a 150 g/m2 permanent electrostatically charged filter media as a prefilter with a 0.1 NaCl efficiency of > 95% at 32 LPM a delta P <0.6 mm and an air perm > 200 CFM, and
(2) a carbon filter with high gaseous adsorbent capacity with a composition of activated carbon, synthetic fibers, cellulose and a binder with a mass of 0.5 μm and an air perm of 2400 L/m2/s at 200 kPa, and
(3) a 250 g/m2 polishing filter of permanently electrostatically charged media with a 0.1 NaCl efficiency of > 99% at 32 LPM, a delta P <1.2 mm and an air perm> 100 CFM.
Most preferably, one or both of the electrostatic filters would also be coated with a biocide (e.g.; as supplied by Medasil Ltd., Hunslet Road Leeds, England and as used in its Virolklenz Medairsan systems).
To assure proper maintenance of the exhaust fan and filter replacement, the design of the system preferably should enable ease of maintenance, for example, including detection means (e.g.; a pressure drop measurement means to detect excessive buildup of deposits on the filter or filters) and appropriate design of the exhaust fan housing and filter compartment to allow easy assess for filter inspection, cleaning and/or replacement (e.g.; as depicted in the figures, discussed hereinafter).
The environment in which the device is or must be located poses additional challenges and constraints. In the areas surrounding a gaming table or gambling machine, the challenges of effectively dealing with ETS are particularly daunting due to the multiple and changing sources of the smoke (e.g.; as patrons come and go from a given table or machine), constraints in the permissible size of any ETS capture device, where the device needs to be located, the permissible or desired direction of exhaust streams, acceptable noise generation, acceptable power consumption, aesthetics, cost considerations, etc.
Although the filtration means as previously described is an important feature of the present invention, the positioning of the intake of filtration device [with respect to the region in which the user of the gaming table would likely be present and the region in which the lighted cigarette would be placed (e.g.; a ash tray) when the user is not drawing smoke from the cigarette] is of equal if not of greater importance. It has been estimated that about 80% of the contaminated air from cigarette smoking in a gaming casino environment comes directly from the burning cigarette and the remaining 20% comes principally from the smoker's exhaled air. Accordingly, it is an important to capture contaminated smoke both directly from the burning cigarette and the air exhaled by the smoker. The present invention addresses this by assuring that the air intake of the system is sufficiently positioned on the gaming table taken to focus on the region that a smoker using the gaming table and his/her cigarette would be.
The ambient contaminated air after being passing through the filtering means of the present invention has reduced contaminant levels compared to the contaminant levels in the intake flow, with the amount of reduction being determined by the incoming contaminant levels, the filtration media employed, flow rates and other factors. The present invention provides for a variety of uses or outputs for the filtered air. Depending on the application and the preferences of the operator of the venue in which the units are installed, the output air can be directed (1) back toward the smoker (providing cleaner air than that which might otherwise be surrounding the smoker) or (2) away from the smoker into the general room environment (providing a lower contaminant loading into general room environment than that which would result from un-captured smoke from burning cigarettes and smokers' exhalation). For example, if operator of the gaming venue was principally focused on reducing the exposure of a patron smoker using the gaming table and had concerns that the quality of the filtered air was still not low enough (e.g.; in the absence of a established safe or de minimus level), the output flow could be directed away from the smoker, instead of toward the smoker. If air of the highest available degree of filtration is desired, additional air filtration devices of the same type as used to capture smoke laden air can be incorporated at other location associated with the gaming table. For example, one of more of these air filtration devices can draw air from a relatively smoke free zone (e.g.; the area near the dealer who would not normally be smoking) to both filter the air and assist in localized air circulation. Alternatively or additionally, the devices could be used to draw air from a relatively smoke free zone, and provide a flow of further filtered air toward the dealer.
Several preferred example of the smoke removal systems of the present invention are shown in
As shown in
Obviously many other modifications, variations and applications of the present invention are possible in the light of the above teachings. It is to be understood, therefore, that within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described.