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Publication numberUS20080113768 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/559,287
Publication dateMay 15, 2008
Filing dateNov 13, 2006
Priority dateNov 13, 2006
Publication number11559287, 559287, US 2008/0113768 A1, US 2008/113768 A1, US 20080113768 A1, US 20080113768A1, US 2008113768 A1, US 2008113768A1, US-A1-20080113768, US-A1-2008113768, US2008/0113768A1, US2008/113768A1, US20080113768 A1, US20080113768A1, US2008113768 A1, US2008113768A1
InventorsAnthony J. Baerlocher
Original AssigneeIgt
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Apparatus and methods for enhancing multi-person group or community gaming
US 20080113768 A1
Abstract
Apparatus and methods for increasing the excitement, entertainment and aura for or around multi-person group or community gaming by enhancing the environment for playing and watching the gaming machines. The apparatus and method provides and positions a multi-player gaming bench in front of a gaming machine which enables two people to sit directly next to each other in front of the player gaming machine in a comfortable manner. The multi-player gaming bench is configured to enable both people to comfortably play the player gaming machine, and one person to comfortably play the player gaming machine and one person to comfortably watch play of the gaming machine. The multi-player gaming bench provides a better gaming experience for these people.
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Claims(7)
1. A gaming system comprising:
a number of player stations, said number being at least two, each of the player stations including:
(a) at least one player input device,
(b) at least one associated display device, and
(c) a game operable upon a wager by a player at said player station;
a processor in communication with each of the player stations, wherein said processor programmed to:
(i) cause a random determination event,
(ii) cause a community gaming display to display a community game outcome, said community game outcome based at least in part on the random determination event, and
(iii) communicate to a plurality of the number of player stations the community game outcome, wherein at least one of the communicated to player stations provides an award to a player based on the community game outcome;
a gaming bench positioned adjacent to one of the player stations, said gaming bench comprising:
(a) at least two support legs, each support leg having a foot end and a support end located opposite said foot ends; and
(b) at least one seat, said seat having a connection portion and an oppositely positioned sitting portion, said connection portion being attached to the support ends of the at least two support legs, the sitting portion substantially located within a plane, the sitting portion having a depth D within the plane and a width W within the plane, said plane having a distance H from the foot ends of the at least two support legs, wherein W:
(i) is at least 1.5×D; and
(ii) is at least 1.5×H.
2. The gaming system of claim 1, which includes a plurality of gaming benches, each positioned adjacent to one of said player stations.
3. A wagering game play increasing apparatus comprising:
a seat having a seat bottom and a seat back;
at least two support legs extending downwardly from the seat, each support leg having a foot opposite said seat; and
said seat bottom having a width and a depth, said width being substantially greater than said depth to support a first person and a second person sitting on the seat bottom immediately adjacent to the first person and configured to:
(a) be positioned in front of a gaming machine having a cabinet, a game operable upon a wager by either the first person or second person, at least one display device supported by the cabinet and operable to display the game, at least one input device supported by the cabinet and operable to enable said wager to be made,
(b) enable both the first person and the second person sitting on the seat to see the at least one display device, and
(c) enable each of the first person and second person sitting on the seat to make said wager on the game using the at least one input device by only moving one of their arms.
4. A gaming apparatus for use in combination with a gaming machine provided in a casino, said gaming machine having a game operable upon a wager, said gaming apparatus comprising:
a seat including a seat bottom having a width and a depth, said seat configured to be placed in front of the gaming machine to simultaneously support two people, said width being substantially greater than the depth,
said seat not being connected to said gaming machine, and
said seat configured to enable each of said people to operate said gaming machine while being supported by said seat.
5. A gaming apparatus in combination with a gaming machine, said gaming machine having a game operable upon a wager, said gaming machine located within a gaming facility, said gaming machine including a cabinet having a width, said gaming apparatus comprising:
a seat having a width;
said seat being placed in front of said gaming machine cabinet to support two players of said gaming machine such that each player can make said wager on said game;
said, width of said seat being equal to or greater than said width of said gaming machine cabinet; and
said seat not being connected to said gaming machine.
6. A method of increasing play of a gaming machine, said gaming machine having a cabinet, a primary game operable upon a wager, at least one display device supported by the cabinet and operable to display the primary game, at least one input device supported by the cabinet and operable to enable said wager to be made, said method comprising:
positioning a multi-player gaming bench in front of the cabinet, said gaming bench including:
(a) a seat having a seat bottom and a seat back,
(b) at least two support legs extending downwardly from the seat, each support leg having a foot opposite said seat, and
(c) said seat bottom having a width and a depth, said width being substantially greater than said depth to support a first person and a second person sitting on the seat bottom immediately adjacent to the first person and such that both the first person and the second person sitting on the seat bottom can see the at least one display device and such that each of the first person and second person sitting on the seat bottom can make said wager said wager on the primary game using the at least one input device by only moving one of their arms; and
enabling the first person and the second person to make wagers on plays of the primary game using the at least one input device.
7. A method of increasing play of a gaming machine, said gaming machine having a cabinet, a primary game operable upon a wager, at least one display device supported by the cabinet and operable to display the primary game, at least one input device supported by the cabinet and operable to enable said wager to be made, said method comprising:
providing a multi-player gaming bench for positioning in front of the cabinet, said gaming bench including:
(a) a seat having a seat bottom and a seat back,
(b) at least two support legs extending downwardly from the seat, each support leg having a foot opposite said seat, and
(c) said seat bottom having a width and a depth, said width being substantially greater than said depth to support a first person and a second person sitting on the seat bottom immediately adjacent to the first person and such that both the first person and the second person sitting on the seat bottom can see the at least one display device and such that each of the first person and second person sitting on the seat bottom can make said wager on the primary game using the at least one input device by only moving one of their arms.
Description
COPYRIGHT NOTICE

A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the photocopy reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure in exactly the form it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

BACKGROUND

Gaming machines which provide players awards in primary games are well known. Conventional gaming machines generally include a cabinet and a primary game display device mounted in the cabinet and configured to display the primary game. Such gaming machines are typically configured to enable a single player to place or make a wager to activate the primary game of the gaming machine.

Many conventional gaming machines also have one or more secondary games. Certain conventional gaming machines have a secondary game display mounted in the cabinet (usually above the primary game display) and configured to display the secondary game. Other conventional gaming machines use the primary game display device to display the secondary game. Other conventional gaming machines operate in conjunction with one or more secondary game display devices that are not mounted in the cabinet of the gaming machine, but rather mounted above or behind the cabinet.

Part of the enjoyment and excitement of playing many gaming machines is the entertaining displays of the primary and secondary games. In most conventional gaming machines, the primary game display and any secondary game display are configured to be best viewed by a single person sitting directly in front of the gaming machine cabinet. While certain secondary game displays are mounted above or behind the gaming machine cabinet, such displays are still usually configured to best be viewed by a single person sitting directly in front of the gaming machine cabinet.

Certain known gaming machines are configured such that the players of these gaming machines compete for one or more awards such as progressive awards. Such progressive awards are typically displayed by one or more secondary display devices above or behind the bank or group of gaming machines. Other known gaming machines or gaming systems are configured such that the players share with each other or can each win one or more awards. These awards are sometimes displayed by one or more secondary display devices above or behind the bank or group of gaming machines. These types of group or community gaming systems (where the players are either competing for awards, where the players are sharing awards, or where the players are winning awards at the same time) are growing in popularity. Certain of these group or community gaming systems create an aura of excitement and entertainment for the people playing the gaming machines of the system and for people watching play.

There is a continuing need to increase this excitement and entertainment for people playing and people watching play of group or community gaming systems. There is also need for new ways of providing better gaming experiences and environments at gaming machines. There is a further need for increasing social interactivity among people playing and people watching play of gaming machines which are or are not part of a group or community gaming system.

SUMMARY

The present apparatus and method increases the excitement, entertainment and aura for and around multi-person group or community gaming systems by enhancing the environment for playing and watching the gaming machines of such systems. The present apparatus and method can also be used increase the excitement, entertainment and aura for and around single player gaming machines (which are not part of group or community gaming systems) played by multiple people or played by a single person and watched by other people. The present apparatus and method makes the environment for playing and watching play of all of these gaming machines more comfortable and more enjoyable for the players and the people watching.

In one embodiment, the present disclosure provides the apparatus in the form of a multi-player gaming bench configured to be positioned in front of one and preferably each gaming machine of a group or community gaming system or in front of a single player gaming machine, and which enables two people to sit comfortably directly next to each other in front of the respective gaming machine. In one embodiment, the present disclosure includes providing and positioning at least one and preferably a plurality of multi-player gaming benches respectively in front of each of at least one and preferably a plurality of gaming machines of a group or community gaming system or single player gaming machine in an area. Each multi-player gaming bench is configured to enable: (a) one person to comfortably play the respective gaming machine and one person to comfortably watch such play of the gaming machine which it is positioned in front of; and (b) two people to comfortably play respective gaming machine which it is positioned in front of. The multi-player gaming bench provides more excitement for the people as winning events occur and provides a better gaming experience for such people (i.e., either one player and one watcher, or two players).

It should be appreciated that the multi-player gaming bench is suitably sized to be positioned in front of a conventionally sized gaming machine having a cabinet, a primary game operable upon a wager, at least one display device supported by the cabinet and operable to display at least the primary game, and at least one input device supported by the cabinet and operable to enable a player to make the wager. It should also be appreciated that the multi-player gaming bench can also be suitably sized to be positioned in front of a conventionally sized gaming machine having one or more secondary display devices, or a conventionally sized gaming machine below or in front of at one or more associated secondary display devices such as community or group associated secondary display devices.

In one embodiment, the multi-player gaming bench includes a seat having a seat bottom and a seat back connected to and extending upwardly from the seat bottom, and two support legs connected to and extending downwardly from the seat bottom. Each support leg has a foot opposite the seat bottom. The seat bottom and seat back are wide enough to accommodate two people sitting next to each other (i.e., either one player and one watcher, or two players). In one embodiment, the seat bottom and seat back are substantially as wide as the gaming machine cabinet. In one embodiment, the seat bottom and seat back are wider than the gaming machine cabinet.

Positioning the multi-player gaming bench in front of the gaming machine cabinet enables multiple people to sit on the bench and play or watch play of the primary game and any secondary game together. Both people experience these plays together. Positioning the multi-player gaming bench in front of the gaming machine cabinet enables either the first person or the second person to make wagers on plays of the primary game using the one or more input devices of the gaming machine without substantially moving from the bench. The people can sit on the bench such that both the first person and the second person can readily see the primary and secondary display devices and such that either the first person or second person can make wagers on the primary game using the one or more of the input devices without moving from the seat or by only moving their arms. The present disclosure contemplates that people can sit on the multi-player gaming bench in a manner that parts of their bodies (such as their shoulders, sides, hips and/or legs) are close to each other. The present disclosure contemplates that the two people are likely friends or are related and thus such people do not mind sitting close together or next to each other. The present disclosure contemplates that this close positioning will also be one of the factors that enhances the overall gaming experience or group gaming experience for these people.

For certain people, employing the multi-player gaming bench in front of a gaming machine will additionally extend the length of the gaming session because of the ability to have this group interaction or group play at the gaming machine. The gaming session may also be increased for certain people because: (a) the people can combine their money or wagers on play of the gaming machine; (b) each of the people can easily and comfortably reach the single set of controls of the gaming machine; and (c) the people each have a clear view of the primary and secondary display device(s) of or associated with the gaming machine or the gaming machines of the group or community gaming system.

Additional features and advantages are described herein, and will be apparent from, the following Detailed Description and the figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a rear perspective view of one embodiment of the multi-player gaming bench disclosed herein.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the multi-player gaming bench illustrated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the multi-player gaming bench illustrated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a rear perspective view a slant top gaming machine and the multi-player gaming bench illustrated in FIG. 1 positioned in front of the slant top gaming machine.

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of a group or community gaming system having a plurality of gaming machines and a plurality of multi-player gaming benches respectively positioned if front of the gaming machines of the group or community gaming system.

FIG. 6 is a front view of another embodiment of the multi-player gaming bench disclosed herein.

FIG. 7 is a side view of the multi-player gaming bench of FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a front view of another embodiment of the multi-player gaming bench disclosed herein.

FIG. 9 is a side view of the embodiment of the multi-player gaming bench of FIG. 8.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present disclosure increases the excitement, entertainment and aura for multi-person group or community gaming by positioning a multi-player gaming bench in front of the gaming machine to enhance the environment for playing and watching the gaming machine and associated displays. Referring now to the drawings, FIGS. 1 to 3 illustrate one embodiment of the multi-player gaming bench of the present disclosure which is generally indicated by numeral 10. This illustrated multi-player gaming bench 10 includes (a) a seat 11 having a seat bottom 12 and a seat back 14 connected to and extending upwardly from the seat bottom 12, and (b) a pair of spaced apart supports legs 16 and 18 connected to and extending downwardly from the seat bottom 12. The support legs 16 and 18 respectively include supports 20 and 22, and feet 24 and 26 respectively connected to the supports 20 and 22.

The seat bottom 12 and the seat back 14 are connected in any suitable manner. In one embodiment, the seat bottom 12 and seat back 14 each include a suitable cushion. The seat bottom 12 and seat back 14 are wide enough to accommodate two people sitting next to each other in front of a single player gaming machine as further discussed below.

Each support leg 16 and 18, and in particular the upper end of each support 20 and 22 is suitably connected to the seat bottom 12. Each foot 24 and 26 is suitably connected to the bottom or bottom end of each support 20 and 22. The top of each foot 24 and 26 is conical in shape (in one embodiment), and the bottom of each foot 24 and 26 is flat (in one embodiment) and configured to distribute along the floor the weight of the multi-player gaming bench 10 and people sitting on the multi-player gaming bench 10. The supports legs 16 and 18 are made from a suitably strong material such as steel.

Thus, in one embodiment, the multi-player gaming bench is configured to be positioned in front of a single player gaming machine or player station (which is or is not part of a group or community gaming system) and includes at least two support legs, each support leg having a foot end and a support end located opposite the foot end and at least one seat. The seat has a connection portion and an oppositely positioned sitting portion. The connection portion is attached to the support ends of the at least two support legs. The sitting portion is substantially located within a plane. The sitting portion has a depth D within the plane and a width W within the plane. The plane has a distance or height H from the foot ends of the at least two support legs. The width W is at least 1.5× depth D and is at least 1.5× height H. Since the width is substantially greater than the depth, the multi-player gaming bench can support a first person and a second person immediately adjacent or directly adjacent to each other. In one example embodiment, the width W is approximately 40 inches, the depth D is approximately 22 inches and the is height H is approximately 15.63 inches. In one embodiment, the seat back is as wide as the seat bottom. In one embodiment, the height of the set back is approximately 20.88 inches. It should be appreciated that the exact dimensions of the multi-player gaming bench or apparatus may vary, provided that the bench still comfortably accommodates two people.

In the illustrated embodiment, the multi-player gaming bench 10 does not include arm rests. This embodiment enables people to easily sit on the bench from either side of the bench. In an alternative embodiment, the multi-player gaming bench includes suitable arm rests (not shown).

In one embodiment, the multi-player gaming bench 10 is sized and configured to be positioned in front of a slant top gaming machine 30 as generally illustrated in FIG. 4. In other embodiments, the multi-player gaming bench can be sized and configured to be positioned on upright gaming machine (not shown).

A plurality of multi-player gaming benches 10 can, for example, be respectively positioned in front of a plurality of gaming machines 30 of a gaming system as illustrated in FIG. 5. In one such embodiment, the present disclosure provides a gaming system including two or more gaming machines or player stations. Each gaming machine or player station includes at least one player input device and one or more associated display devices. In one embodiment, one of display devices includes a community or shared gaming positioned display above or behind the gaming machines or player stations (i.e., opposite the player position or gaming bench). In one embodiment, the gaming system includes at least one processor in communication with each of the gaming machines or player stations and the shared gaming display. It should be appreciated that the game outcomes and awards can be determined in any suitable manner. The processor(s) are programmed to cause a random determination event, cause a community or shared gaming display such as display 32 to display a community game outcome. The display 32 displays a community game outcome which is based at least in part on the random determination event. The processor(s) communicate to the plurality of the gaming machines or player stations the community game outcome. One or more of those gaming machines or player stations displays or provides an award to the player(s) of the gaming machines or player stations based on the community game outcome. The multi-player gaming benches 10 positioned in front of the gaming machines or player stations 30 as illustrated in FIG. 5 enable multiple people at each multi-player gaming bench to readily see the primary display 31 of the gaming machine and the secondary and/or community display 32.

It should be appreciated that FIGS. 4 and 5 also illustrate that in one embodiment, the width of the multi-player gaming bench can be equal to or greater than the width of the gaming machine which the multi-player gaming bench is positioned in front of. It should further be appreciated that FIGS. 4 and 5 also illustrate that in one embodiment, the gaming machine is not supported by or connected to the multi-player gaming bench or any portion thereof.

It should be appreciated that the multi-player gaming bench is particularly suited for adjacent gaming machines that are not arranged linearly or gaming machines which are not arranged linearly, such as gaming machines arranged in circles, semi-circles, octagons, pentagons, rectangle shape. It should also be appreciated that the multi-player gaming bench can alternatively be configured to seat more than two people.

FIGS. 6 and 7 illustrate another embodiment of the multi-player gaming bench of the present disclosure which is generally indicated by numeral 100. Similar to the multi-player gaming bench 10, the multi-player gaming bench 100 includes (a) a seat 111 having a seat bottom 112 and a seat back 114 connected to and extending upwardly from the seat bottom 112, and (b) a pair of spaced apart supports legs 116 and 118 connected to and extending downwardly from the seat bottom 112. The multi-player gaming bench 100 further includes a stabilizer bar 128 connecting the supports 120 and 122. The multi-player gaming bench 100 also includes a foot rest 130 suitably connected to the supports 122 and 124. The support legs 116 and 118 respectively include supports 120 and 122, and feet 124 and 126 respectively connected to the supports 120 and 122. The seat bottom 112 and seat back 114 are wide enough to accommodate two people sitting next to each other in front of a gaming machine.

FIGS. 8 and 9 illustrate another embodiment of the multi-player gaming bench of the present disclosure which is generally indicated by numeral 200. Similar to the multi-player gaming bench 10, the multi-player gaming bench 200 includes (a) a seat 211 having a seat bottom 212 and a seat back 214 connected to and extending upwardly from the seat bottom 212, and (b) a pair of spaced apart supports legs 216 and 218 connected to the seat bottom 212 and extending downwardly from the seat bottom 212. The support legs 216 and 218 respectively include supports 220 and 222, and feet 224 and 226 respectively connected to the supports 220 and 222. The multi-player gaming bench 200 further includes a stabilizer bar 228 connecting the supports 220 and 222. The multi-player gaming bench 200 also includes a foot rest 230 suitably connected to the supports 222 and 224. In this illustrated embodiment, the feet 224 and 226 are suitably connected to the floor plate 250. The floor plate 250 may be connected to a gaming machine or base for a gaming machine. The seat bottom 212 and seat back 214 are wide enough to accommodate two people sitting next to each other in front of a gaming machine.

Thus, from these various embodiments and combinations thereof, it should be appreciated that the present disclosure provides a gaming apparatus for use in combination with a gaming machine which is or is not part of a group or community gaming system provided in a casino. The gaming apparatus includes a seat having a width and a depth suitable to support a plurality of people in front of the gaming machine. The people are able to operate the gaming machine while being supported by said seat without moving from the seat.

It should also be appreciated from these various embodiments, that the present disclosure provides a gaming apparatus in combination with a gaming machine located within a gaming facility, wherein the gaming machine has a width. The gaming apparatus includes a seat having a width sized to support one or more players of the gaming machine. The width of the seat is equal to or greater than the width of the gaming machine.

It should also be appreciated that the apparatus and method of the present disclosure replaces the conventional single person seats placed in front of each gaming machine provided by most casinos. These replaced seats which are typically either a single person chair (with arm rests) or a single person stool (with or without arm rests), by being configured to only hold one person at a time, can in certain circumstances limit the gaming experience, especially for certain group or community gaming systems.

The apparatus and method of the present disclosure also enhance the gaming environment by eliminating the uncomfortable environments which exists when a first person is sitting on a single player chair or stool in front of a gaming machine and a second person such as a spouse or friend of the first person wants to play with or watch the first person play the primary or secondary games of the gaming machine or system. More specifically, the apparatus and methods of the present disclosure eliminate the need for the second person to: (a) stand behind or next to the seated first person; (b) sit in another single person chair or stool at a gaming machine adjacent to the gaming machine being played by the first person; or (c) sit in a second single person chair or stool (e.g., moved from in front of another gaming machine) next to the first single person chair or stool. The apparatus and method of the present disclosure facilitates the best views for the second person of the primary display device and any secondary display device. The apparatus and method of the present disclosure also lessens the occurrence of single player chairs from being taken from in front of other gaming machines and of other gaming machines being blocked.

Additionally, the apparatus and method of the present disclosure also enhances the gaming environment by enabling multiple people to play or make wagers together in a comfortable environment. This increases the social interactivity of gaming, keeps together people (such as friends and relatives) who want to gamble together, makes people experience the primary and secondary games as well as awards resulting from play of the gaming machines, and thus facilitates more social gaming activity.

Gaming Machines which can be Enhanced

The present disclosure may be implemented for various configurations for gaming machines or gaming machines. The following sections set forth example gaming machines, gaming system and features there of which can be employed in conjunction with the multi-player gaming bench disclosed herein.

The gaming machines employed with the multi-player gaming bench disclosed herein may be but are not limited to: (1) a dedicated gaming machine, wherein the computerized instructions for controlling any games (which are provided by the gaming machine) are provided with the gaming machine prior to delivery to a gaming establishment; and (2) a changeable gaming machine, where the computerized instructions for controlling any games (which are provided by the gaming machine) are downloadable to the gaming machine through a data network when the gaming machine is in a gaming establishment. In one embodiment, the computerized instructions for controlling any games are executed by a central server, central controller or remote host. In such a “thin client” embodiment, the central server remotely controls any games (or other suitable interfaces) and the gaming machine is utilized to display such games (or suitable interfaces) and receive one or more inputs or commands from one or more players. In another embodiment, the computerized instructions for controlling any games are communicated from the central server, central controller or remote host to a gaming machine local processor and memory devices. In such a “thick client” embodiment, the gaming machine local processor executes the communicated computerized instructions to control any games (or other suitable interfaces) provided to one or more players.

In one embodiment, one or more gaming machines in a gaming system may be thin client gaming machines and one or more gaming machines in the gaming system may be thick client gaming machines. In another embodiment, certain functions of the gaming machine are implemented in a thin client environment and certain other functions of the gaming machine are implemented in a thick client environment. In one such embodiment, computerized instructions for controlling any primary games are communicated from the central server to the gaming machine in a thick client configuration and computerized instructions for controlling any secondary games or bonus functions are executed by a central server in a thin client configuration.

The gaming machines may have any suitable support structure, housing or cabinet which provides support for a plurality of displays, inputs, controls and other features of a conventional gaming machine. The gaming machine preferably includes at least one processor such as a microprocessor, a microcontroller-based platform, a suitable integrated circuit or one or more application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC's). The processor is in communication with or operable to access or to exchange signals with at least one data storage or memory device. In one embodiment, the processor and the memory device reside within the cabinet of the gaming machine. The memory device stores program code and instructions, executable by the processor, to control the gaming machine. The memory device also stores other data such as image data, event data, player input data, random or pseudo-random number generators, pay-table data or information and applicable game rules that relate to the play of the gaming machine. In one embodiment, the memory device includes random access memory (RAM), which can include non-volatile RAM (NVRAM), magnetic RAM (MRAM), ferroelectric RAM (FeRAM) and other forms as commonly understood in the gaming industry. In one embodiment, the memory device includes read only memory (ROM). In one embodiment, the memory device includes flash memory and/or EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read only memory). Any other suitable magnetic, optical and/or semiconductor memory may operate in conjunction with the gaming machine disclosed herein.

In one embodiment, part or all of the program code and/or operating data described above can be stored in a detachable or removable memory device, including, but not limited to, a suitable cartridge, disk, CD ROM, DVD or USB memory device. In other embodiments, part or all of the program code and/or operating data described above can be downloaded to the memory device through a suitable network. It should be appreciated that the processor and memory device may be collectively referred to herein as a “computer” or “controller.”

The gaming machine may randomly generates awards and/or other game outcomes based on probability data. In one such embodiment, this random determination is provided through utilization of a random number generator (RNG), such as a true random number generator, a pseudo random number generator or other suitable randomization process. In one embodiment, each award or other game outcome is associated with a probability and the gaming machine generates the award or other game outcome to be provided to the player(s) based on the associated probabilities. In this embodiment, since the gaming machine generates outcomes randomly or based upon one or more probability calculations, there is no certainty that the gaming machine will ever provide the player(s) with any specific award or other game outcome.

In another embodiment, as discussed in more detail below, the gaming machine employs a predetermined or finite set or pool of awards or other game outcomes. In this embodiment, as each award or other game outcome is provided to the player(s), the gaming machine flags or removes the provided award or other game outcome from the predetermined set or pool. Once flagged or removed from the set or pool, the specific provided award or other game outcome from that specific pool cannot be provided to the player(s) again. This type of gaming machine provides the player(s) with all of the available awards or other game outcomes over the course of the play cycle and guarantees the amount of actual wins and losses.

In another embodiment, as discussed below, upon the player(s) initiating game play at the gaming machine, the gaming machine enrolls in a bingo game. In this embodiment, a bingo server calls the bingo balls that result in a specific bingo game outcome. The resultant game outcome is communicated to the individual gaming machine to be provided to the player(s). In one embodiment, this bingo outcome is displayed to the player(s) as a bingo game and/or in any form in accordance with the present disclosure.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine includes one or more display devices controlled by the processor. The display devices are preferably connected to or mounted to the cabinet of the gaming machine. The embodiment shown in FIG. 4 includes a central display device 50 which is operable to display a primary game. This display device may also display any suitable secondary game associated with the primary game as well as information relating to the primary or secondary game. The gaming machine may also have an upper display device that displays the primary game, any suitable secondary game associated or not associated with the primary game and/or information relating to the primary or secondary game. These display devices may also serve as digital glass operable to advertise games or other aspects of the gaming establishment. In one embodiment, the gaming machine includes a credit display which displays current number of credits, cash, account balance or the equivalent. In one embodiment, gaming machine includes a bet display which displays an amount wagered.

The display devices may include, without limitation, a monitor, a television display, a plasma display, a liquid crystal display (LCD) a display based on light emitting diodes (LED), a display based on a plurality of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), a display based on polymer light-emitting diodes (PLEDs), a display based on a plurality of surface-conduction electron-emitters (SEDs), a display including a projected and/or reflected image or any other suitable electronic device or display mechanism. In one embodiment, as described in more detail below, the display device includes a touch-screen with an associated touch-screen controller. The display devices may be of any suitable size and configuration, such as a square, a rectangle or an elongated rectangle.

The display devices of the gaming machine are configured to display at least one and preferably a plurality of game or other suitable images, symbols and indicia such as any visual representation or exhibition of the movement of objects such as mechanical, virtual or video reels and wheels, dynamic lighting, video images, images of people, characters, places, things and faces of cards, and the like.

In one alternative embodiment, the symbols, images and indicia displayed on or of the display device may be in mechanical form. That is, the display device may include any electromechanical device, such as one or more mechanical objects, such as one or more rotatable wheels, reels or dice, configured to display at least one or a plurality of game or other suitable images, symbols or indicia.

The gaming machine includes at least one payment acceptor in communication with the processor. The payment acceptor may include a coin slot and a payment, note or bill acceptor, in which the player(s) inserts money, coins or tokens. The player(s) can place coins in the coin slot or paper money, a ticket or voucher into the payment, note or bill acceptor. In other embodiments, devices such as readers or validators for credit cards, debit cards or credit slips may accept payment. In one embodiment, the player(s) may insert one or more identification cards into a card reader of gaming machine. In one embodiment, the identification card is a smart card having a programmed microchip or a magnetic strip coded with the player's identification, credit totals (or related data) and other relevant information. In another embodiment, each player may carry a portable device, such as a cell phone, a radio frequency identification tag or any other suitable wireless device, which communicates a player's identification, credit totals (or related data) and other relevant information to gaming machine. In one embodiment, money may be transferred to a gaming machine through electronic funds transfer. When the player(s) funds the gaming machine, processor determines the amount of funds entered and displays the corresponding amount on the credit or other suitable display as described above.

In one embodiment the gaming machine includes at least one and preferably a plurality of input devices 52 in communication with the processor. The input devices can include any suitable device which enables the player(s) to produce input signals which are received by the processor. In one embodiment, after appropriate funding of the gaming machine, the input device is a game activation device, such as a pull arm or a play button which is used by the player(s) to start any primary game or sequence of events in the gaming machine. The play button can be any suitable play activator such as a bet one button, a max bet button or a repeat the bet button. In one embodiment, upon appropriate funding, the gaming machine begins the game play automatically. In another embodiment, upon the player(s) engaging one of the play buttons, the gaming machine automatically activates game play.

In one embodiment, one input device is a bet one button. The player(s) place bets by pushing the bet one button. The player(s) can increase the bet by one credit each time one of the players pushes the bet one button. When a player pushes the bet one button, the number of credits shown in the credit display preferably decreases by one, and the number of credits shown in the bet display preferably increases by one. In another embodiment, one input device is a bet max button (not shown) which enables the player(s) to bet the maximum wager permitted for a game of the gaming machine.

In one embodiment, one input device is a cash out button. The player(s) may push the cash out button and cash out to receive a cash payment or other suitable form of payment corresponding to the number of remaining credits. In one embodiment, when the player(s) cashes out, the player(s) receives the coins or tokens in a coin payout tray. In one embodiment, when the player(s) cashes out, the player(s) may receive other payout mechanisms such as tickets or credit slips redeemable by a cashier (or other suitable redemption system) or funding to one or more of the player's electronically recordable identification card.

In one embodiment, as mentioned above, one input device is a touch-screen coupled with a touch-screen controller, or some other touch-sensitive display overlay to allow for player interaction with the images on the display. The touch-screen and the touch-screen controller are connected to a video controller. The player(s) can make decisions and input signals into the gaming machine by touching the touch-screen at the appropriate places. One such input device is a conventional touch-screen button panel.

The gaming machine may further include a plurality of communication ports for enabling communication of the processor with external peripherals, such as external video sources, expansion buses, game or other displays, an SCSI port or a key pad.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine includes a sound generating device controlled by one or more sounds cards which function in conjunction with the processor. In one embodiment, the sound generating device includes at least one and preferably a plurality of speakers or other sound generating hardware and/or software for generating sounds, such as playing music for the primary and/or secondary game or for other modes of the gaming machine, such as an attract mode. In one embodiment, the gaming machine provides dynamic sounds coupled with attractive multimedia images displayed on one or more of the display devices to provide an audio-visual representation or to otherwise display full-motion video with sound to attract players to the gaming machine. During idle periods, the gaming machine may display a sequence of audio and/or visual attraction messages to attract potential players to the gaming machine. The videos may also be customized for or to provide any appropriate information.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine may include a sensor, such as a camera in communication with the processor (and possibly controlled by the processor) that is selectively positioned to acquire an image of one or more player(s) actively using the gaming machine and/or the surrounding area of the gaming machine. In one embodiment, the camera may be configured to selectively acquire still or moving (e.g., video) images and may be configured to acquire the images in either an analog, digital or other suitable format. The display devices may be configured to display the image acquired by the camera as well as display the visible manifestation of the game in split screen or picture-in-picture fashion. For example, the camera may acquire an image of one or more of the player(s) and the processor may incorporate that image into the primary and/or secondary game as a game image, symbol or indicia.

Gaming machine can incorporate any suitable wagering primary or base game. The gaming machine or device may include some or all of the features of conventional gaming machines or devices. The primary or base game may comprise any suitable reel-type game, card game, cascading or falling symbol game, number game or other game of chance susceptible to representation in an electronic or electromechanical form, which in one embodiment produces a random outcome based on probability data at the time of or after placement of a wager. That is, different primary wagering games, such as video poker games, video blackjack games, video keno, video bingo or any other suitable primary or base game may be implemented.

In one embodiment, a base or primary game may be a slot game with one or more paylines. The paylines may be horizontal, vertical, circular, diagonal, angled or any combination thereof. In this embodiment, the gaming machine includes at least one and preferably a plurality of reels, such as three to five reels, in either electromechanical form with mechanical rotating reels or video form with simulated reels and movement thereof. In one embodiment, an electromechanical slot machine includes a plurality of adjacent, rotatable reels which may be combined and operably coupled with an electronic display of any suitable type. In another embodiment, if the reels are in video form, one or more of the display devices, as described above, display the plurality of simulated video reels. Each reel displays a plurality of indicia or symbols, such as bells, hearts, fruits, numbers, letters, bars or other images which preferably correspond to a theme associated with the gaming machine. In another embodiment, one or more of the reels are independent reels or unisymbol reels. In this embodiment, each independent or unisymbol reel generates and displays one symbol to the player(s). In one embodiment, the gaming machine awards prizes after the reels of the primary game stop spinning if specified types and/or configurations of indicia or symbols occur on an active payline or otherwise occur in a winning pattern, occur on the requisite number of adjacent reels and/or occur in a scatter pay arrangement.

In an alternative embodiment, rather than determining any outcome to provide to the player(s) by analyzing the symbols generated on any wagered upon paylines as described above, the gaming machine determines any outcome to provide to the player(s) based on the number of associated symbols which are generated in active symbol positions on the requisite number of adjacent reels (i.e., not on paylines passing through any displayed winning symbol combinations). In this embodiment, if a winning symbol combination is generated on the reels, the gaming machine provides the player(s) one award for that occurrence of the generated winning symbol combination. For example, if one winning symbol combination is generated on the reels, the gaming machine will provide a single award to the player(s) for that winning symbol combination (i.e., not based on the number of paylines that would have passed through that winning symbol combination). It should be appreciated that because a gaming machine with wagering on ways to win provides the player(s) one award for a single occurrence of a winning symbol combination and a gaming machine with paylines may provide the player(s) more than one award for the same occurrence of a single winning symbol combination (i.e., if a plurality of paylines each pass through the same winning symbol combination), it is possible to provide the player(s) at a ways to win gaming machine with more ways to win for an equivalent bet or wager on a traditional slot gaming machine with paylines.

In one embodiment, the total number of ways to win is determined by multiplying the number of symbols generated in active symbol positions on a first reel by the number of symbols generated in active symbol positions on a second reel by the number of symbols generated in active symbol positions on a third reel and so on for each reel of the gaming machine with at least one symbol generated in an active symbol position. For example, a three reel gaming machine with three symbols generated in active symbol positions on each reel includes 27 ways to win (i.e., 3 symbols on the first reel×3 symbols on the second reel×3 symbols on the third reel). A four reel gaming machine with three symbols generated in active symbol positions on each reel includes 81 ways to win (i.e., 3 symbols on the first reel×3 symbols on the second reel×3 symbols on the third reel×3 symbols on the fourth reel). A five reel gaming machine with three symbols generated in active symbol positions on each reel includes 243 ways to win (i.e., 3 symbols on the first reel×3 symbols on the second reel×3 symbols on the third reel×3 symbols on the fourth reel×3 symbols on the fifth reel). It should be appreciated that modifying the number of generated symbols by either modifying the number of reels or modifying the number of symbols generated in active symbol positions by one or more of the reels, modifies the number of ways to win.

In another embodiment, the gaming machine enables the players to wager on and thus activate symbol positions. In one such embodiment, the symbol positions are on the reels. In this embodiment, if based on the wager, a reel is activated, then each of the symbol positions of that reel will be activated and each of the active symbol positions will be part of one or more of the ways to win. In one embodiment, if based on the wager, a reel is not activated, then a designated number of default symbol positions, such as a single symbol position of the middle row of the reel, will be activated and the default symbol position(s) will be part of one or more of the ways to win. This type of gaming machine enables the player(s) to wager on one, more or each of the reels and the processor of the gaming machine uses the number of wagered on reels to determine the active symbol positions and the number of possible ways to win. In alternative embodiments, (1) no symbols are displayed as generated at any of the inactive symbol positions, or (2) any symbols generated at any inactive symbol positions may be displayed to the player(s) but suitably shaded or otherwise designated as inactive.

In one embodiment wherein the player(s) wager on one or more reels, a wager of one credit may activate each of the three symbol positions on a first reel, wherein one default symbol position is activated on each of the remaining four reels. In this example, as described above, the gaming machine provides the player(s) three ways to win (i.e., 3 symbols on the first reel×1 symbol on the second reel×1 symbol on the third reel×1 symbol on the fourth reel×1 symbol on the fifth reel). In another example, a wager of nine credits may activate each of the three symbol positions on a first reel, each of the three symbol positions on a second reel and each of the three symbol positions on a third reel wherein one default symbol position is activated on each of the remaining two reels. In this example, as described above, the gaming machine provides the player(s) twenty-seven ways to win (i.e., 3 symbols on the first reel×3 symbols on the second reel×3 symbols on the third reel×1 symbol on the fourth reel×1 symbol on the fifth reel).

In one embodiment, to determine any award(s) to provide to the player(s) based on the generated symbols, the gaming machine individually determines if a symbol generated in an active symbol position on a first reel forms part of a winning symbol combination with or is otherwise suitably related to a symbol generated in an active symbol position on a second reel. In this embodiment, the gaming machine classifies each pair of symbols which form part of a winning symbol combination (i.e., each pair of related symbols) as a string of related symbols. For example, if active symbol positions include a first cherry symbol generated in the top row of a first reel and a second cherry symbol generated in the bottom row of a second reel, the gaming machine classifies the two cherry symbols as a string of related symbols because the two cherry symbols form part of a winning symbol combination.

After determining if any strings of related symbols are formed between the symbols on the first reel and the symbols on the second reel, the gaming machine determines if any of the symbols from the next adjacent reel should be added to any of the formed strings of related symbols. In this embodiment, for a first of the classified strings of related symbols, the gaming machine determines if any of the symbols generated by the next adjacent reel form part of a winning symbol combination or are otherwise related to the symbols of the first string of related symbols. If the gaming machine determines that a symbol generated on the next adjacent reel is related to the symbols of the first string of related symbols, that symbol is subsequently added to the first string of related symbols. For example, if the first string of related symbols is the string of related cherry symbols and a related cherry symbol is generated in the middle row of the third reel, the gaming machine adds the related cherry symbol generated on the third reel to the previously classified string of cherry symbols.

On the other hand, if the gaming machine determines that no symbols generated on the next adjacent reel are related to the symbols of the first string of related symbols, the gaming machine marks or flags such string of related symbols as complete. For example, if the first string of related symbols is the string of related cherry symbols and none of the symbols of the third reel are related to the cherry symbols of the previously classified string of cherry symbols, the gaming machine marks or flags the string of cherry symbols as complete.

After either adding a related symbol to the first string of related symbols or marking the first string of related symbols as complete, the gaming machine proceeds as described above for each of the remaining classified strings of related symbols which were previously classified or formed from related symbols on the first and second reels.

After analyzing each of the remaining strings of related symbols, the gaming machine determines, for each remaining pending or incomplete string of related symbols, if any of the symbols from the next adjacent reel, if any, should be added to any of the previously classified strings of related symbols. This process continues until either each string of related symbols is complete or there are no more adjacent reels of symbols to analyze. In this embodiment, where there are no more adjacent reels of symbols to analyze, the gaming machine marks each of the remaining pending strings of related symbols as complete.

When each of the strings of related symbols is marked complete, the gaming machine compares each of the strings of related symbols to an appropriate paytable and provides the player(s) any award associated with each of the completed strings of symbols. It should be appreciated that the player(s) is provided one award, if any, for each string of related symbols generated in active symbol positions (i.e., as opposed to being based on how many paylines that would have passed through each of the strings of related symbols in active symbol positions).

In one embodiment, a base or primary game may be a poker game wherein the gaming machine enables the player(s) to play a conventional game of video draw poker and initially deals five cards all face up from a virtual deck of fifty-two card deck. Cards may be dealt as in a traditional game of cards or in the case of the gaming machine, may also include that the cards are randomly selected from a predetermined number of cards. If the player(s) wishes to draw, the player(s) selects the cards to hold via one or more input device, such as pressing related hold buttons or via the touch screen. The player(s) then presses the deal button and the unwanted or discarded cards are removed from the display and the gaming machine deals the replacement cards from the remaining cards in the deck. This results in a final five-card hand. The gaming machine compares the final five-card hand to a payout table which utilizes conventional poker hand rankings to determine the winning hands. The gaming machine provides the player(s) with an award based on a winning hand and the credits wagered.

In another embodiment, the base or primary game may be a multi-hand version of video poker. In this embodiment, the gaming machine deals the player(s) at least two hands of cards. In one such embodiment, the cards are the same cards. In one embodiment each hand of cards is associated with its own deck of cards. The player(s) chooses the cards to hold in a primary hand. The held cards in the primary hand are also held in the other hands of cards. The remaining non-held cards are removed from each hand displayed and for each hand replacement cards are randomly dealt into that hand. Since the replacement cards are randomly dealt independently for each hand, the replacement cards for each hand will usually be different. The poker hand rankings are then determined hand by hand and awards are provided to the player(s).

In one embodiment, a base or primary game may be a keno game wherein the gaming machine displays a plurality of selectable indicia or numbers on at least one of the display devices. In this embodiment, the player(s) selects at least one or a plurality of the selectable indicia or numbers via an input device such as the touch screen. The gaming machine then displays a series of drawn numbers to determine an amount of matches, if any, between the selected numbers and the gaming machine's drawn numbers. The player(s) is provided an award based on the amount of matches, if any, based on the amount of determined matches and the number of numbers drawn.

In one embodiment, in addition to winning credits or other awards in a base or primary game, the gaming machine may also give players the opportunity to win credits in a bonus or secondary game or bonus or secondary round. The bonus or secondary game enables the player(s) to obtain a prize or payout in addition to the prize or payout, if any, obtained from the base or primary game. In general, a bonus or secondary game produces a significantly higher level of player excitement than the base or primary game because it provides a greater expectation of winning than the base or primary game and is accompanied with more attractive or unusual features than the base or primary game. In one embodiment, the bonus or secondary game may be any type of suitable game, either similar to or completely different from the base or primary game.

In one embodiment, the triggering event or qualifying condition may be a selected outcome in the primary game or a particular arrangement of one or more indicia on a display device in the primary game, such as the number seven appearing on three adjacent reels along a payline in the primary slot game embodiment. In other embodiments, the triggering event or qualifying condition may be by exceeding a certain amount of game play (such as number of games, number of credits, amount of time), or reaching a specified number of points earned during game play.

In another embodiment, the gaming machine processor or central server randomly provides the player(s) one or more plays of one or more secondary games. In one such embodiment, the gaming machine does not provide any apparent reasons to the player(s) for qualifying to play a secondary or bonus game. In this embodiment, qualifying for a bonus game is not triggered by an event in or based specifically on any of the plays of any primary game. That is, the gaming machine may simply qualify the player(s) to play a secondary game without any explanation or alternatively with simple explanations. In another embodiment, the gaming machine (or central server) qualifies the player(s) for a secondary game at least partially based on a game triggered or symbol triggered event, such as at least partially based on the play of a primary game.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine includes a program which will automatically begin a bonus round after the player(s) has achieved a triggering event or qualifying condition in the base or primary game. In another embodiment, after the player(s) has qualified for a bonus game, the player(s) may subsequently enhance his/her bonus game participation through continued play on the base or primary game. Thus, for each bonus qualifying event, such as a bonus symbol, that the player(s) obtains, a given number of bonus game wagering points or credits may be accumulated in a “bonus meter” programmed to accrue the bonus wagering credits or entries toward eventual participation in a bonus game. The occurrence of multiple such bonus qualifying events in the primary game may result in an arithmetic or exponential increase in the number of bonus wagering credits awarded. In one embodiment, the player(s) may redeem extra bonus wagering credits during the bonus game to extend play of the bonus game.

In one embodiment, no separate entry fee or buy in for a bonus game need be employed. That is, the player(s) may not purchase an entry into a bonus game, rather they must win or earn entry through play of the primary game thus, encouraging play of the primary game. In another embodiment, qualification of the bonus or secondary game is accomplished through a simple “buy in” by the player(s), for example, if the player(s) has been unsuccessful at qualifying through other specified activities. In another embodiment, the player(s) must make a separate side-wager on the bonus game or wager a designated amount in the primary game to qualify for the secondary game. In this embodiment, the secondary game triggering event must occur and the side-wager (or designated primary game wager amount) must have been placed to trigger the secondary game.

In one embodiment, one or more of the gaming machines are in communication with each other and/or at least one central server, central controller or remote host 56 through a data network or remote communication link. In this embodiment, the central server, central controller or remote host is any suitable server or computing device which includes at least one processor and at least one memory or storage device. The terms central server, central controller and remote host are used interchangeably herein. In different such embodiments, the central server is a progressive controller or a processor of one of the gaming machines in the gaming system. In these embodiments, the processor of each gaming machine is designed to transmit and receive events, messages, commands or any other suitable data or signal between the individual gaming machine and the central server. The gaming machine processor is operable to execute such communicated events, messages or commands in conjunction with the operation of the gaming machine. Moreover, the processor of the central server is designed to transmit and receive events, messages, commands or any other suitable data or signal between the central server and each of the individual gaming machines. The central server processor is operable to execute such communicated events, messages or commands in conjunction with the operation of the central server. It should be appreciated that one, more or each of the functions of the central controller as disclosed herein may be performed by one or more gaming machine processors. It should be further appreciated that one, more or each of the functions of one or more gaming machine processors as disclosed herein may be performed by the central controller.

In one embodiment, the game outcome provided to the player(s) is determined by a central server or controller and provided to the player(s) at the gaming machine. In this embodiment, each of a plurality of such gaming machines are in communication with the central server or controller. Upon the player(s) initiating game play at one of the gaming machines, the initiated gaming machine communicates a game outcome request to the central server or controller.

In one embodiment, the central server or controller receives the game outcome request and randomly generates a game outcome for the primary game based on probability data. In another embodiment, the central server or controller randomly generates a game outcome for the secondary game based on probability data. In another embodiment, the central server or controller randomly generates a game outcome for both the primary game and the secondary game based on probability data. In this embodiment, the central server or controller is capable of storing and utilizing program code or other data similar to the processor and memory device of the gaming machine.

In an alternative embodiment, the central server or controller maintains one or more predetermined pools or sets of predetermined game outcomes. In this embodiment, the central server or controller receives the game outcome request and independently selects a predetermined game outcome from a set or pool of game outcomes. The central server or controller flags or marks the selected game outcome as used. Once a game outcome is flagged as used, it is prevented from further selection from the set or pool and cannot be selected by the central controller or server upon another wager. The provided game outcome can include a primary game outcome, a secondary game outcome, primary and secondary game outcomes, or a series of game outcomes such as free games.

The central server or controller communicates the generated or selected game outcome to the initiated gaming machine. The gaming machine receives the generated or selected game outcome and provides the game outcome to the player(s). In an alternative embodiment, how the generated or selected game outcome is to be presented or displayed to the player(s), such as a reel symbol combination of a slot machine or a hand of cards dealt in a card game, is also determined by the central server or controller and communicated to the initiated gaming machine to be presented or displayed to the player(s). Central production or control can assist a gaming establishment or other entity in maintaining appropriate records, controlling gaming, reducing and preventing cheating or electronic or other errors, reducing or eliminating win-loss volatility and the like.

In another embodiment, a predetermined game outcome value is determined for each of a plurality of linked or networked gaming machines based on the results of a bingo or keno game. In this embodiment, each individual gaming machine utilizes one or more bingo or keno games to determine the predetermined game outcome value provided to the player(s) for the interactive game played at that gaming machine. In one embodiment, the bingo or keno game is displayed to the player(s). In another embodiment, the bingo or keno game is not displayed to the player(s), but the results of the bingo or keno game determine the predetermined game outcome value for the primary or secondary game.

In the various bingo embodiments, as each gaming machine is enrolled in the bingo game, such as upon an appropriate wager or engaging an input device, the enrolled gaming machine is provided or associated with a different bingo card. Each bingo card consists of a matrix or array of elements, wherein each element is designated with a separate indicia, such as a number. It should be appreciated that each different bingo card includes a different combination of elements. For example, if four bingo cards are provided to four enrolled gaming machines, the same element may be present on all four of the bingo cards while another element may solely be present on one of the bingo cards.

In operation of these embodiments, upon providing or associating a different bingo card to each of a plurality of enrolled gaming machines, the central controller randomly selects or draws, one at a time, a plurality of the elements. As each element is selected, a determination is made for each gaming machine as to whether the selected element is present on the bingo card provided to that enrolled gaming machine. This determination can be made by the central controller, the gaming machine, a combination of the two, or in any other suitable manner. If the selected element is present on the bingo card provided to that enrolled gaming machine, that selected element on the provided bingo card is marked or flagged. This process of selecting elements and marking any selected elements on the provided bingo cards continues until one or more predetermined patterns are marked on one or more of the provided bingo cards. It should be appreciated that in one embodiment, the gaming machine requires the player(s) to engage a daub button (not shown) to initiate the process of the gaming machine marking or flagging any selected elements.

After one or more predetermined patterns are marked on one or more of the provided bingo cards, a game outcome is determined for each of the enrolled gaming machines based, at least in part, on the selected elements on the provided bingo cards. As described above, the game outcome determined for each gaming machine enrolled in the bingo game is utilized by that gaming machine to determine the predetermined game outcome provided to the player(s). For example, a first gaming machine to have selected elements marked in a predetermined pattern is provided a first outcome of win $10 which will be provided to a first player regardless of how the first player plays in a first game and a second gaming machine to have selected elements marked in a different predetermined pattern is provided a second outcome of win $2 which will be provided to a second player regardless of how the second player plays a second game. It should be appreciated that as the process of marking selected elements continues until one or more predetermined patterns are marked, this embodiment ensures that at least one bingo card will win the bingo game and thus at least one enrolled gaming machine will provide a predetermined winning game outcome to a player. It should be appreciated that other suitable methods for selecting or determining one or more predetermined game outcomes may be employed.

In one example of the above-described embodiment, the predetermined game outcome may be based on a supplemental award in addition to any award provided for winning the bingo game as described above. In this embodiment, if one or more elements are marked in supplemental patterns within a designated number of drawn elements, a supplemental or intermittent award or value associated with the marked supplemental pattern is provided to the player as part of the predetermined game outcome. For example, if the four corners of a bingo card are marked within the first twenty selected elements, a supplemental award of $10 is provided to the player as part of the predetermined game outcome. It should be appreciated that in this embodiment, the player of a gaming machine may be provided a supplemental or intermittent award regardless of if the enrolled gaming machine's provided bingo card wins or does not win the bingo game as described above.

In another embodiment, one or more of the gaming machines are in communication with a central server or controller for monitoring purposes only. That is, each individual gaming machine randomly generates the game outcomes to be provided to the player and the central server or controller monitors the activities and events occurring on the plurality of gaming machines. In one embodiment, the gaming network includes a real-time or on-line accounting and gaming information system operably coupled to the central server or controller. The accounting and gaming information system of this embodiment includes a player database for storing player profiles, a player tracking module for tracking players and a credit system for providing automated casino transactions.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine disclosed herein is associated with or otherwise integrated with one or more player tracking systems. In this embodiment, the gaming machine and/or player tracking system tracks any players gaming activity at the gaming machine. In one such embodiment, the gaming machine and/or associated player tracking system timely tracks when a player inserts their playing tracking card to begin a gaming session and also timely tracks when a player removes their player tracking card when concluding play for that gaming session. In another embodiment, rather than requiring a player to insert a player tracking card, the gaming machine utilizes one or more portable devices carried by a player, such as a cell phone, a radio frequency identification tag or any other suitable wireless device to track when a player begins and ends a gaming session. In another embodiment, the gaming machine utilizes any suitable biometric technology or ticket technology to track when a player begins and ends a gaming session.

During one or more gaming sessions, the gaming machine and/or player tracking system tracks any suitable information, such as any amounts wagered, average wager amounts and/or the time these wagers are placed. In different embodiments, for one or more players, the player tracking system includes the player's account number, the player's card number, the player's first name, the player's surname, the player's preferred name, the player's player tracking ranking, any promotion status associated with the player's player tracking card, the player's address, the player's birthday, the player's anniversary, the player's recent gaming sessions, or any other suitable data.

In one embodiment, a plurality of the gaming machines are capable of being connected together through a data network. In one embodiment, the data network is a local area network (LAN), in which one or more of the gaming machines are substantially proximate to each other and an on-site central server or controller as in, for example, a gaming establishment or a portion of a gaming establishment. In another embodiment, the data network is a wide area network (WAN) in which one or more of the gaming machines are in communication with at least one off-site central server or controller. In this embodiment, the plurality of gaming machines may be located in a different part of the gaming establishment or within a different gaming establishment than the off-site central server or controller. Thus, the WAN may include an off-site central server or controller and an off-site gaming machine located within gaming establishments in the same geographic area, such as a city or state. The WAN gaming system may be substantially identical to the LAN gaming system described above, although the number of gaming machines in each system may vary relative to each other.

In another embodiment, the data network is an internet or intranet. In this embodiment, the operation of the gaming machine can be viewed at the gaming machine with at least one internet browser. In this embodiment, operation of the gaming machine and accumulation of credits may be accomplished with only a connection to the central server or controller (the internet/intranet server) through a conventional phone or other data transmission line, digital subscriber line (DSL), T-1 line, coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, or other suitable connection. In this embodiment, players may access an internet game page from any location where an internet connection and computer, or other internet facilitator is available. The expansion in the number of computers and number and speed of internet connections in recent years increases opportunities for players to play from an ever-increasing number of remote sites. It should be appreciated that enhanced bandwidth of digital wireless communications may render such technology suitable for some or all communications, particularly if such communications are encrypted. Higher data transmission speeds may be useful for enhancing the sophistication and response of the display and interaction with the player(s).

As mentioned above, in one embodiment, the present disclosure may be employed in a server based gaming system. In one such embodiment, as described above, one or more gaming machines are in communication with a central server or controller. The central server or controller may be any suitable server or computing device which includes at least one processor and a memory or storage device. In alternative embodiments, the central server is a progressive controller or another gaming machine in the gaming system. In one embodiment, the memory device of the central server stores different game programs and instructions, executable by a gaming machine processor, to control the gaming machine. Each executable game program represents a different game or type of game which may be played on one or more of the gaming machines in the gaming system. Such different games may include the same or substantially the same game play with different pay tables. In different embodiments, the executable game program is for a primary game, a secondary game or both. In another embodiment, the game program may be executable as a secondary game to be played simultaneous with the play of a primary game (which may be downloaded to or fixed on the gaming machine) or vice versa.

In this embodiment, each gaming machine at least includes one or more display devices and/or one or more input devices for interaction with the player(s). A local processor, such as the above-described gaming machine processor or a processor of a local server, is operable with the display device(s) and/or the input device(s) of one or more of the gaming machines.

In operation, the central controller is operable to communicate one or more of the stored game programs to at least one local processor. In different embodiments, the stored game programs are communicated or delivered by embedding the communicated game program in a device or a component (e.g., a microchip to be inserted in a gaming machine), writing the game program on a disc or other media, downloading or streaming the game program over a dedicated data network, internet or a telephone line. After the stored game programs are communicated from the central server, the local processor executes the communicated program to facilitate play of the communicated program by the player(s) through the display device(s) and/or input device(s) of the gaming machine. That is, when a game program is communicated to a local processor, the local processor changes the game or type of game played at the gaming machine.

In another embodiment, a plurality of gaming machines at one or more gaming sites may be networked to the central server in a progressive configuration, as known in the art, wherein a portion of each wager to initiate a base or primary game may be allocated to one or more progressive awards. In one embodiment, a progressive gaming system host site computer is coupled to a plurality of the central servers at a variety of mutually remote gaming sites for providing a multi-site linked progressive automated gaming system. In one embodiment, a progressive gaming system host site computer may serve gaming machines distributed throughout a number of properties at different geographical locations including, for example, different locations within a city or different cities within a state.

In one embodiment, the progressive gaming system host site computer is maintained for the overall operation and control of the progressive gaming system. In this embodiment, a progressive gaming system host site computer oversees the entire progressive gaming system and is the master for computing all progressive jackpots. All participating gaming sites report to, and receive information from, the progressive gaming system host site computer. Each central server computer is responsible for all data communication between the gaming machine hardware and software and the progressive gaming system host site computer. In one embodiment, an individual gaming machine may trigger a progressive award win. In another embodiment, a central server (or the progressive gaming system host site computer) determines when a progressive award win is triggered. In another embodiment, an individual gaming machine and a central controller (or progressive gaming system host site computer) work in conjunction with each other to determine when a progressive win is triggered, for example through an individual gaming machine meeting a predetermined requirement established by the central controller.

In one embodiment, a progressive award win is triggered based on one or more game play events, such as a symbol-driven trigger. In other embodiments, the progressive award triggering event or qualifying condition may be by exceeding a certain amount of game play (such as number of games, number of credits, or amount of time), or reaching a specified number of points earned during game play. In another embodiment, a gaming machine is randomly or apparently randomly selected to provide the player(s) of that gaming machine one or more progressive awards. In one such embodiment, the gaming machine does not provide any apparent reasons to the player(s) for winning a progressive award, wherein winning the progressive award is not triggered by an event in or based specifically on any of the plays of any primary game. That is, the player(s) is provided a progressive award without any explanation or alternatively with simple explanations. In another embodiment, the player(s) is provided a progressive award at least partially based on a game triggered or symbol triggered event, such as at least partially based on the play of a primary game.

In one embodiment, one or more of the progressive awards are each funded via a side bet or side wager. In this embodiment, the player(s) must place or wager a side bet to be eligible to win the progressive award associated with the side bet. In one embodiment, the player(s) must place the maximum bet and the side bet to be eligible to win one of the progressive awards. In another embodiment, if the player(s) places or wagers the required side bet, the player(s) may wager at any credit amount during the primary game (i.e., the player(s) need not place the maximum bet and the side bet to be eligible to win one of the progressive awards). In one such embodiment, the greater the wager (in addition to the placed side bet), the greater the odds or probability that the player(s) will win one of the progressive awards. It should be appreciated that one or more of the progressive awards may each be funded, at least in part, based on the wagers placed on the primary games of the gaming machines in the gaming system, via a gaming establishment or via any suitable manner.

In another embodiment, one or more of the progressive awards are partially funded via a side-bet or side-wager which the player(s) may make (and which may be tracked via a side-bet meter). In one embodiment, one or more of the progressive awards are funded with only side-bets or side-wagers placed. In another embodiment, one or more of the progressive awards are funded based on wagers as described above as well as any side-bets or side-wagers placed.

In one alternative embodiment, a minimum wager level is required for a gaming machine to qualify to be selected to obtain one of the progressive awards. In one embodiment, this minimum wager level is the maximum wager level for the primary game in the gaming machine. In another embodiment, no minimum wager level is required for a gaming machine to qualify to be selected to obtain one of the progressive awards.

In another embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines in a gaming system participate in a group gaming environment. In one embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines work in conjunction with one another, such as playing together as a team or group, to win one or more awards. In one such embodiment, any award won by the group is shared, either equally or based on any suitable criteria, amongst the different players of the group. In another embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines compete against one another for one or more awards. In one such embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines participate in a gaming tournament for one or more awards. In another embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines play for one or more awards wherein an outcome generated by one gaming machine affects the outcomes generated by one or more linked gaming machines.

It should be understood that various changes and modifications to the presently preferred embodiments described herein will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Such changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present subject matter and without diminishing its intended advantages. It is therefore intended that such changes and modifications be covered by the appended claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8070593Nov 11, 2008Dec 6, 2011IgtGaming system, gaming device and method for providing group event with individual group event eligibility timers
US8747219Feb 14, 2013Jun 10, 2014Wms Gaming, Inc.Community game with player-configurable parameters
US8758120Feb 14, 2013Jun 24, 2014Wms Gaming, Inc.Community game having online and land-based game play
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/25, 463/46
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32
European ClassificationG07F17/32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 7, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: IGT, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:BAERLOCHER, ANTHONY J.;REEL/FRAME:018598/0244
Effective date: 20061129