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Publication numberUS20100062838 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/209,160
Publication date11 Mar 2010
Filing date11 Sep 2008
Priority date11 Sep 2008
Publication number12209160, 209160, US 2010/0062838 A1, US 2010/062838 A1, US 20100062838 A1, US 20100062838A1, US 2010062838 A1, US 2010062838A1, US-A1-20100062838, US-A1-2010062838, US2010/0062838A1, US2010/062838A1, US20100062838 A1, US20100062838A1, US2010062838 A1, US2010062838A1
InventorsBinh T. Nguyen, Paul D. Miltenberger, Brian Underdahl
Original AssigneeIgt
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Flexible determination of gaming and services
US 20100062838 A1
Abstract
According to some implementations, when a patron requests unavailable goods and/or services, at least one alternative option may be offered to that patron. The alternative option(s) may be determined in a variety of ways. For example, the patron's preferences may be compared to a database of available options. However, casino preferences and/or third party preferences may also be considered when determining an alternative option. In some instances, casino preferences and/or third party preferences may be accorded more weight than the preferences of at least some patrons. In some such implementations, however, third party preferences will be accorded less weight than the preferences of certain patrons, e.g., those patrons having a relatively high expected economic value to the gaming establishment.
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Claims(87)
1. An apparatus, comprising:
an interface system comprising at least one network interface;
a logic system comprising at least one logic device, the logic system configured to do the following:
receive, via the interface system, a request from a patron and location information regarding the patron's location;
assess currently available options corresponding with the patron's location;
determine whether a currently available option matches the request;
apply predetermined criteria to determine an offer if it is determined that no currently available option matches the request, the predetermined criteria comprising the currently available options and patron preference data; and
transmit the offer to a device associated with the patron via the interface system.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the applying comprises determining a currently available option that most nearly matches the request.
3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the applying comprises determining a rank of each of a plurality of currently available options.
4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the applying comprises determining a rank of each of a plurality of entities, each entity corresponding to at least one option.
5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the applying comprises applying a weighting function to at least some of a plurality of currently available options.
6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the request comprises a wager gaming request.
7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the request comprises at least one of a food-related request, a beverage-related request, an entertainment-related request or a shopping request.
8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the applying comprises determining an offer that involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein the first available option is determined, at least in part, because of a second available option near the first location.
9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the applying comprises determining an offer that involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein the first available option is determined, at least in part, because of a second available option within a predetermined radius of the first location.
10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the applying comprises determining an offer that involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein the first available option is determined, at least in part, because of a second available option along a path between the patron's location and the first location.
11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the logic system is further configured to obtain at least some of the patron preference data from a player loyalty database.
12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the predetermined criteria comprise retailer preference data indicating preferences of at least one retailer.
13. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the predetermined criteria indicate preferences of at least one of a retailer, a food provider, a beverage provider or an entertainment provider.
14. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the logic system is configured to download at least one of data or software to the device associated with the patron if an offer acceptance indication is received from the device associated with the patron.
15. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the predetermined criteria comprise gambling restrictions of at least one jurisdiction.
16. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the location information comprises radio frequency identification (“RFID”) data from an RFID reader and wherein the logic system is configured to determine the patron's location according to a location of the RFID reader.
17. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the logic system is configured to determine the patron's location according to a closest access point method, a triangulation process, a radio frequency fingerprinting process a radio frequency identification process or a Global Positioning System process.
18. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the logic system is configured to determine a jurisdiction in which the patron is currently located according to the location information.
19. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the assessing comprises assessing the available options of a gaming establishment if the logic system determines that the patron is currently in, or in the vicinity of, the gaming establishment.
20. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the rank of at least one entity depends on the patron's location.
21. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the logic system is configured to change the rank of at least one entity when the patron is determined to be in a predetermined area.
22. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the logic system determines that the rank of one entity's preferences is higher than the rank of the patron's preferences when the patron is within a predetermined area.
23. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the logic system is configured to determine a rank of at least one entity according to a monetary contribution of that entity.
24. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the weighting function applies a value to preferences of a third party according to the relative monetary contributions of the third party.
25. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the weighting function applies a relatively higher value for preferences of patrons in a higher rank of a player loyalty program.
26. A method, comprising:
determining a patron's location;
assessing available options in a gaming establishment corresponding with the patron's location;
applying predetermined criteria to determine an offer, the predetermined criteria comprising the available options and preference data, the preference data comprising patron preference data, casino preference data and third party preference data; and
providing the offer to the patron.
27. The method of claim 26, further comprising receiving a request from the patron, wherein the applying comprises comparing the request with the predetermined criteria.
28. The method of claim 26, wherein the determining comprises determining the patron's location in the gaming establishment.
29. The method of claim 26, wherein the applying comprises determining a rank for at least one type of preference data.
30. The method of claim 26, wherein the applying comprises applying a weighting function to at least one type of preference data.
31. The method of claim 26, wherein the applying comprises determining an offer that involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein the first available option is determined, at least in part, because of a second available option near the first location.
32. The method of claim 26, wherein the applying comprises determining an offer that involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein the first available option is determined, at least in part, because of a second available option within a predetermined radius of the first location.
33. The method of claim 26, wherein the applying comprises determining an offer that involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein the first available option is determined, at least in part, because of a second available option along a path between the patron's location and the first location.
34. The method of claim 26, wherein the patron preference data comprise the patron's personal preferences.
35. The method of claim 26, wherein the patron preference data comprise preferences of one or more categories of patron demographics.
36. The method of claim 26, wherein at least one of the available options corresponds with the patron's location in the gaming establishment.
37. The method of claim 26, wherein the casino preference data comprise preferences of at least one of a casino operator, a gaming machine provider or a casino manager.
38. The method of claim 26, wherein the third party preference data comprise retailer preference data indicating preferences of at least one retailer.
39. The method of claim 26, wherein the third party preference data comprise preferences of at least one food provider or at least one beverage provider.
40. The method of claim 26, wherein at least some of the preference data correspond to a promotional campaign.
41. The method of claim 26, wherein the third party preference data comprise preferences of at least one entertainment provider.
42. The method of claim 26, wherein the predetermined criteria indicate gambling restrictions of at least one jurisdiction.
43. The method of claim 26, wherein at least some of the predetermined criteria are time-dependent.
44. The method of claim 26, wherein the patron preference data comprise data from a player loyalty account corresponding to the patron.
45. The method of claim 27, wherein the request comprises a wager gaming request.
46. The method of claim 27, further comprising determining that the request is for an unavailable option, wherein the applying step comprises determining an alternative available option.
47. The method of claim 27, wherein the request comprises at least one of a food-related request, a beverage-related request, an entertainment-related request or a shopping request.
48. The method of claim 28, wherein the determining comprises at least one of a closest access point method, a triangulation process, a radio frequency fingerprinting process a radio frequency identification process or a Global Positioning System process.
49. The method of claim 29, wherein determining at least one rank comprises determining whether the patron is within a predetermined area.
50. The method of claim 29, wherein a patron's rank is determined, at least in part, by reference to a player loyalty account associated with the patron.
51. The method of claim 30, wherein applying a weighting function comprises applying a relatively higher value for preferences of patrons in a relatively higher rank of a player loyalty program.
52. The method of claim 30, wherein applying a weighting function comprises applying a value to preferences of a third party according to the relative monetary contributions of the third party.
53. The method of claim 31, wherein the first available option comprises a wager gaming option and wherein the second available option comprises one of a retail option, a food option, a beverage option or an entertainment option.
54. The method of claim 31, wherein the first available option comprises a first type of wager gaming option and wherein the second available option comprises a second type of wager gaming option.
55. The method of claim 32, wherein the first available option comprises a wager gaming option and wherein the second available option comprises one of a retail option, a food option, a beverage option or an entertainment option.
56. The method of claim 35, wherein the categories of patron demographics comprise at least one of age ranges or gender.
57. The method of claim 46, wherein determining an alternative available option comprises determining an alternative available option that most nearly matches the request.
58. The method of claim 46, wherein the determining of an alternative available option comprises applying a weighting function to a plurality of available options.
59. The method of claim 58, wherein the weighting function applies a relatively higher value for preferences of patrons in a higher rank of a player loyalty program.
60. The method of claim 59, wherein the weighting function applies a value to preferences of a third party according to the relative monetary contributions of the third party.
61. A system, comprising:
means for receiving a request from a patron;
means for determining the patron's location;
means for assessing available options in a gaming establishment corresponding with the patron's location;
means for applying predetermined criteria to determine an offer, the predetermined criteria comprising the available options and preference data, the preference data comprising patron preference data, casino preference data and third party preference data; and
means for transmitting the offer to a device associated with the patron.
62. The system of claim 61, wherein the means for determining the patron's location comprises at least one of a Global Positioning System device, a cellular telephone tower, a cellular telephone, a personal digital assistant, a radio frequency identification (“RFID”) tag or an RFID reader.
63. The system of claim 61, wherein the means for determining the patron's location comprises a logic device that determines the patron's location according to input from at least one of a Global Positioning System device, a cellular telephone tower, a cellular telephone, a personal digital assistant, a radio frequency identification (“RFID”) tag or an RFID reader.
64. The system of claim 61, wherein at least one of the assessing means or the applying means comprises a server.
65. The system of claim 61, wherein the applying means is configured for determining an alternative available option if the assessing means determines that the request is for an unavailable option.
66. The system of claim 61, wherein the offer involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein at least one of the predetermined criteria involves a second available option near the first location.
67. The system of claim 61, wherein the offer involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein at least one of the predetermined criteria involves a second available option within a predetermined radius of the first location.
68. The system of claim 61, wherein the offer involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein at least one of the predetermined criteria involves a second available option along a path between the patron's location and the first location.
69. The system of claim 61, wherein the device associated with the patron is a mobile device.
70. The system of claim 61, wherein the device associated with the patron comprises a wager gaming machine.
71. The system of claim 61, further comprising means for assessing available options in a jurisdiction corresponding with the patron's location, wherein, if the means for determining the patron's location determines that the device associated with the patron is not in or near a gaming establishment, the applying means applies rules of the jurisdiction as part of determining the offer.
72. The system of claim 61, wherein the request comprises a gaming request, further comprising means for providing a game to the device associated with the patron if the patron accepts the offer.
73. The system of claim 65, wherein determining an alternative available option comprises determining an alternative available option that most nearly matches the request.
74. The system of claim 65, wherein the determining of an alternative available option comprises applying a weighting function to a plurality of available options.
75. The system of claim 74, wherein the weighting function applies a relatively higher value for preferences of patrons in a higher rank of a player loyalty program.
76. The system of claim 74, wherein the weighting function applies a value to preferences of a third party according to the relative monetary contributions of the third party.
77. A system, comprising:
a location determining system that is configured to determining a patron's location;
an interface system configured for receiving a request from a patron;
a logic system comprising at least one logic device, the logic system configured to do the following:
assess available options in a gaming establishment corresponding with the patron's location;
apply predetermined criteria to determine an offer, the predetermined criteria comprising the available options and preference data, the preference data comprising patron preference data, casino preference data and third party preference data; and
cause the offer to be transmitted, via the interface system, to a device associated with the patron.
78. The system of claim 77, wherein the interface system comprises a network interface.
79. The system of claim 77, wherein the interface system comprises a wireless interface.
80. The system of claim 77, wherein the location determining system comprises at least one of a Global Positioning System device, a cellular telephone tower, a cellular telephone, a personal digital assistant, a radio frequency identification (“RFID”) tag, or an RFID reader.
81. The system of claim 77, wherein the location determining system comprises at least one device configured for locating wireless devices via closest access point, triangulation or RF fingerprinting methods.
82. The system of claim 77, wherein at least one logic device comprises a processor.
83. The system of claim 77, wherein a server comprises at least part of the logic system.
84. The system of claim 77, wherein the logic system is further configured to determine whether the request is for an unavailable option, and wherein the applying step comprises determining an alternative available option if the request is for an unavailable option.
85. The system of claim 77, wherein the patron request comprises a preferred denomination for wager gaming.
86. The system of claim 77, wherein the patron request comprises a request pertaining to a group of patrons.
87. A method, comprising:
determining a patron's location in a gaming establishment;
determining whether a location-based bonus corresponds with the patron's location, the location-based bonus not being associated with a wager gaming session that currently involves the patron; and
providing the location-based bonus to the patron if it is determined that the location-based bonus corresponds with the patron's location.
Description
    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The present invention relates generally to methods and devices for providing games, such as wagering games, as well as other goods and services.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    Currently there are criteria-based systems which look at factors such as player location or age and make a determination as to whether goods or services, such as wagering games, may be offered. In general, the determination is a “go/no go” determination according to the particular jurisdiction and/or to the particular person. These systems do not consider whether it is actually practical to offer the service, so the result can be limited and/or unhelpful to the player. For example, while it might be legal to allow a player to play Wheel of Fortune™ at a location, it might not actually be possible to do so because there are no Wheel of Fortune™ machines nearby and/or available.
  • [0003]
    Likewise, there are preference-based systems which make decisions about what to offer players without considering if the offering is practical. Under such systems, a player might have a preference for live poker, but all poker tables might currently be full so there is no practical way to offer the player a seat. It would be desirable to provide more versatile methods and devices.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0004]
    Various methods and devices relating to the flexible provision of goods and services, including but not limited to those involving wager gaming, are provided herein. According to some implementations, when a patron requests unavailable goods and/or services, at least one alternative option may be offered to that patron.
  • [0005]
    The alternative option(s) may be determined in a variety of ways. For example, the patron's preferences may be compared to a database of available options. However, casino preferences and/or third party preferences may also be considered when determining an alternative option. (As used herein, the term “casino” will mean any type of establishment that provides wager gaming, including but not limited to Las Vegas-type casinos, cruise ships, bars, airports, riverboats, convenience stores, etc.) In some instances, casino preferences and/or third party preferences may be accorded more weight than the preferences of at least some patrons. In some such implementations, however, third party preferences will be accorded less weight than the preferences of certain patrons, e.g., those patrons having a relatively high expected economic value to the gaming establishment.
  • [0006]
    Some embodiments of the invention provide an apparatus or system that includes the following elements: an interface system comprising at least one network interface; a logic system comprising at least one logic device, the logic system configured to do the following: receive, via the interface system, a request from a patron and location information regarding the patron's location; assess currently available options corresponding with the patron's location; determine whether a currently available option matches the request; apply predetermined criteria to determine an offer if it is determined that no currently available option matches the request, the predetermined criteria comprising the currently available options and patron preference data; and transmit the offer to a device associated with the patron via the interface system. The request may comprise, for example, a wager gaming request, a food-related request, a beverage-related request, an entertainment-related request and/or a shopping request.
  • [0007]
    The applying may involve one or more of the following: determining a currently available option that most nearly matches the request; determining a rank of each of a plurality of currently available options; or determining a rank of each of a plurality of entities, each entity corresponding to at least one option. The logic system may be configured to change the rank of at least one entity when the patron is determined to be in a predetermined area. The logic system may determine that the rank of one entity's preferences is higher than the rank of the patron's preferences when the patron is within a predetermined area. The logic system may be configured to determine a rank of at least one entity according to a monetary contribution of that entity. The rank of at least one entity may depend on the patron's location.
  • [0008]
    Moreover, the applying may involve applying a weighting function to at least some of a plurality of currently available options. The weighting function may, for example, apply a value to preferences of a third party according to the relative monetary contributions of the third party. The weighting function may apply a relatively higher value for preferences of patrons in a higher rank of a player loyalty program.
  • [0009]
    In some implementations, the applying may involve determining an offer that involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment. The first available option may be determined, at least in part, because of a second available option near (e.g., within a predetermined radius of) the first location. The applying may involve determining an offer that involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment and wherein the first available option is determined, at least in part, because of a second available option. The first available option may be determined, at least in part, because of a second available option along a path between the patron's location and the first location.
  • [0010]
    The logic system may be configured to obtain at least some of the patron preference data from a player loyalty database. The predetermined criteria may, for example, indicate preferences of at least one of a retailer, a food provider, a beverage provider and/or an entertainment provider. The predetermined criteria may comprise gambling restrictions of at least one jurisdiction. The logic system may be configured to download at least one of data or software to a device associated with the patron if an offer acceptance indication is received from the device.
  • [0011]
    The location information may comprise radio frequency identification (“RFID”) data from an RFID reader. The logic system may be configured to determine the patron's location according to a location of the RFID reader. Alternatively, or additionally, the logic system may be configured to determine the patron's location according to a closest access point method, a triangulation process, a radio frequency fingerprinting process, another radio frequency identification process and/or a Global Positioning System process.
  • [0012]
    The logic system may be configured to determine a jurisdiction in which the patron is currently located according to the location information. The assessing may involve assessing the available options of a gaming establishment if the logic system determines that the patron is currently in, or in the vicinity of, the gaming establishment.
  • [0013]
    Some implementations of the invention provide methods that include the following steps: determining a patron's location; assessing available options in a gaming establishment corresponding with the patron's location; applying predetermined criteria to determine an offer, the predetermined criteria comprising the available options and preference data, the preference data comprising patron preference data, casino preference data and third party preference data; and providing the offer to the patron.
  • [0014]
    The method may further involve receiving a request from the patron. The applying may involve comparing the request with the predetermined criteria. The request may, for example, comprise a wager gaming request, a food-related request, a beverage-related request, an entertainment-related request and/or a shopping request.
  • [0015]
    If a request for an unavailable option is received, the applying step may involve determining an alternative available option. Determining an alternative available option may, for example, involve determining an alternative available option that most nearly matches the request and/or applying a weighting function to a plurality of available options. The weighting function may apply a relatively higher value for preferences of patrons in a higher rank of a player loyalty program. The weighting function may apply a value to preferences of a third party according to the relative monetary contributions of the third party.
  • [0016]
    The determining may involve determining the patron's location in a gaming establishment. For example, the determining may comprise a closest access point method, a triangulation process, a radio frequency fingerprinting process a radio frequency identification process and/or a Global Positioning System process.
  • [0017]
    The applying may involve determining a rank for at least one type of preference data. Determining a rank may, in some instances, involve determining whether the patron is within a predetermined area. A patron's rank may sometimes be determined, at least in part, by reference to a player loyalty account associated with the patron.
  • [0018]
    The applying may comprise applying a weighting function to at least one type of preference data. Applying a weighting function may, for example, involve applying a relatively higher value for preferences of patrons in a relatively higher rank of a player loyalty program and/or applying a value to preferences of a third party according to the relative monetary contributions of the third party.
  • [0019]
    At least one of the available options may correspond with the patron's location in the gaming establishment. The applying may comprises determining an offer that involves a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment. The first available option may be determined, at least in part, because of a second available option near (e.g., within a predetermined radius of) the first location. The first available option may be determined, at least in part, because of a second available option along a path between the patron's location and the first location. The first and second available options may or may not involve the same types of opportunities for a patron. For example, the first available option may comprise a wager gaming option and the second available option may comprise a retail option, a food option, a beverage option, an entertainment option and/or a second type of wager gaming option.
  • [0020]
    The patron preference data may comprise the patron's personal preferences and/or preferences of one or more categories of patron demographics. The categories of patron demographics may comprise at least one of age ranges or gender. The patron preference data may comprise data from a player loyalty account corresponding to the patron. The casino preference data may comprise preferences of at least one of a casino operator, a gaming machine provider or a casino manager. The third party preference data may comprise retailer preference data (indicating preferences of at least one retailer), preferences of at least one food provider, preferences of at least one entertainment provider and/or at least one beverage provider. At least some of the preference data may correspond to a promotional campaign.
  • [0021]
    At least some of the predetermined criteria may be time-dependent and/or location-dependent. For example, the predetermined criteria may indicate gambling restrictions of at least one jurisdiction.
  • [0022]
    Some devices and/or systems provided herein may include the following elements: apparatus for receiving a request from a patron; apparatus for determining the patron's location; apparatus for assessing available options in a gaming establishment corresponding with the patron's location; apparatus for applying predetermined criteria to determine an offer, the predetermined criteria comprising the available options and preference data, the preference data comprising patron preference data, casino preference data and third party preference data; and apparatus for transmitting the offer to a device associated with the patron. The assessing apparatus and/or the applying apparatus may comprise a server, a host device, etc.
  • [0023]
    The apparatus for determining the patron's location may comprise at least one of a Global Positioning System device, a cellular telephone tower, a cellular telephone, a personal digital assistant, a radio frequency identification (“RFID”) tag and/or an RFID reader. The apparatus for determining the patron's location may comprise a logic device (e.g., a processor or a programmable logic device) that determines the patron's location according to input from at least one of a Global Positioning System device, a cellular telephone and/or a component of a cellular telephone system (e.g., a cellular telephone tower), a personal digital assistant, a radio frequency identification (“RFID”) tag and/or an RFID reader.
  • [0024]
    The apparatus for assessing available options may sometimes determine that the request is for an unavailable option. The system (e.g., the applying apparatus) may be configured for determining an alternative available option.
  • [0025]
    The offer may sometimes involve a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment. At least one of the predetermined criteria may involve a second available option near (e.g., within a predetermined radius of) the first location. At least one of the predetermined criteria may involves a second available option along a path between the patron's location and the first location.
  • [0026]
    The device associated with the patron may be any of various types of suitable devices, e.g., a mobile device, a wager gaming machine, etc. The system may also comprise apparatus for assessing available options in a jurisdiction corresponding with the patron's location (and/or the location of a device associated with the patron). If the apparatus for determining the location determines that the patron and/or the device associated with the patron is not in or near a gaming establishment, the applying apparatus may apply rules of the jurisdiction as part of determining the offer.
  • [0027]
    The request may comprise a gaming request. The offer may comprise a gaming offer. The system may further comprising apparatus for providing a game to the device associated with the patron if the patron accepts a gaming offer.
  • [0028]
    Determining an alternative available option may or may not involve determining an alternative available option that most nearly matches the request. Determining an alternative available option may comprise applying a weighting function to a plurality of available options. The weighting function may apply a relatively higher value for preferences of patrons in a higher rank of a player loyalty program. The weighting function may apply a value to preferences of a third party according to the relative monetary contributions of the third party.
  • [0029]
    Some devices and/or systems provided herein include the following elements: a location determining system that is configured to determining a patron's location; an interface system configured for receiving a request from a patron; and a logic system comprising at least one logic device (e.g., a processor, a programmable logic device, etc.) The logic system may be configured to do the following: assess available options in a gaming establishment corresponding with the patron's location; apply predetermined criteria to determine an offer, the predetermined criteria comprising the available options and preference data, the preference data comprising patron preference data, casino preference data and third party preference data; and cause the offer to be transmitted, via the interface system, to a device associated with the patron. At least part of the logic system may reside within a server.
  • [0030]
    The interface system may comprise a network interface. The interface system may comprise a wireless interface.
  • [0031]
    The location determining system may comprise a Global Positioning System device, a cellular telephone tower, a cellular telephone, a personal digital assistant, a radio frequency identification (“RFID”) tag, and/or an RFID reader. The location determining system may comprise at least one device configured for locating wireless devices via closest access point, triangulation and/or RF fingerprinting methods.
  • [0032]
    The logic system may be further configured to determine whether the request is for an unavailable option, and wherein the applying step comprises determining an alternative available option if the request is for an unavailable option. A patron request may comprise a preferred denomination for wager gaming and/or a request pertaining to a group of patrons (e.g., a request to play together, to dine together, to sit together, etc.)
  • [0033]
    Some methods provided herein include these steps: determining a patron's location in a gaming establishment; determining whether a location-based bonus corresponds with the patron's location, the location-based bonus not being associated with a wager gaming session that currently involves the patron; and providing the location-based bonus to the patron if it is determined that the location-based bonus corresponds with the patron's location.
  • [0034]
    These and other methods of the invention may be implemented by various types of hardware, software, firmware, etc. For example, some features of the invention may be implemented, at least in part, by a personal digital assistant, by a portable gaming device and/or other type of mobile device, by one or more host devices, servers, cameras, etc. Some embodiments of the invention are provided as computer programs embodied in machine-readable media. The computer programs may include instructions for controlling one or more devices to perform the methods described herein.
  • [0035]
    Some systems of the invention include a plurality of servers and/or other devices that can provide functions relating to the flexible provision of goods and services. Device functionality may be apportioned by grouping or dividing tasks in any convenient fashion. Therefore, when steps are described herein as being performed by a single device (e.g., a single server), the steps may alternatively be performed by multiple devices and vice versa.
  • [0036]
    Logic systems comprising one or more logic devices (such as processors, programmable logic devices, etc.) may be configured to perform various functions relating to the invention. For example, a logic system may be configured to assess available options and/or to determine an alternative option that may be offered to a patron. A logic system may be configured to determine the relative weighting for patron preferences, casino preferences and/or third party preferences.
  • [0037]
    In some implementations, the relative weighting may be based, at least in part, on a patron's rank and/or category. A logic system may be configured to determine a patron's expected economic value to the gaming establishment. A logic system may be configured to rank and/or categorize the patron, at least in part, according to the expected economic value.
  • [0038]
    The system may further comprise apparatus for tracking the patron's location while the person is within, or in the vicinity of, the gaming establishment. The tracking apparatus may comprise apparatus for communicating the person's location via the network. For example, the tracking apparatus may comprise one or more components of a camera network, a Global Positioning System (“GPS”), a radio frequency identification (“RFID”) network a network of wireless access points and/or another type of network.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0039]
    FIG. 1 depicts an example of a gaming establishment and related devices that may be used for some implementations of the invention.
  • [0040]
    FIG. 2 is flow chart that outlines steps of some methods of the invention.
  • [0041]
    FIG. 3 is an example of a data structure that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0042]
    FIGS. 4A and 4B are examples of data structures that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0043]
    FIG. 5 provides an example of a data structure that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0044]
    FIG. 6 provides an example of another data structure that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0045]
    FIG. 7 provides an example of a data structure that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0046]
    FIGS. 8A and 8B are examples of data structures that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0047]
    FIG. 9 provides yet another example of a data structure that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0048]
    FIGS. 10A and 10B are examples of data structures that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0049]
    FIGS. 11A, 11B and 11C provide more examples of data structures that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0050]
    FIG. 12 is flow chart that outlines steps of additional methods of the invention.
  • [0051]
    FIG. 13 is flow chart that outlines steps of alternative methods of the invention.
  • [0052]
    FIG. 14 is a table that indicates one example of ranking and categorizing patrons.
  • [0053]
    FIG. 15 is a flow chart that outlines another method of the invention.
  • [0054]
    FIG. 16 illustrates a gaming network that may be used for some implementations of the invention.
  • [0055]
    FIG. 17 is a block diagram of an Arbiter and other devices that may be used for some implementations of the invention.
  • [0056]
    FIG. 18 is a diagram of a network device (e.g., a server) that may be configured according to some implementations of the invention.
  • [0057]
    FIG. 19 depicts one example of a wager gaming machine that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • [0058]
    FIG. 20 illustrates another gaming network configuration that may be used in connection with some implementations of the invention.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0059]
    While the present invention will be described with reference to a few specific embodiments, the description is illustrative of the invention and is not to be construed as limiting the invention. Various modifications to the present invention can be made to the preferred embodiments by those skilled in the art without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.
  • [0060]
    FIG. 1 depicts a simplified example of a portion of a casino configured for implementing some aspects of the invention. It will be appreciated the layout, the numbers and types of cameras, gaming machines and other devices, shops, etc. indicated in FIG. 1 are purely for the sake of example and that other layouts, etc., are within the scope and spirit of the invention.
  • [0061]
    In this example, gaming establishment 100 includes valet area 130, lobby 102 and nearby shops 104, 106, 108, 110 and 112. These shops may include a range of retail establishments, including but not limited to souvenir shops, jewelry stores, clothing stores and the like. Food and beverage establishments 114, 116, 118 and 120 may include restaurants, sushi bars, buffets, or any such dining and/or drinking establishment.
  • [0062]
    Bar 122 is an island in the midst of the main casino/gaming area 126 that includes various gaming machines 127. Preferably, at least some of gaming machines 127 are configured for communication with other devices, including but not limited to one or more of servers 148, in order to provide various features discussed elsewhere herein. Auditorium 124 includes a stage and seating (not shown) for live performances. At the moment indicated in FIG. 1, a number of patrons 160 are exiting auditorium 124. Other portions of the casino may include additional wager gaming machines, various types of gaming tables and other features not depicted in FIG. 1.
  • [0063]
    Operators 145 and various devices for providing services and managing gaming establishment 100 may be seen in control room 128. This area includes host devices 142 to facilitate the communication of operators 145 with various other devices, such as other host devices 142 (which may serve as cash registers, hotel registration terminals, etc.), PDAs 138, laptops 140, gaming machines 127, etc. Host devices 142 may comprise desktop computers, laptops, workstations, or other such devices. Operators 145 may also communicate with other people, including but not limited to casino personnel 147, via PDAs 138, telephones, etc.
  • [0064]
    In this example, casino security functions as well as functions specific to the present invention may all be performed (at least in part) by devices and/or people in control room 128. However, in alternative implementations, the security personnel and/or devices may be located in a separate location. Moreover, as described below, some implementations involve communications between a gaming establishment and other locations, e.g., communications between a gaming establishment and a central system and/or communications between gaming establishments.
  • [0065]
    Accordingly, host devices 142 (and other devices, as needed) may be configured for communication with servers 148, computing devices 150, storage devices 152 and external network 158, via gateway 154 and firewall 156. Network 158 is the Internet in this example, but may be one or more public or private networks. According to some implementations of the invention, additional storage devices and related devices may be accessed via network 158, e.g., a storage area network (“SAN”) or other types of network storage.
  • [0066]
    Control room 128 includes a plurality of monitors 143 for, inter alia, receiving image data from cameras 132. Cameras 132 may include, for example, “smart cameras,” closed circuit television (“CCTV”) cameras, closed circuit digital photography (“CCDP”) cameras, range cameras and/or webcams. Accordingly, the image data displayed on monitors 143 may include still digital images, video feeds, freeze-frames, etc. Such image data may be used for various purposes, including not only security purposes known in the art but also some implementations of the present invention.
  • [0067]
    Servers 148 and/or computing devices 150 may be configured to perform various functions, including but not limited to real-time player tracking and/or player loyalty functions, patron identification functions (including but not limited to biometric functions such as facial recognition functions), patron location functions, licensing, gaming, accounting, security services, etc. These functions may include those known in the art and those specific to the present invention. At least some of servers 148 may be configured for communication with cameras 132 and other devices (such as host devices), in order to provide real-time player tracking functionality and other methods described herein.
  • [0068]
    Some such implementations involve computer vision, machine vision and/or facial recognition systems. For example, some implementations of the invention leverage the ability of smart cameras. A smart camera is an integrated machine vision system which, in addition to image capture circuitry, normally includes a processor configured to extract information from images without the need for an external processing unit. A smart camera generally includes an interface system for communication with other devices. Some smart cameras can identify physical characteristics of individuals, even in a crowd, and track identified individuals as they move through the crowd.
  • [0069]
    For example, Tyxz, Inc. announced on Dec. 19, 2006 that its DeepSea™ G2 Vision System was able to successfully track visitors to an exhibit at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City. The DeepSea™ G2 Vision System may be configured for communication with other devices (e.g., other cameras, devices in control room 128, etc.) via TCP/IP. Accordingly, such smart cameras could provide useful data for implementing some aspects of the present invention.
  • [0070]
    A facial recognition system is a computer-driven application for identifying a person from one or more digital images. This is generally accomplished by comparing selected facial features in the live image with stored facial recognition data. Facial recognition data (some of which may be referred to as a “faceprint” or the like) may be compared to other types of data for more reliable identification. Such data may include biometric data, such as fingerprint or eye iris recognition data obtained from biometric devices 176 or elsewhere. Some embodiments of the invention provide for biometric devices 176 to gather biometric data unobtrusively, e.g., by including a fingerprint and/or thumbprint reader in one or more control buttons of a gaming machine. According to some implementations of the invention, a tentative patron identification may be evaluated in view of other biometric data, player preference data (e.g., as previously compiled in a player loyalty and/or player tracking database), hotel data, retail data, restaurant/beverage data and/or other data that may be available from other parts of gaming establishment 100 or elsewhere.
  • [0071]
    Facial recognition algorithms include eigenface, fisherface, the Hidden Markov model, and the neuronal motivated Dynamic Link Matching. An emerging trend uses the visual details of the skin, as captured in standard digital or scanned images. However, two-dimensional face recognition algorithms have shown to be sensitive to changes in lighting, different facial expressions, make-up and head orientation.
  • [0072]
    Three-dimensional face recognition (3D face recognition) methods involve the three-dimensional geometry of the human face. Some details of recent 3D face recognition methods are described by A. M. Bronstein, M. M. Bronstein and R. Kimmel in “Three-Dimensional Face Recognition” (Intl. Journal of Computer Vision, Vol. 64/1, pp. 5-30, August 2005), which is hereby incorporated by reference. It has been shown that 3D face recognition methods can achieve significantly higher accuracy than their 2D counterparts, rivaling fingerprint recognition in accuracy. Some 3D face recognition techniques involve measuring geometry of relatively rigid features of the face. Other methods use a 3D model to improve accuracy of traditional 2D facial recognition techniques by transforming the head into a known view. Some 3D face recognition methods implement depth perception by projecting a grid onto the face and integrating video capture of the face into a high-resolution 3D model. 3D face recognition methods generally require the acquisition of 3D images, which may require a range camera. Accordingly, the data storage and computational requirements for 3D face recognition methods are likely to be greater than those for 2D methods.
  • [0073]
    Computing devices 150 may be desktop computers, workstations, blade servers, mainframe computers, supercomputers or other such devices. The type and number of computing devices 150 may be selected according to the speed and number of calculations and other processes that will be required of them. For example, one or more of computing devices 150 (or other devices) may be used for processing data from cameras 132 (such as calculations for facial recognition systems and/or patron tracking), for calculations involved in biometric data analysis and/or other patron identification processes, etc.
  • [0074]
    In some implementations, each of the camera units may be remotely configured, e.g., by one or more devices of control room 128. In some such implementations, all camera units of a similar type may share the same rules and parameters. However, this need not be the case. Particularly when the cameras are individually addressable, specific rules and parameters can be applied as necessary. For example, certain cameras may record data only at specific times or when specific thresholds were reached, such as when at least a threshold number of moving objects (e.g., three or more) are in view. Preferably, all camera units will use consistent time codes to insure that data obtained from different cameras can be meaningfully combined.
  • [0075]
    In some implementations, selective compression may be automatically applied to the images so that the data transmission requirements would be reduced. For example, the system may apply minimal compression to floor areas where players or other people appear (or are likely to appear) and higher levels of compression to static background areas of the image.
  • [0076]
    In the example illustrated in FIG. 1, a plurality of radio frequency identification (“RFID”) readers 144 are disposed in various locations of gaming establishment 100. RFID readers 144 and related devices may be used, for example, to read and determine the location of a patron's RFID device. Such a device may be a dongle, a bracelet, a “smart card” (which may serve as a player loyalty and/or player tracking card) or another such device. RFID readers 144 and related devices may also be used to determine the location of a portable gaming device that includes an RFID tag, etc. Further examples of how RFID readers 144 and related devices may be used according to the present invention are described elsewhere herein.
  • [0077]
    Accordingly, some of network devices 146 may be switches, middleware servers and/or other intermediate network devices in communication with RFID readers 144 and at least one of servers 148 that may be configured to provide RFID functionality, such as patron identification and/or location functionality. Depending in part on the size of the gaming establishment(s) involved, the number of RFID readers, etc., it may be advantageous to deploy various RFID-related devices at various hierarchical levels of an RFID network, which may include devices outside of gaming establishment 100. Some such devices and networks are described in “The EPCglobal Architecture Framework: EPCglobal Final Version of 1 July 2005,” which is hereby incorporated by reference.
  • [0078]
    Some network devices 146 may comprise wireless access points for providing a communication link with wireless devices, including but not limited to PDAs 138, cellular telephones and the like. Some such devices may comprise a wireless local area network (“WLAN”) that may include, e.g., the wireless access points, switches, servers, host devices, etc.
  • [0079]
    In some implementations, servers 148 and/or other devices may be configured to provide one or more methods for locating wireless users and/or devices, such as “closest access point,” triangulation and “RF fingerprinting” methods. Each of these methods provides a varying degree of device location information and precision.
  • [0080]
    Using a closest access point method, a location tracking system identifies devices within the total coverage area of a single wireless access point. A network management system (or the like) may be used to search for a device and/or a user by name, e.g., by entering, “Find Binh” into the search field. After the query is submitted, an access point associated with Binh's device responds.
  • [0081]
    A closest access point method may or may not provide a desired degree of accuracy. For example, if a wireless access point covers a circle with a radius of approximately 30 feet, then the closest access point method only indicates that Binh's device is within that 30 foot radius, somewhere within an area of approximately 189 square feet. This greater the coverage area of the wireless access point, the less accurate the location provided by the closest access point method. This degree of accuracy may be acceptable for many purposes related to the present invention, e.g., determining whether a patron's device is within a predetermined radius of a gaming table, a retail establishment, or another location relating to an option and/or offer that may be provided to a patron.
  • [0082]
    Triangulation methods may be able to locate a device more accurately than closest access point methods, but at greater computational cost. Triangulation methods involve multiple devices, e.g., multiple access points, multiple RFID readers, etc., to locate a device based on relative signal strength. For example, triangulation may involve multiple access points and be based on the received signal strength of a device at each access point. Using any convenient triangulation algorithm known in the art, an intersection point of the device's signal may be determined at each access point to identify the device's most likely location.
  • [0083]
    Using triangulation in a WLAN, for example, a command may be transmitted from an operator's device to find a wireless device and a call may go out to all access points on the network. Each access point that detects the device's signal may respond to the request with information regarding signal strength. Access points that fail to detect the device's signal do not respond. The more access points that respond, the greater the accuracy of the final result with the device's approximate location.
  • [0084]
    In some such examples, a “location tool” (which may comprise, for example, specialized software, hardware and or firmware) may draw coverage circles on a map around each access point that detects the device's signal. Each coverage circle defines the boundary of the signal strength of the access point receiving the signal from the device. If, for example, an access point detects the device at −65 dBm (an abbreviation for the power ratio in decibels (dB) of the measured power referenced to one milliwatt (mW)), then a network management system (or the like) may draw a circle defining a −65 dBm area. If another access point detects the device at −45 dBm, then that coverage circle may be drawn smaller, indicating that the signal strength was higher. Accordingly, signal strength information provided by each access point may be factored into the final determination of the device's location.
  • [0085]
    When a location tool (or the like) finishes recording the information, it may identify a number of line intersections. Algorithms may then be used to determine the most likely location of the device within the intersections. There is a high probability that the area with the highest density of intersecting lines will indicate the correct location of the device.
  • [0086]
    Triangulation methods generally do not take into account the effects that a building and/or other objects can have on a signal. Moreover, triangulation methods generally do take into account characteristics such as attenuation or reflection. In an area with no walls or objects that can block a signal, triangulation may often yield reasonably accurate results. With triangulation, accuracy is reduced if the signal is reflected off of the walls in a room or if the signal has taken multiple paths before reaching the device.
  • [0087]
    RF fingerprinting methods are generally more complex than triangulation methods or closest access point methods. However, some RF fingerprinting methods can determine a device's location quite accurately. For example, some systems that employ a Cisco Wireless Location Appliance® use RF fingerprinting technology to track mobile devices to within a few meters.
  • [0088]
    With some implementations of RF fingerprinting, RF prediction may be used to create a grid mapped to a floor plan that includes many physical characteristics and all access points in a given area. For finer accuracy, actual measurements and a calibration can be taken. With RF fingerprinting, real-world data regarding physical objects in a given area may be gathered by access points and compared to the grid. A point on a grid may represent an area as small as, e.g., six inches.
  • [0089]
    To determine characteristics of an RF signal at various locations, an RF fingerprinting location tool may predict how the RF signal is likely to interact with features within a building, e.g., within a casino. With RF prediction, factors including reflection, attenuation, and multi-paths are calculated. A location tracking system may populates a database with information about each coordinate and how each access point views that coordinate from a signal strength perspective.
  • [0090]
    Since there can be many reflections and paths, RF fingerprinting may be rather computationally intensive. Computation may be repeated for every coordinate and access point on the grid. Many different access points may be able to detect a device from a location point on the grid. Each access point will generally detect the device at different signal strengths.
  • [0091]
    In some RF fingerprinting implementations, when a network administrator seeks a wireless device, each access point replies with the signal strength of the devices it detects. In this respect, the process is similar to that of triangulation. However, in some RF fingerprinting implementations, the location tracking system takes the information it receives from the access points and compares this information with information in the database of location “fingerprints.” Apparent matches may be reported.
  • [0092]
    Moreover, one or more of servers 148 (and/or other devices) may be configured to synthesize various types of patron data. For example, one of servers 148 may be configured to determine whether a “read” from an RFID player loyalty device corresponds with the location (and/or identification) of a particular patron whose activities correspond with a defined event of interest to the casino. The server may use the indicated location to synchronize patron tracking data from a smart camera, e.g., by plotting the indicated location on the same display used for a smart camera's patron tracking display.
  • [0093]
    Other casinos may or may not have RFID readers and/or an associated RFID network. However, most aspects of the present invention can be implemented regardless of whether a casino has these features. For example, a device (e.g., a server) may synchronize camera data and location data in other ways, e.g., by making a correspondence between a known location and an image of the location, e.g., making a correspondence between a known location of a gaming machine and an image of the gaming machine. An operator (or a device, such as a smart camera) could make a correspondence between a patron of interest and an area of a map grid, e.g., a grid displayed on a display screen and superimposed on an image of the casino floor (e.g., an overhead view). In one such example, an operator could indicate a patron of interest by touching an area of a touch screen corresponding to the patron and the location.
  • [0094]
    Some implementations of the invention provide a mesh of networked camera units that provides a video-based infrastructure for tracking people and activities of interest. Some such implementations involve player tracking (and related activities) in casinos.
  • [0095]
    However, the invention is not limited to casino-related implementations. Instead, some video-based infrastructures of the invention (and related methods) have wide applicability to other contexts. For example, many other types of businesses could benefit from identifying valued customers or potential customers, collecting data regarding these individuals and/or providing enhanced services to them. Such businesses may include retail establishments such as department stores, motor vehicle dealerships, power and sailboat dealerships, jewelers, watch dealers, etc. (particularly for those establishments that provide high-end merchandise), as well as high-end night clubs, restaurants and the like. Relevant devices and methods are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/844,267 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P408/P-1221), filed on Aug. 23, 2007 and entitled “MULTIMEDIA PLAYER TRACKING INFRASTRUCTURE”, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
  • [0096]
    Some implementations of the invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 2. It will be appreciated that the steps of method 200 (as with other methods shown and described herein) are not necessarily performed in the order indicated. It should also be understood that the methods of the invention may include more or fewer steps than are indicated. The steps of method 200 may be performed, at least in part, by one or more devices in a network, such as servers, host devices, etc. For example, the steps of method 200 may be performed, at least in part, by a logic system of a server or another such device, the logic system comprising one or more logic devices such as processors, programmable logic devices, firmware, etc.
  • [0097]
    In step 205, a patron request is received. The request may be a request for goods and/or services, including but not limited to services related to wager gaming. If the request involves wager gaming, the request may indicate a preferred denomination, game type, etc. In some instances, the request may pertain to a single patron, whereas in other examples the request may pertain to a group of patrons. For example, the group of patrons may wish to play at the same gaming table, dine together, etc. The request may be sent from a device associated with a patron (e.g., a wager gaming machine, a personal computer, a personal digital assistant (“PDA”) or other wireless device, etc. The request may be received, e.g., by a network interface of a device that is performing at least some of the steps of method 200.
  • [0098]
    Step 205 is optional, in that some implementations of the invention do not require receipt of a patron request to initiate the other steps. For example, some implementations may provide options to a patron whether or not the patron sends a request. Moreover, in some implementations, a request may be received at any time and is not necessarily the first step in a process.
  • [0099]
    In this example, however, after receiving the patron request in step 205, the patron's location is determined in step 210. The patron's identity may also be determined. For example, it may be determined whether the patron is a member of a casino's player loyalty program. The patron's age and other demographic information may be determined.
  • [0100]
    In some implementations, step 210 will involve determining that a patron is not in the vicinity of a gaming establishment. Accordingly, assessing the options available at the patron's location (step 215) may involve determining the legal jurisdiction corresponding to the patron's location and determining what goods, services, etc., it may be legal to offer the patron. If the patron has an associated device (such as a personal computer, a portable device, etc.) that may be used for wager gaming, that device may be identified in step 210. Assessing the options available at the patron's location (step 215) may involve determining what types of wagering games may be presented on the patron's device. This determination may involve an assessment of what wagering games are legal in the patron's jurisdiction, which of those (if any) may legally be played outside of a gaming establishment and what wagering games are compatible with the device (e.g., according to its operating system, user interfaces, display(s), memory, processing capabilities, the bandwidth/speed of the network connection, etc.).
  • [0101]
    Here, the patron who sent the request is in or near a gaming establishment: the patron is in the process of walking around the establishment, assessing the lounge, the pool and other features. Therefore, in the present example, step 210 involves determining a patron's location in, or in the vicinity of, a gaming establishment. Accordingly, assessing the options at the patron's location (step 215) preferably involves assessing what options are available in or near the gaming establishment.
  • [0102]
    In step 220 and/or in step 235, predetermined criteria may be applied to determine an offer. In some implementations, the criteria may be applied by one or more logic devices according to instructions, a rule set, etc. The software, firmware and/or hardware involved may sometimes be referred to herein as a “rules engine” or the like.
  • [0103]
    As described in more detail below with reference to FIG. 3 et seq., the predetermined criteria may comprise the available options, the offer received, jurisdictional rules, patron age, proximity of options to the patron's location, the capabilities of the patron's device(s) and/or preference data. The preference data may include, e.g., patron preference data, casino preference data and/or third party preference data.
  • [0104]
    Many other factors may be assessed, depending on the particular implementation. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following: jurisdictional/local requirements; location; player age; GPS position; cell tower, access point or other triangulation position; other position information; time since last verified position; player ID; device ID/capabilities; software ID; time (e.g., time of day and/or time the player has already spent gambling, as compared to jurisdictional limits); account balance; history/track record of responsible play; current promotions; player value (e.g., the player's perceived economic value to a gaming establishment); and genre (e.g., the general types of games that a player tends to play, the types of games that players of a demographic group tend to play, etc.).
  • [0105]
    In some implementations, if it is determined in step 225 that the patron's desired option is available, the patron's desired option will be offered in step 230. However, if it is determined in step 225 that no currently available option matches the request, predetermined criteria may be applied to determine an alternative option to offer to the patron. (Step 235.) The predetermined criteria may include the currently available options and patron preference data. The predetermined criteria may include the available options and other types of preference data, such as casino preference data and/or third party preference data.
  • [0106]
    However, as described below, in some implementations the patron's preferences may not be given as much weight in the decision-making process as the preferences of the casino, the preferences of a third party, etc. Accordingly, the “desired option” that is determined to be available (or not) in step 225 may be an option that the casino or a third party would prefer to have offered to the patron.
  • [0107]
    The applying step(s) may involve determining a rank of each of a plurality of persons and/or entities. Each person or entity may correspond to at least one option and/or preference. For example, a logic system may be configured to determine a rank of at least one third party according to a monetary contribution of that third party. Such a rank may correspond to assigning a higher priority to the preferences of that third party and the associated options.
  • [0108]
    For example, a third party may sponsor a poker tournament at a casino during a particular weekend. The third party may pay at least a predetermined amount of money (e.g., $200,000) in order to have the highest rank/priority level in the casino's flexible determination system. Accordingly, during that weekend, that third party's preferences may have the highest priority of any third party. Options selected by the third party, such as poker tournament offers, poker-themed events, merchandise and services related to the tournament, etc., may be given higher priority than the preferences and associated option(s) offered by another third party.
  • [0109]
    In some implementations, the preferences of the sponsoring third party may supersede at least some patrons' preferences during the relevant time period. However, in some such implementations, the preferences of highly-ranked patrons (e.g., those at a high level of a player loyalty program or who have exhibited other indicia of high economic value to the casino) may nonetheless be given priority over the preferences of the sponsoring third party.
  • [0110]
    Alternatively, or additionally, the applying step(s) may involve applying a weighting function to at least some of a plurality of currently available options. In some implementations, options may be assessed according to one or more weighting functions. In some such implementations, the weighting function may apply a value to preferences of a third party according to the relative monetary contributions of the third party. Similarly, the weighting function may apply a relatively higher value for preferences of patrons in a higher rank of a player loyalty program.
  • [0111]
    Some weighting function implementations may determine which party's preferences will be given the highest priority by comparing a value calculated for each party in question. For example, suppose that one option (e.g., a Little Green Men™ slot game) matches a patron's top preference. The third party sponsor of the aforementioned poker tournament would prefer that the patron be offered a seat at a poker table or a video poker game. In this example, the third party's preferences are assigned a relatively high weighting factor, e.g., 8 on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • [0112]
    If the patron has a very high economic value to the casino, the patron's preferences may be assigned a relatively high weighting factor (e.g., a value of 9 or 10). Therefore, the preferences of such high-value patrons may supersede those of the third party and the patron may be offered a Little Green Men™ slot game. The preferences of an average patron may be assigned a lower weighting function, e.g., 5 out of 10. Therefore, the preferences the third party would trump those of such average patrons: these patrons may be offered a seat at a poker table or a video poker game. More detailed examples of weighting and weighting functions are provided below.
  • [0113]
    Whether or not the patron is in the vicinity of a gaming establishment, in some implementations, step 215 (or step 220) may involve determining whether an option is within a predetermined distance of the patron's current location. For example, if the patron has requested a seat at a poker table, step 215 (or step 220) may involve determining whether a poker table is within a predetermined distance of the patron. If more than one desired option is within a predetermined distance of the patron, step 215 (or step 220) may involve determining which desired option is closer (or closest) to the patron.
  • [0114]
    In step 245, it is determined whether the patron has accepted the option offered in step 230 or step 240. If so, the option is provided to the patron. (Step 250.) For example, software for a requested wagering game may be downloaded to the patron's device. Alternatively, the patron may be provided directions to a location associated with a desired option. In some such examples, directions and/or a map to the location associated with the desired option may be provided to the patron.
  • [0115]
    In some implementations, relatively “static” information, such as map data, architectural features, casino layout information, etc., may be provided to the patron's device. In some implementations, real-time navigation data may be provided to a device (preferably, to a mobile device) associated with the patron. Some embodiments may provide portable devices that can simultaneously display static information and real-time video data. The video data may be provided by one or more cameras in a camera network. Information, such as offers, advertisements, etc., may be provided to a user according to the user's location. Relevant information is described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/106,771 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P410/P-1222), entitled “REAL-TIME NAVIGATION DEVICES, SYSTEMS, AND METHODS” and filed on Apr. 21, 2008, which is hereby incorporated by reference.
  • [0116]
    The patron may continue with this option for any desired amount of time, according to his or her budget, stamina, jurisdictional limitations, etc. If it is determined in step 255 that the patron will continue with the current option, that option will continue to be provided. If not, it is determined in step 260 whether a new option will be selected. For example, the patron may already have lost a previously-determined amount of money, may already have wagered for the jurisdictional maximum amount of time, etc. Alternatively, the patron may simply wish to do something else.
  • [0117]
    Such an indication may, e.g., be sent from a device used by the patron. Such an indication may be inferred, e.g., from a zero credit balance at a wager gaming machine, a lack of patron interaction with an associated device, etc. Similarly, one such indication that the patron may wish desire another option is if a patron request is received (step 205), as in the example of FIG. 2. As previously noted, however, in some implementations another offer may be determined and presented whether or not a patron request is received. Moreover, if the patron has been recently determined to be at a known location, the step of determining the patron's location may or may not be performed at this juncture. If it is determined that no new option will be selected, the process ends. (Step 265.)
  • [0118]
    Some implementations may involve special bonuses, awards, or the like. In some such implementations, users may be encouraged to use the system by random awards triggered by mystery scores. For example, a user with a score of 867 might gain extra points and/or an award, e.g., a dinner for two coupon pushed to his or her smart phone.
  • [0119]
    Some bonuses and/or awards may be primarily (or entirely) location-based. For example, a casino may determine that at least certain classes of patrons (e.g., patrons of at least a predetermined rank, at least a predetermined level of a player loyalty program, etc.) will be eligible to win an award if they happen to be in the right location during a predetermined time or time period. Some such location-based bonuses may not relate to a patron's current wager gaming session (if any) and may not necessarily involve locations in which wager gaming is permitted. For example, a patron may receive a location-based bonus because she has wandered into a predetermined location at a casino's shopping mall, because she is in a particular seat at a bar or restaurant, etc.
  • [0120]
    Examples of simplified data structures will now be described with reference to FIG. 3 et seq. Such data structures (or the like) may be used in connection with at least some of the processes described with reference to FIG. 2.
  • [0121]
    FIG. 3, for example, depicts data structure 300. This data structure indicates various types of games in column 305. Row 310 indicates various jurisdictions. If an “X” appears in a column corresponding to a jurisdiction, this indicates that the corresponding game is allowed in that jurisdiction. A data structure of the general type depicted in FIG. 3 may be useful in determining what wager gaming options are legally available in a patron's location, e.g., as part of the assessment of step 215 (see FIG. 2).
  • [0122]
    In some implementations, it may be assumed that if a gaming establishment offers a wagering game, that wagering game is legal in the jurisdiction within which the gaming establishment is located. In some such implementations, if a patron is determined to be in or near a gaming establishment, a determination may sometimes be made of what is actually available without a separate determination of jurisdictional rules.
  • [0123]
    FIG. 4A provides one example of a data structure that may be used to compare the priority of a patron's preferences with those of a casino and third party persons and/or entities. Column 405 indicates the category of person or entity and column 410 indicates the corresponding rank. As with other data structures shown herein, more or fewer fields, categories, rankings, etc., may be involved. For example, data structure 400 a is intended to depict the relative rank of a particular patron and/or a particular class of patrons. Accordingly, there may be an additional patron ID field (not shown) and/or patron class/category field (not shown) associated with such data structures.
  • [0124]
    Similarly, there may be specific preferences associated with one or more categories. Examples of preference data structures for various categories are provided herein and described below. Moreover, some data structures may indicate areas, times or other data that pertain to a change in ranking, e.g., one or more areas within which a particular person's or entity's preferences will be accorded a relatively higher or lower rank.
  • [0125]
    In this example, at least some of the relative rankings may be changed under predetermined conditions. (See column 415.) For example, the preferences of one of the third parties may temporarily be elevated above those of the patron at certain times and/or under certain circumstances, e.g., if the patron is determined to be within a predetermined area associated with one of the third parties. Some such location-based examples will be discussed below with reference to FIGS. 12 and 13. Temporal changes in ranking and/or weighting may involve, for example, an increase in a patron's ranking and/or a casino's ranking during times when the patron is already involved in a wager gaming session, is determined to be wagering at a relatively high level, etc. Whether an override could ever make a third party's preferences exceed the casino's preferences may depend on the implementation, the relative economic value and/or financial contribution of the third party, etc.
  • [0126]
    In the example depicted in FIG. 4A, data structure 400 a corresponds to a ranking scheme that involves a highly-ranked patron. Accordingly, the patron's preferences are ranked higher than those of any third party and even, in this example, higher than those of the casino. This example involves differential third-party rankings, with the preferences of third party C ranked the highest. Nonetheless, there still may be overrides/modifications of preferences, e.g., on a temporal basis and/or based upon a patron location.
  • [0127]
    The example depicted in data structure 500 of FIG. 5 involves a more moderately-ranked patron. Here, the patron's ranking is still higher than those of third party A or third party B, but lower than that of the casino. There still may be overrides/modifications of the ranking of most categories, e.g., location-based and/or temporal overrides.
  • [0128]
    Data structure 600 of FIG. 6 illustrates another example in which the ranking of a patron is higher than those of third parties, but lower than the ranking of the casino. This example is also intended to involve a moderately valuable patron or class of patrons. Here, however, third parties A through E do not have a differential ranking unless there is some temporary override/modification of ranking. In some such implementations, a third party's preferences will only take precedence at under predetermined conditions, e.g., at predetermined times or in predetermined areas.
  • [0129]
    Turning now to FIG. 7, data structure 700 provides an example with a low-ranked patron or class of patrons. Here, the patron's rank is below that of the casino and all indicated third parties. However, this does not necessarily mean that the patron will never be offered an option according to the patron's desires. Some implementations, for example, may use a data structure of this general type to determine an alternative option to offer a low-ranked patron who has requested an option but whose desired option is not currently available (e.g., in some implementations of step 235 of FIG. 2). However, if the patron's requested option is available, the patron may be offered the requested option. Moreover, there may be times during which and/or locations within which the patron may have a higher relative ranking.
  • [0130]
    FIG. 8A provides a simplified example of a data structure indicating patron game preferences. In this example, a particular patron's game preferences are based on historical data, by reference to a database of a player loyalty system of which the patron is a member. Wagering games and game types are indicated in column 805. Corresponding categories for the wagering games and game types are provided in column 810. Game rankings during two different time intervals are also provided in this example: rankings during the last 30 days are indicated in column 815, whereas rankings during the last 6 months are indicated in column 820.
  • [0131]
    These data may be used in various ways. For example, if this player's preferences are given sufficient weight as compared to those of the casino or a third party, data structure 800 a may be used to determine suitable alternatives when the patron's requested wagering game is not currently available. For example, if the player requested a seat at a “Texas Hold-em” poker table and none were currently available, the player might be offered a seat at a 7-card stud or “Omaha” poker table.
  • [0132]
    On the other hand, if the casino were presently trying to promote a new Indiana Jones™ slot game, the casino might offer the slot game even to a relatively high-ranked patron if, as here, there is evidence that the patron enjoys playing this game. Other uses of these types of data will be described below, after some examples of casino preferences and third party preferences are described.
  • [0133]
    FIG. 9 illustrates data structure 900, which provides additional information regarding the patron, including non-gaming preference data. General categories of information are indicated in column 905 and some specifics details regarding each category are indicated in column 910. Such data may be used for a variety of purposes.
  • [0134]
    For example, the patron's player loyalty club level and/or economic value data may be used to determine the relative weight to accord the player's preferences as compared to third party preferences and/or casino preferences, e.g., as described above with reference to FIGS. 4 through 7. These non-gaming preferences may be compared to non-gaming preferences of one or more entities, e.g., of the casino or third parties. For example, if a casino or a third party wants to promote a new restaurant, an indication that the patron enjoys fine dining, fine wines and single-malt scotch may help target promotions to appropriate patrons. In some such examples, a weighting function (or the like) may combine patron preference data with casino and/or third party preference data to determine a highest-ranked option to offer to the patron.
  • [0135]
    FIG. 10A indicates one example of a casino preference table. Data structure 1000 indicates casino preferences in column 1005 and corresponding ranks in column 1010. Casino preferences may vary according to timing and other circumstances, including but not limited to what goods and services are available, which facilities the casino owns and/or operates and which are owned and/or operated by third parties, etc.
  • [0136]
    In this instance, the casino has made a substantial investment in Microsoft Surface® tables configured for table gaming, social interactions, etc., so the casino's highest priority at this time is to promote patron usage of these tables. The casino has also purchased a number of REELdepth™ wager gaming machines and Indiana Jones™ slot games. Accordingly, promoting REELdepth™ wager gaming machines in general and the Indiana Jones™ slot games in particular are priorities 2 and 3, respectively. In this example, the casino wishes to promote a poker tournament and a theatrical performance, both of which are being run by third party entities but which provide revenue to the casino. Moreover, the casino has recently opened a new night club. These features are ranked 4, 5 and 6, respectively.
  • [0137]
    FIG. 11A indicates the preferences of third party A, which is the entity that is organizing the poker tournament. Accordingly, data structure 1100 indicates that offers relating to the tournament itself are ranked the highest, followed by tournament merchandise and predetermined goods and/or services relating to promoting interest in poker generally.
  • [0138]
    As suggested by FIG. 11B, third party B is presenting a NASCAR™-themed event at the casino. Options/offers relating to the event itself have the highest priority and rank, followed by NASCAR™-merchandise-related options. (See data structure 1110.) Options relating to a NASCAR™ slot game, a NASCAR™-themed table game, etc., are ranked third.
  • [0139]
    In some implementations, surfaces of wager gaming machines, table games, walls, floors and/or other features of a gaming establishment (or another environment) may display images corresponding to a promotional event (e.g., to a NASCAR™ theme in this example). For example, such surfaces may be formed, at least in part, with a bi-stable material such as electronic ink. Relevant method and devices are provided in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/517,861 (attorney docket no. IGT1P106X2/P-894 CIP2), filed on Sep. 7, 2006 and entitled “CASINO DISPLAY METHODS AND DEVICES,” which is hereby incorporated by reference and for all purposes.
  • [0140]
    Third party C has recently opened a restaurant in the casino. The restaurant has invested heavily in an impressive and well-stocked wine cellar. Accordingly, data structure 1120 of FIG. 11C indicates that offers relating to the new restaurant itself are ranked number 1, followed by offers relating to high-end wines (e.g., tasting events, wine pairings with restaurant specialties and plats du jour, etc.).
  • [0141]
    Although not expressly indicated in data structures 800 a through 1120, the rankings, preference data, etc., of people and/or entities may also correspond with weighting values or the like. In some implementations, these results may be combined with weighting values associated with rankings, e.g., such as those depicted in FIGS. 4 through 7. Accordingly, weighting values for an individual entity and weighting values for different people or entities may be applied to available options via a weighting function in order to determine an overall top-ranked option.
  • [0142]
    Referring now to FIG. 4B, one example of such a correspondence is provided by data structure 400 b. Data structure 400 b is substantially similar to data structure 400 a of FIG. 4A, except that data structure 400 b includes an explicit weighting field, column 420. In this example, jurisdictional requirements will always override other factors. All preference categories have been assigned specific weighting factors, which (like all others provided herein) are made only by way of example and are not intended to be limiting. Here, patron preferences are given a weighting of 100, casino preferences 80, and so on.
  • [0143]
    Referring now to FIG. 8B, one example of assigning weights to specific patron preferences is depicted in data structure 800 b. Here, a patron's game preferences are varying amounts of weight according to the most recent ranking data indicated in data structure 800 a. Again, the weighting values and rating methods are made only by way of example; various other weighting and ranking schemes may be used. Here, a 100% weight is assigned to the top-ranked game for the last 30 days, 90% for the game ranked #2 and so on, with the game ranked #10 being assigned only a 10% weight. Games ranked 11 and 12 have weightings of 0.08 and 0.05, respectively. In this example, no weight is given to less recent rankings, but in other implementations such data may be factored in as well (e.g., the rank for the last 6 months indicated in field 820 of FIG. 8 a).
  • [0144]
    FIG. 10B provides an example of assigning weights to specific casino preferences. Here, data structure 800 b indicates the casino's preferences and corresponding amounts of weight. In this example, a 100% weight is assigned to the top-ranked preference (Microsoft Surface® tables), an 85% weight for the preference ranked #2 (REELdepth™ machines), a 70% weight for the preference ranked #3 (Indiana Jones™ games) and so on. Again, the weighting values and rating methods are made only by way of example; various other weighting and ranking schemes may be used. For example, the casino could assign at least a minimum weight (e.g., 50%, 75%, etc.) to all of its preferences. In one such example, the preference ranked #6 has a weight of 50% and the higher ranked preferences have weights between 50% and 100%.
  • [0145]
    In some such implementations, third party preferences may also have some type of weighting scheme, e.g., according to rank. Here, for example, the preferences of third party A correspond to a 100% weight for offers relating to the top-ranked World Poker Tour™ events/tournament, a 50% weight for offers relating to World Poker Tour™ merchandise and a 25% weight for offers that may promote interest in poker games generally, including non-tournament poker play, video poker and other predetermined offers. (See FIG. 11A.)
  • [0146]
    One example will now be described of a method for applying a weighting function based on the types of rankings and weights set forth in FIGS. 4B, 8B and 10B. In this example, the patron has requested a seat at a poker table where Texas Hold-em is being played, but no such seat is currently available. Therefore, the weights set forth in FIGS. 4B, 8B and 10B will be used to determine what alternative option to offer the patron.
  • [0147]
    In this example, there is currently no seat available for any 7 Card Stud poker game, but there is a seat available for an Omaha poker game and a 5 Card Draw poker game. There is also an Indiana Jones™ slot game available and nearby. For the sake of simplicity, these are the only offers that will be considered in this example.
  • [0148]
    The patron likes Omaha poker games, which have a rank of 3 and a weight of 80% according to FIG. 8B. Here, our simplified weighting function involves multiplying the 80% weight by the overall weight to be accorded the patron's preferences, which is 100 in this example. (See FIG. 4B.) The result is 80. The casino's preference data structure and the preference data structures for third parties B and C do not indicate any preference for this game. (See FIGS. 10B, 11B and 11C.) However, the Omaha poker game falls under the general rubric of third party A's preference of promoting poker games generally. (See FIG. 11A.) The corresponding 25% weight for such offers is multiplied by the overall weight to be accorded the preferences of third party A, which is 40 in this example. (See FIG. 4B.) The result is 10. Combining the results that correspond to the patron's preferences and all other preferences yields a total score of 80+10=90 for the Omaha poker game option.
  • [0149]
    FIG. 8B indicates that the Indiana Jones™ slot game is ranked #4 in the patron's preference database, corresponding to a weight of 70%. Multiplying the 70% weight by the overall weight to be accorded the patron's preferences, which is 100 in this example, produces a result of 70. Moreover, the casino has assigned a rank of 3 and a weight of 0.7 to the Indiana Jones™ slot games. (See FIG. 10B.) Multiplying the 70% weight by the overall weight of 80 to be accorded the casino's preferences (see FIG. 4B) produces a result of 56. No other entity has indicated a preference for the Indiana Jones™ slot game. Combining the results that correspond to the patron's preferences and the casino's preferences yields a total score of 70+56=126 for the Indiana Jones™ slot game option.
  • [0150]
    Referring again to FIG. 8B, the 5 Card Draw poker game is ranked #5 in the patron's preference data structure. The corresponding weight is 60%. Multiplying the 60% weight by the 100-point weight to be accorded the patron's preferences produces a result of 60. The preference data structures for the casino and for third parties B and C do not include preferences that encompass the 5 Card Draw poker game. However, the 5 Card Draw poker game is included in third party A's preference for promoting poker games generally. (See FIG. 11A.) The corresponding 25% weight for such offers is multiplied by the overall weight to be accorded the preferences of third party A, which is 40 in this example. (See FIG. 4B.) The result is 10. Combining the results that correspond to the patron's preferences and all other preferences yields a total score of 60+10=70 for the 5 Card Draw poker game option.
  • [0151]
    In this simple example, a comparison of the total scores for each option indicates that the Indiana Jones™ slot game has the highest total score. Therefore, the Indiana Jones™ slot game will be offered to the patron.
  • [0152]
    It may sometimes be the case that more than one option will have the same overall score if the foregoing method is applied. Accordingly, one or more “tiebreaker” methods may be applied to determine the option to be selected. For example, in case of a tie, the relative preference ranking (e.g., of FIG. 4B or the like) may determine the preferred option. In such implementations, for example, if the patron's preferences are to be given generally more weight than those of the casino or third parties, the option having the highest rank in the patron's preference data structure (e.g., on FIG. 8B or the like) will be selected. Alternatively, a casino could determine that its preferences will always govern in the event of a tie. Alternatively, or additionally, the preferences of the third party that made the largest financial contribution may “win” in the event of a tie.
  • [0153]
    Some location-based ranking methods will now be described with reference to FIGS. 12 and 13. It will be appreciated that the steps of methods 1200 and 1300 (as with other methods shown and described herein) are not necessarily performed in the order indicated. It should also be understood that the methods of the invention may include more or fewer steps than are indicated. The steps of methods 1200 and 1300 may be performed, at least in part, by one or more devices in a network, such as servers, host devices, etc. For example, the steps of methods 1200 and 1300 may be performed, at least in part, by a logic system of a server or another such device, the logic system comprising one or more logic devices such as processors, programmable logic devices, firmware, etc. The device may be in communication with a GPS system, an RFID system, a system of wireless access points, a camera system or any other system that may be used for determining the location of a patron and/or a patron's device.
  • [0154]
    Referring first to method 1200 of FIG. 12, in step 1205 options are evaluated and offered to a patron according to a ranking and/or weighting method. The method may be as described above or may be another such method. The patron's location is monitored, e.g., while he or she is in or near a casino. (Step 1210.)
  • [0155]
    According to some such implementations, the rank of at least one entity and/or the weighting function applied to that entity's preference(s) may depend on the patron's location. If the patron is determined to be in a predetermined area, for example, a logic system may be configured to change the rank and/or weighting function of at least one entity associated with the predetermined area. In some such implementations, the logic system may determine that the rank of one entity's preferences is higher than the rank of the patron's preferences when the patron is within a predetermined area. This change may apply, for example, only when the patron is determined to be in a predetermined area. The relevant rank and/or weighting function may be re-set when it is determined that the patron has left the predetermined area.
  • [0156]
    Therefore, if it is determined that the patron is within a predetermined area (step 1215), it will also be determined whether a location-based change to the rank of one or more people or entities should be made. (Step 1225.) For example, if a patron is within a predetermined distance of a third party's establishment, the ranking of the third party's preferences may be made higher than the patron's preferences and/or any other entity's preferences. Accordingly, the patron may receive an offer to patronize the establishment. The establishment may be, for example, a bar, a restaurant, a shop or other retail establishment, a coffee house, a bakery, etc.
  • [0157]
    Alternatively, the predetermined area may correspond to an area of a casino within which a tournament is taking place, within which a new product is being promoted, within which the casino or a third party is offering goods or services relating to a promotion, etc. For example, the predetermined area may be one in which the casino has deployed Microsoft Surface® tables, REELdepth™ machines, Indiana Jones™ slot games, etc. The ranking of the casino's preferences may be made higher than the patron's preferences and/or any other entity's preferences. Accordingly, the patron may receive an offer relating to the Microsoft Surface® tables, REELdepth™ machines, Indiana Jones™ slot games, etc.
  • [0158]
    The predetermined area may be one in which third party A is conducting a World Poker Tour™ tournament or other events, offering World Poker Tour™ merchandise, etc. The predetermined area may be one in which third party B is conducting a NASCAR™ event, offering NASCAR™ merchandise, etc. The predetermined area may include third party C's new restaurant. If so, the relevant entity's preferences may be ranked higher than those of the patron and/or other entities while the patron is within that predetermined area.
  • [0159]
    If the patron accepts the offer (as determined in step 1230), the relevant option will be provided. (Step 1235.) In this example, if it is determined in step 1240 that the process will continue, the patron's location may continue to be monitored. (Step 1210.) Otherwise, the process may end. (Step 1245.)
  • [0160]
    In some implementations, the locations of different types of options may be taken into account when determining which option to offer a patron. For example, the preferences of a patron and a third party may overlap, at least to some extent, if the patron is offered a desired wager gaming (or other) option that will cause the player to be in the vicinity of a location associated with the third party option (e.g., a store, a bar, a restaurant, an area in which promotional displays or the like are being presented, etc.).
  • [0161]
    Method 1300 of FIG. 13 includes some relevant steps. In this example, a patron's location and/or trajectory is determined in step 1301. Options are evaluated according to the patron's determined location and/or trajectory. (Step 1305.) In step 1310, it is determined whether to make an offer that, in some way, involves a combination of two or more options, possibly at two or more different locations.
  • [0162]
    In some such implementations, method 1300 may involve determining an offer for a first available option in a first location of the gaming establishment. In one example, the first available option may be, e.g., a patron's desired wager gaming (or other) option. The first available option may be determined, at least in part, because of a second available option (e.g., a third party option) near the first location. For example, the first available option may be determined, at least in part, because the second available option is within a predetermined radius of the first location.
  • [0163]
    Alternatively, or additionally, the first available option may be determined, at least in part, because of a second available option along a path between the patron's location and the first location. In other words, first available option may be determined because the patron would be expected to pass near the second available option while en route to an option desired by the patron.
  • [0164]
    In some such implementations, the determination of whether to combine options may be made in a manner similar to that described above, wherein the point totals for various options are compared. However, some such implementations may involve additional steps of summing the points corresponding to various paths that the patron might take when going from the patron's current location to the location corresponding to one or more options.
  • [0165]
    For example, suppose the aforementioned patron has requested a seat at a Texas Hold-em poker table. Suppose further that there is a seat available at two such poker tables. If the patron were directed to the first poker table, the patron would pass though an area within which the casino is promoting Microsoft Surface® tables. Referring to FIGS. 4B and 10A, the first path would have an 80 point value. If the patron were directed to the second poker table, the patron would pass near the casino's new night club. Referring to FIGS. 4B and 10A, the second path would have a 20 point value.
  • [0166]
    In this example, it would be determined in step 1310 that options should be combined. The first path would be selected. The more desirable option, that of the seat at the first Texas Hold-em poker table, would initially be offered to the patron. (Step 1315.) If the patron accepts (as determined in step 1320), the location of the first Texas Hold-em poker table would be indicated to the patron. (Step 1325.) In some such implementations, the specific desired path may be provided to the patron, e.g., via directions, via an indicated line (or the like) on a navigation device, etc.
  • [0167]
    The location and/or trajectory of the patron would continue to be monitored. (Step 1330.) When the patron is determined to be within a predetermined area, an offer corresponding to the predetermined area may be made. (Step 1340.) Here, for example, if the patron is determined to be within a predetermined area within which the Microsoft Surface® tables are deployed, an offer corresponding to the Microsoft Surface® tables may be made in step 1340.
  • [0168]
    The patron's location and/or trajectory may continue to be monitored. Options may continue to be evaluated and offered, according to the patron's location and/or trajectory, ranking and weighting. (Step 1345.) The process may continue until it is determined in step 1350 that the process will end.
  • [0169]
    Various other types of ranking and/or classification schemes may be employed, some of which are described in detail herein. A simple patron classification scheme may place all patrons into one of two categories: (1) patrons worth the dedication of predetermined resources for preference determination, tracking, option determination, etc.; and (2) patrons not worth the dedication of at least some such resources. For example, it may be determined that only patrons in the first category will have their preferences updated in real time, be tracked visually (e.g., with smart cameras), receive special services, etc., as described in the “MULTIMEDIA PLAYER TRACKING INFRASTRUCTURE” application.
  • [0170]
    However, alternative implementations of the invention may include multiple gradations of patrons who are deemed to be worth the dedication of resources. For example, there could be N categories of patrons deemed to be worth the dedication of resources, with different amounts of resources that are potentially available to and/or directed towards a patron.
  • [0171]
    FIG. 1 illustrates one such implementation, wherein N=2. Patrons 166 a, 166 b, 166 c and 166 d are placed in the highest category. Here, companion 168 a of patron 166 a and companion 168 b of patron 166 b are also placed in the highest category. This category may correspond, e.g., with patrons whose preferences are generally ranked higher than those of the casino or third parties, e.g., as described above with reference to FIGS. 4A and 4B. Patrons 164 (two of whom may be seen in auditorium 124) are in the second-highest category. This category may correspond, e.g., with patrons whose preferences are generally ranked higher than those of third parties but lower than those of the casino, e.g., as described above with reference to FIG. 5 or FIG. 6. In this example, only patrons in these two categories will receive special services, directed marketing, etc.
  • [0172]
    In this example, patron 166 c has previously been identified as a high-level patron according to a defined event and a ranking/categorization process. When it is determined that high-level patron 166 c is having a drink at bar 122, the beverage preferences of patron 166 c are noted in real time, are associated with the patron ID code of patron 166 c and are stored as patron data in a player loyalty database. Moreover, the game preferences of patron 166 c are determined (e.g., by reference to the player loyalty database). Gaming machine 127 c is configured accordingly (e.g., by a server in control room 128). In some implementations of the invention, multiple nearby gaming machines (e.g., the bank of gaming machines that includes gaming machine 127 c) may be configured according to the preferences of a group of patrons (e.g., patron 166 c and other patrons nearby). Special promotions (or other responses) may be directed to patron 166 c via gaming machine 127 c or otherwise, e.g., via a mobile device such as a PDA, a mobile gaming device, a cellular telephone, etc., associated with patron 166 c. Preferably, the promotion is tailored according to information regarding the preferences, or at least the demographics, of patron 166 c.
  • [0173]
    In this example, it is observed that high-level patron 166 b and companion 168 b are at the entrance of restaurant 114. The staff of restaurant 114 is notified that patron 166 b and companion 168 b should be provided with top-level service. This notification may occur in any convenient fashion, e.g., via cellular phone, PDA, host device 142, etc. For example, patron 166 b and companion 168 b may be seated even if they do not have a reservation and restaurant 114 is very busy. They may be provided with free drinks while their table is being prepared. Their food and beverage selections may be noted in real time, associated with their patron ID codes and stored as patron data.
  • [0174]
    Similarly, when a high-level patron or companion is observed in or near a shop, their purchase types, amounts, etc., may be noted in real time, associated with their patron ID codes and stored as patron data. High-level service, discounts, free shipping, etc., may be provided. For example, patron 166 d purchased chocolates for a friend at candy store 108. The amount and type of this purchase was noted in real time, associated with her patron ID code and stored as patron data. Patron 166 d was pleased when candy store 108 shipped the chocolates to her friend at no charge. When a high-level patron or companion is observed to be leaving the gaming establishment, he or she may be given a special farewell.
  • [0175]
    Patrons 164 (two of whom may be seen in auditorium 124) are in the second-highest category. In this implementation, patrons in second-highest category will also receive an elevated level of customer service as compared to the average patron. A more moderate level of patron data will be acquired for in the second-highest category.
  • [0176]
    Although the terms “rank” and “category” may sometimes be used synonymously, in some implementations of the invention the terms may have different meanings. In such implementations, a “category” corresponds to a level of resources that a gaming establishment may potentially direct towards a patron according to some methods of the invention. As used herein, the term “resources” is used to include time, effort, services, comps, money, etc. In some implementations, the level of resources corresponding with a category may be zero, but this does not mean that a patron will receive, e.g., no service or poor service. Instead, it means that the no additional resources, over and above the normal level of service, amenities, etc., will be provided according to the present invention.
  • [0177]
    Moreover, there may be several ranks that correspond with a category. In one such example, the top five patrons (ranks 1 through 5) may be placed in the highest category, the patrons ranked 6th through 20th may be placed in the next (lower) category, etc.
  • [0178]
    A similar example is illustrated in FIG. 14. Table 1400 sets forth ranks 1405, categories 1410 and response levels 1415 according to one implementation of the invention. In this example, the top ten patrons (ranks 1 through 10) are placed in the highest category, “A,” which corresponds to the highest response level. The patrons ranked 11th through 50th are placed in the next category “B.” In this example, categories A and B may correspond, e.g., with patrons whose preferences are generally ranked higher than those of the casino or third parties, e.g., as described above with reference to FIGS. 4A and 4B. In some alternative examples, only category A corresponds with patrons whose preferences are generally ranked higher than those of the casino or third parties.
  • [0179]
    Patrons ranked 51st through 100th are placed in category “C,” which corresponds to a lower response level. In this example, category “C” corresponds with patrons whose preferences are generally ranked higher than those of third parties but lower than those of the casino, e.g., as described above with reference to FIG. 5 or FIG. 6. All other patrons are placed in category “D” unless and until their status changes. This category may correspond, e.g., with patrons whose preferences are generally ranked lower than those of the casino or third parties, e.g., as described above with reference to FIG. 7.
  • [0180]
    However, in some implementations, there may be a different level of available resources corresponding to each rank. In such implementations, a rank is equivalent to a category.
  • [0181]
    In still other implementations, there is no fixed number of patrons for at least some of the categories. For example, a patron of the player loyalty and/or player tracking program of a gaming establishment may always be entitled to receive (or at least potentially receive) a predetermined level of resources, regardless of the number of other patrons present. In such implementations, a patron who is ranked at the highest level of such a player loyalty and/or player tracking program might always be in category “A” of FIG. 14. Similarly, an anonymous patron who is ranked in a predetermined level according to predetermined criteria/metrics may always be placed in a corresponding category.
  • [0182]
    Alternatively, or additionally, the number of anonymous patrons present to whom resources will be directed will depend on the number of patrons present who are in a gaming establishment's player loyalty and/or player tracking program. For example, if there are 8 patrons present who are ranked at the highest level of a casino's player tracking program and 30 additional players present who are ranked at the second-highest level of the casino's player tracking program, only 2 anonymous patrons would be eligible to be in category “A” of FIG. 14 and only 10 more anonymous patrons would be eligible to be in category “B.” Anonymous patrons who would otherwise have been placed in category “A” may, for example, be placed in category “B,” to the extent that space is available.
  • [0183]
    Some implementations of the invention provide for an earlier ranking process, which may be a preliminary ranking process based on first impressions. Accordingly, a threshold determination as to which patrons are worth the dedication of resources, such as the targeting of marketing efforts, may already have been made. However, in some implementations of the invention (as here), patron ranking may be a dynamic process.
  • [0184]
    Some implementations involve tracking a patron's activities to determine various preferences, which may include gaming preferences or other preferences. For example, the time of day a patron likes to gamble, drink, shop, etc., what wagering games the patron prefers, etc., may be tracked. These data will provide information about what types of offers the patron may be interested in receiving at a particular time of day, day of the week, etc. Moreover, a patron's habits may also be used to verify a tentative identification based on other factors. For example, if there is a strong likelihood of a facial image match and other such data also match a patron's previously-observed habits, this provides a higher likelihood of correct patron identification.
  • [0185]
    Such information may be associated with a patron ID code and stored in one or more data structures. Moreover, some such information may be added as MPEG-7 descriptions and associated with audiovisual data obtained regarding the patron.
  • [0186]
    Gaming and/or non-gaming activity of all patrons may be monitored to some degree, even in implementations such as that described with respect to FIG. 14, wherein no special response will be made to patrons having the lowest ranking. However, the degree of monitoring may vary considerably, e.g., according to a patron's category. A flexible approach to patron monitoring may be important, particularly if patrons cannot easily be monitored in a fully automated fashion, e.g., via an RFID network, by GPS, by triangulation (e.g., of a PDA, a cellular telephone or a mobile gaming device), by using a network of near-field magnetic devices, etc. Monitoring by facial recognition techniques may require a combination of automated processes and human involvement, and may therefore be more resource-intensive.
  • [0187]
    More extensive and careful monitoring may be desired for patrons in a high-level category: such patrons' location and/or activities may need to be closely monitored in order that a high level of service and other such resources are directed to the intended patrons. Such patrons may be monitored even by resource-intensive methods, if necessary.
  • [0188]
    In contrast, the level of “monitoring” for patrons in, e.g., category D of FIG. 7 may involve, e.g., only events that may indicate that a patron should be considered for a higher category. For example, if a category D patron were to order an expensive bottle of wine at restaurant 114, this may be considered a “high roller indicium” indicium trigger a re-evaluation of the patron's rank. However, in some implementations, even the locations of category D patrons (or the like) will be tracked, e.g., if doing so will not consume a disproportionate level of resources. For example, if the locations of such patrons may be tracked automatically (e.g., by an RFID network), it may be done.
  • [0189]
    Responses will be provided to patrons (or not) according to their category, which may change over time, as well as other factors. To the extent that responses will be provided, they are preferably not only according to the patron's category, but also according to known preferences of the patron and/or information regarding the patron that may suggest such preferences, including but not limited to demographic data. For patrons who are identified, some such preference data may be determined from player loyalty and/or player tracking databases, other gaming establishment-related databases, or publicly available databases.
  • [0190]
    Depending on the amount of data to be evaluated and potentially stored regarding patrons, it may be advantageous to store data in a dimensional database structure. Multi-dimensional database achieve performance levels that are well in excess of that of relational systems performing similar data storage requirements. These high performance levels encourage and enable On Line Analytical Processing (“OLAP”) and other such applications that can provide the ability to analyze large amounts of data with very fast response times.
  • [0191]
    Other preference data may be based on observations of the patron and/or the patron's activities. If a patron is seen to be wearing a hat or garment with a NASCAR-related logo, for example, offers relating to a NASCAR-related event may be directed to the patron. The degree to which such observations and/or responses are made will preferably be based upon a patron's category, in order to maintain a reasonable relationship between the resources directed towards the patron and the patron's likely value to the gaming establishment.
  • [0192]
    If there are subsequent indications that a patron in a lower category should be re-categorized, it will also be determined whether there are adequate facial recognition data for the patron. If not, such data are acquired. For example, acquiring additional facial recognition data (and/or a higher level of facial recognition data) may allow a positive identification of the player, which in turn may reveal player preferences, indications of financial/economic/spending data, etc., from one or more public or private databases. Moreover, acquiring a higher level of facial recognition data may allow a patron to be monitored more easily, thereby allowing accurately targeted responses.
  • [0193]
    If the patron engages in activities that indicate that the patron has spent (or may spend) a significant amount of money, the patron's rank and/or category may change.
  • [0194]
    When the patron leaves the gaming establishment, the process ends. Preferably, the patron should no longer be included in a pool of patrons eligible for directed resources: the patron's ID may be deleted from a list of patrons currently in the gaming establishment. In some implementations, if the patron had been ranked, e.g., as a category “A” patron, the patron's departure could trigger a re-ranking of patrons still thought to be in the gaming establishment.
  • [0195]
    FIG. 15 outlines some steps of method 1500, which indicates further details regarding a process of ranking and categorizing a patron according to some implementations of the invention. In step 1505, a patron is being monitored. In this example, the patron has already entered a gaming establishment and has either been identified or at least has an assigned code or the like, in order to allow patron data to be associated with the patron and/or responses to be directed to the patron (step 1510), if desired. As before, the process ends (as to that patron) when a patron leaves. (Steps 1520 and 1565.)
  • [0196]
    In step 1525, it is determined whether there has been some form of patron activity that may potentially affect a patron's rank and/or category. For example, the patron may have been observed shopping in an expensive shop, e.g., for high-end jewelry, watches, clothing, etc. An actual purchase of an expensive item, an expensive dinner, wine or other drinks, registering to stay in a luxury suite at the hotel, high-stakes wagering, or any other predetermined metric may cause a positive indication for step 1525.
  • [0197]
    The patron's data will be updated, as appropriate. (Step 1530.) In some implementations, a point-based system is applied to activities pertaining to step 1525. In some such implementations, the number of points is proportional to the amount of money spent. Gaming and non-gaming activities may be treated as being equally significant in some implementations, but not in others. For example, a given amount wagered may be assigned a higher (or lower) point value than the same amount spent on a bottle of wine. In some implementations, even browsing in or near a high-end shop can result in the award of points.
  • [0198]
    In some implementations of the invention, the accumulated points may be loyalty points of a patron loyalty system such as that described above, wherein points accumulated by patrons for both gaming and non-gaming activities may be redeemed upon demand by the patrons for goods and services. Such a program may be referred to herein as a “casino enterprise point system” or the like. As described above, some implementations do not require patrons to enroll in a player loyalty program; points may be accumulated and redeemed anonymously. However, as noted above, such a program may include not only gaming and non-gaming activities in a particular gaming establishment, but also purchases (or other activities) in affiliated businesses at other sites. For gaming operators whose enterprises span multiple jurisdictions, the system should differentiate clearly unique jurisdictional requirements and isolate locations that do not allow certain types of promotions or features.
  • [0199]
    Preferably, points may be awarded in a flexible manner that may be tailored by a gaming establishment. A particular gaming establishment may choose to award more (or fewer) points for each dollar spent in a hotel or in a shop than wagered in a casino. For example, at certain times a gaming establishment may create incentives for patrons to patronize targeted portions of a casino. At such times, patrons may accumulate points in a particular shop, restaurant, entertainment venue, etc., at a higher rate than during other times. A gaming establishment may encourage participation in a jackpot or the like by allowing a patron to qualify for the jackpot by participating in various activities in addition to putting money in gaming machine, such as spending money in a retail location, buying a meal and/or a drink, making a purchase from a hotel room, playing a game from a hotel room, etc. A particular gaming establishment may desire to change point accumulation criteria based on various criteria, such as time of day, time of year (e.g., holidays), during special events (e.g., NASCAR weekend) or conferences, spend rates, patron rank/category, target spending criteria, etc.
  • [0200]
    According to method 1500, each event that may change a patron's status may not necessarily trigger a re-assessment of patron ranking. In this example, it is determined whether a threshold is exceeded before such a re-ranking process is triggered. (See optional step 1535.) The threshold may be relative (e.g., to a last point total of a patron) or absolute (e.g., with reference to “break points” between categories of patrons and/or levels of a player loyalty and/or player tracking program). The threshold(s) may be dynamically adjustable, e.g., to prevent re-ranking processes from being initiated too frequently when a gaming establishment is busy.
  • [0201]
    If such a threshold is exceeded, the patrons are re-ranked. In this example, there are multiple rankings within at least some categories (e.g., as described with reference to FIG. 7). Therefore, it is then determined whether the re-ranking process has resulted in a change in category for one or more patrons. (Step 1545.) If so, the category is updated in step 1550.
  • [0202]
    In step 1555, it is determined whether other types of patron data are now desirable, in view of a change in patron category. For example, if a patron was previously in a lower category (e.g., category C or D of FIG. 7) and has been re-classified in a sufficiently higher category (e.g., category A or B of FIG. 7), it may now be worth making a more concerted effort to identify a patron and/or search databases for spending, preference and other information regarding the patron. If the patron has not previously been identified, a preliminary step may be the acquisition of additional biometric data. (Step 1560.) For example, image data suitable for a 3D facial recognition process may be acquired and the 3D facial recognition process may be invoked.
  • [0203]
    If additional patron data are acquired, they are associated with the patron and stored. (Step 1530.) Such data may be used in both a monitoring process (step 1505) and to determine appropriate responses for a patron. (Step 1510.)
  • [0204]
    Some networks described herein provide methods and devices for managing one or more networked gaming establishments. Such networks may sometimes be referred to herein as server-based gaming networks, sb™ networks, or the like. Some such gaming networks described herein allow for the convenient provisioning of networked gaming machines and other devices relevant to casino operations. Game themes may be easily and conveniently added or changed, if desired. Related software, including but not limited to player tracking software, peripheral software, etc., may be downloaded to networked gaming machines and other devices, such as kiosks, networked gaming tables, player stations, etc.
  • [0205]
    Relevant information is set forth in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/225,407 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P237/P-1051), by Wolf et al., entitled “METHODS AND DEVICES FOR MANAGING GAMING NETWORKS” and filed Sep. 12, 2005, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/757,609 by Nelson et al., entitled “METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR GAMING DATA DOWNLOADING” (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P213/P-657) and filed on Jan. 14, 2004, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/938,293 by Benbrahim et al., entitled “METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR DATA COMMUNICATION IN A GAMING SYSTEM” (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P199/P-909) and filed on Sep. 10, 2004, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/225,337 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P185/P-1017) by Nguyen et al., filed Sep. 12, 2005 and entitled “DISTRIBUTED GAME SERVICES,” in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/225,408 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P253) by Kinsley et al., entitled “METHODS AND DEVICES FOR AUTHENTICATION AND LICENSING IN A GAMING NETWORK” and filed Aug. 1, 2005, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/078,966 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P034X2/P-277 CIP2) by Nguyen et al., filed Mar. 10, 2005 and entitled “SECURED VIRTUAL NETWORK IN A GAMING ENVIRONMENT,” in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/173,442 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P153/P-991) by Kinsley et al., filed Jul. 1, 2005 and entitled “METHODS AND DEVICES FOR DOWNLOADING GAMES OF CHANCE” and in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/810,888 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P390/P-1200) by Graham et al., filed Jun. 6, 2007 and entitled “DATABASE QUERIES WITHIN A GAMING MACHINE,” all of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety and for all purposes.
  • [0206]
    One example of an sb™ network is depicted in FIG. 16. Those of skill in the art will realize that this architecture and the related functionality are merely examples and that the present invention encompasses many other such embodiments and methods.
  • [0207]
    Here, casino computer room 1620 and networked devices of a gaming establishment 1605 are illustrated. Gaming establishment 1605 is configured for communication with central system 1663 via gateway 1650. Gaming establishments 1693 and 1695 are also configured for communication with central system 1663.
  • [0208]
    In some implementations, gaming establishments may be configured for communication with one another. In this example, gaming establishments 1693 and 1695 are configured for communication with casino computer room 1620. Such a configuration may allow devices and/or operators in casino 1605 to communicate with and/or control devices in other casinos. In some such implementations, a server in computer room 1620 may control devices in casino 1605 and devices in other gaming establishments. Conversely, devices and/or operators in another gaming establishment may communicate with and/or control devices in casino 1605.
  • [0209]
    For example, a server of casino 1605 or central system 1663 may be provisioned with relatively more advanced software (e.g., 3-D facial recognition software) for patron identification than servers of other networked locations. Such a server may process patron identification requests from devices in casino 1605 as well as patron identification requests from devices in gaming establishments 1693 and 1695.
  • [0210]
    Here, gaming establishment 1697 is configured for communication with central system 1663, but is not configured for communication with other gaming establishments. Some gaming establishments (not shown) may not be in communication with other gaming establishments or with a central system.
  • [0211]
    Gaming establishment 1605 includes multiple gaming machines 1621, each of which is part of a bank 1610 of gaming machines 1621. In this example, gaming establishment 1605 also includes a bank of networked gaming tables 1653. However, the present invention may be implemented in gaming establishments having any number of gaming machines, gaming tables, etc. It will be appreciated that many gaming establishments include hundreds or even thousands of gaming machines 1621 and/or gaming tables 1653, not all of which are necessarily included in a bank and some of which may not be connected to a network.
  • [0212]
    Some gaming networks provide features for gaming tables that are similar to those provided for gaming machines, including but not limited to bonusing, player loyalty/player tracking and the use of cashless instruments. Relevant material is provided in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/154,833, entitled “CASHLESS INSTRUMENT BASED TABLE GAME PROMOTIONAL SYSTEM AND METHODOLOGY” and filed on Jun. 15, 2005 (attorney docket no. IGT1P035X3), U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/858,046, entitled “AUTOMATED PLAYER DATA COLLECTION SYSTEM FOR TABLE GAME ENVIRONMENTS” and filed on Nov. 10, 2006 (attorney docket no. IGT1P061X5P), U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/129,702, entitled “WIDE AREA TABLE GAMING MONITOR AND CONTROL SYSTEM” and filed on May 15, 2005 (attorney docket no. IGT1P115), U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/425,998 entitled “PROGRESSIVE TABLE GAME BONUSING SYSTEMS AND METHODS”, filed Jun. 22, 2006 (attorney docket no. IGT1P238/P-1049) and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/225,299, entitled “UNIVERSAL CASINO BONUSING SYSTEMS AND METHODS” and filed on Sep. 12, 2005 (attorney docket no. IGT1P243), all of which are incorporated herein by reference. Accordingly, software related to such features may be provided and/or controlled, and related data may be obtained and/or provided, according to the present invention.
  • [0213]
    Some configurations can provide automated, multi-player roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and other table games. The table games may be conducted by a dealer and/or by using some form of automation, which may include an automated roulette wheel, an electronic representation of a dealer, etc. In some such implementations, devices such as cameras, radio frequency identification devices, etc., may be used to identify and/or track playing cards, chips, etc. Some of gaming tables 1653 may be configured for communication with individual player terminals (not shown), which may be configured to accept bets, present an electronic representation of a dealer, indicate game outcomes, etc.
  • [0214]
    Some gaming networks include electronically configurable tables for playing table games. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/517,861, entitled “CASINO DISPLAY METHODS AND DEVICES” and filed on Sep. 7, 2006 (attorney docket no. IGT1P106X2), describes some such tables and is hereby incorporated by reference. An operator may select a desired game, such as a poker game or a blackjack game, and the table will be automatically configured with geometrical patterns, text, etc., which are appropriate for the desired table game. The desired type of table game may be selected by a control on the table itself or according to instructions received from, e.g., a server or a casino manager via a network interface.
  • [0215]
    Gaming establishment 1605 also includes networked kiosks 1677. Depending on the implementation, kiosks 1677 may be used for various purposes, including but not limited to cashing out, prize redemption, redeeming points from a player loyalty program, redeeming “cashless” indicia such as bonus tickets, smart cards, etc. In some implementations, kiosks 1677 may be used for obtaining information about the gaming establishment, e.g., regarding scheduled events (such as tournaments, entertainment, etc.), regarding a patron's location, etc. Software related to such features may be provided and/or controlled, and related data may be obtained and/or provided, according to the present invention. For example, in some implementations of the invention, kiosks 1677 may be configured to receive information from a patron, e.g., by presenting graphical user interfaces.
  • [0216]
    In this example, each bank 1610 has a corresponding switch 1615, which may be a conventional bank switch in some implementations. Each switch 1615 is configured for communication with one or more devices in computer room 1620 via main network device 1625, which combines switching and routing functionality in this example. Although various communication protocols may be used, some preferred implementations use the Gaming Standards Association's G2S Message Protocol. Other implementations may use IGT's open, Ethernet-based SuperSAS® protocol, which IGT makes available for downloading without charge. Still other protocols, including but not limited to Best of Breed (“BOB”), may be used to implement various aspects of the invention. IGT has also developed a gaming-industry-specific transport layer called CASH that rides on top of TCP/IP and offers additional functionality and security.
  • [0217]
    Here, gaming establishment 1605 also includes an RFID network, implemented in part by RFID switches 1619 and multiple RFID readers 1617. An RFID network may be used, for example, to track objects (such as mobile gaming devices 1670, which include RFID tags 1627 in this example), patrons, etc., in the vicinity of gaming establishment 1605. Some examples of how an RFID network may be used in a gaming establishment are set forth in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/655,496, entitled “DYNAMIC CASINO TRACKING AND OPTIMIZATION” and filed on Jan. 19, 2007 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P082C1X1/P-713 CON CIP) and in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/599,241, entitled “DOWNLOADING UPON THE OCCURRENCE OF PREDETERMINED EVENTS” and filed on Nov. 13, 2006 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P118C1X1/P-303 CON CIP), all of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
  • [0218]
    As noted elsewhere herein, some implementations of the invention may involve “smart” player loyalty instruments, such as player tracking cards, which include an RFID tag. Accordingly, the location of such RFID-enabled player loyalty instruments may be tracked via the RFID network. In this example, at least some of mobile devices 1670 may include an RFID tag 1627, which includes encoded identification information for the mobile device 1670. Accordingly, the locations of such tagged mobile devices 1670 may be tracked via the RFID network in gaming establishment 1605. Other location-detection devices and systems, such as the global positioning system (“GPS”), may be used to monitor the location of people and/or devices in the vicinity of gaming establishment 1605 or elsewhere.
  • [0219]
    Various alternative network topologies can be used to implement different aspects of the invention and/or to accommodate varying numbers of networked devices. For example, gaming establishments with large numbers of gaming machines 1621 may require multiple instances of some network devices (e.g., of main network device 1625, which combines switching and routing functionality in this example) and/or the inclusion of other network devices not shown in FIG. 16. Some implementations of the invention may include one or more middleware servers disposed between kiosks 1677, RFID switches 1619 and/or bank switches 1615 and one or more devices in computer room 1620 (e.g., a corresponding server). Such middleware servers can provide various useful functions, including but not limited to the filtering and/or aggregation of data received from switches, from individual gaming machines and from other devices. Some implementations of the invention include load-balancing methods and devices for managing network traffic.
  • [0220]
    Storage devices 1611, sb™ server 1630, License Manager 1631, Arbiter 1633, servers 1632, 1634, 1636 and 1638, host device(s) 1660 and main network device 1625 are disposed within computer room 1620 of gaming establishment 1605. In practice, more or fewer devices may be used. Depending on the implementation, some such devices may reside in gaming establishment 1605 or elsewhere.
  • [0221]
    One or more devices in central system 1663 may also be configured to perform, at least in part, tasks specific to the present invention. For example, one or more servers 1662, storage devices 1664 and/or host devices 1660 of central system 1663 may be configured to implement the functions described in detail elsewhere herein. These functions may include, but are not limited to, communications with and/or collecting data from devices such as cameras 1609, RFID readers 1617, wager gaming machines 1621, gaming tables 1653, mobile devices 1670, etc.
  • [0222]
    For example, one or more of the servers of computer room 1620 may be configured with software for receiving a player's wager gaming notification parameters, determining when a wagering condition corresponds with the wager gaming notification parameters and/or providing a notification to the player when the wagering condition corresponds with the wager gaming notification parameters. Moreover, one or more of the servers may be configured to receive, process and/or provide image data from cameras 1609, to provide navigation data to patrons (e.g., to indicate the location of and/or directions to a gaming table, a wager gaming machine, etc., associated with a wager gaming notification), etc.
  • [0223]
    For example, navigation data (which may include map data, casino layout data, camera image data, etc.) may be provided by one or more of the servers of computer room 1620 to mobile devices 1670. Some implementations of the present invention include a plurality of networked cameras 1609, which may be video cameras, smart cameras, digital still cameras, etc. In some such implementations, such cameras may provide, at least in part, real-time navigation features such as those described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/106,771 (attorney docket no. IGT1P410/P-1222), entitled “Real-Time Navigation Devices, Systems and Methods,” which is incorporated herein by reference.
  • [0224]
    Other devices that may be used in connection with the present invention do not appear in FIG. 16. For example, some networks for implementing the present invention may include not only various radio frequency identification (“RFID”) readers 1617, but also RFID switches, middleware servers, etc., some of which are not depicted in FIG. 16. These features may provide various functions related to the present invention. For example, a server (or another device) may determine a location of a mobile device 1670 according to the location of an RFID reader that reads an RFID tag 1627.
  • [0225]
    The servers and other devices indicated in FIG. 16 may be configured for communication with other devices in or outside of gaming establishment 1605, such as host devices 1660, kiosks 1677 and/or mobile devices 1670, for implementing some methods described elsewhere herein. Servers (or the like) may facilitate communications with such devices, receive and store patron data, provide appropriate responses, etc., as described elsewhere herein.
  • [0226]
    Some of these servers may be configured to perform tasks relating to accounting, player loyalty, bonusing/progressives, configuration of gaming machines, etc. One or more such devices may be used to implement a casino management system, such as the IGT Advantage™ Casino System suite of applications, which provides instantaneous information that may be used for decision-making by casino managers. A Radius server and/or a DHCP server may also be configured for communication with the gaming network. Some implementations of the invention provide one or more of these servers in the form of blade servers.
  • [0227]
    Some preferred embodiments of sb™ server 1630 and the other servers shown in FIG. 16 include (or are at least in communication with) clustered CPUs, redundant storage devices, including backup storage devices, switches, etc. Such storage devices may include a “RAID” (originally redundant array of inexpensive disks, now also known as redundant array of independent disks) array, back-up hard drives and/or tape drives, etc.
  • [0228]
    In some implementations of the invention, many of these devices (including but not limited to License Manager 1631, servers 1632, 1634, 1636 and 1638, and main network device 1625) are mounted in a single rack with sb™ server 1630. Accordingly, many or all such devices will sometimes be referenced in the aggregate as an “sb™ server.” However, in alternative implementations, one or more of these devices is in communication with sb™ server 1630 and/or other devices of the network but located elsewhere. For example, some of the devices could be mounted in separate racks within computer room 1620 or located elsewhere on the network. Moreover, it can be advantageous to store large volumes of data elsewhere via a storage area network (“SAN”).
  • [0229]
    Computer room 1620 may include one or more operator consoles or other host devices that are configured for communication with other devices within and outside of computer room 1620. Such host devices may be provided with software, hardware and/or firmware for implementing various aspects of the invention. However, such host devices need not be located within computer room 1620. Wired host devices 1660 (which are desktop and laptop computers in this example) and wireless devices 1670 (which are PDAs in this example) may be located elsewhere in gaming establishment 1605 or at a remote location.
  • [0230]
    Some embodiments of the invention include devices for implementing access control, security and/or other functions relating to the communication between different devices on the network. In this example, arbiter 1633 serves as an intermediary between different devices on the network. Arbiter 1633 may be implemented, for example, via software that is running on a server or another networked device. Some implementations of Arbiter 1633 are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/948,387, entitled “METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR NEGOTIATING COMMUNICATIONS WITHIN A GAMING NETWORK” and filed Sep. 23, 2004 (the “Arbiter Application”), which is incorporated herein by reference and for all purposes. In some preferred implementations, Arbiter 1633 is a repository for the configuration information required for communication between devices on the gaming network (and, in some implementations, devices outside the gaming network). Although Arbiter 1633 can be implemented in various ways, one exemplary implementation is discussed in the following paragraphs.
  • [0231]
    FIG. 17 is a block diagram of a simplified communication topology between gaming machine 1621, network computer 1723 and Arbiter 1633. Network computer 1723 may be, for example, a server or other device within computer room 1620 or elsewhere. Although only one gaming machine 1621, one network computer 1723 and one Arbiter 1633 are shown in FIG. 17, it should be understood that the following examples may be applicable to different types of networked devices in addition to gaming machine 1621 and network computer 1723, and may include different numbers of network computers 1723, Arbiters 1633 and gaming machines 1621. For example, a single Arbiter 1633 may be used for secure communications among a plurality of network computers 1723 and tens, hundreds or thousands of gaming machines 1621. Likewise, multiple Arbiters 1633 may be utilized for improved performance and other scalability factors.
  • [0232]
    Referring to FIG. 17, the Arbiter 1633 may include an arbiter controller 1721 that may comprise a program memory 1722, a microcontroller or microprocessor (MP) 1724, a random-access memory (RAM) 1726 and an input/output (I/O) circuit 1728, all of which may be interconnected via an address/data bus 1729. The network computer 1723 may also include a controller 1731 that may comprise a program memory 1732, a microcontroller or microprocessor (MP) 1734, a random-access memory (RAM) 1736 and an input/output (I/O) circuit 1738, all of which may be interconnected via an address/data bus 1739. It should be appreciated that although the Arbiter 1633 and the network computer 1723 are each shown with only one microprocessor 1724, 1734, the controllers 1721, 1731 may each include multiple microprocessors 1724, 1734. Similarly, the memory of the controllers 1721, 1731 may include multiple RAMs 1726, 1736 and multiple program memories 1722, 1732. Although the I/O circuits 1728, 1738 are each shown as a single block, it should be appreciated that the I/O circuits 1728, 1738 may include a number of different types of I/O circuits. The RAMs 1724, 1734 and program memories 1722, 1732 may be implemented as semiconductor memories, magnetically readable memories, and/or optically readable memories, for example.
  • [0233]
    Although the program memories 1722, 1732 are shown in FIG. 17 as read-only memories (ROM) 1722, 1732, the program memories of the controllers 1721, 1731 may be a read/write or alterable memory, such as a hard disk. In the event a hard disk is used as a program memory, the address/data buses 1729, 1739 shown schematically in FIG. 17 may each comprise multiple address/data buses, which may be of different types, and there may be an 1/0 circuit disposed between the address/data buses.
  • [0234]
    As shown in FIG. 17, the gaming machine 1621 may be operatively coupled to the network computer 1723 via the data link 1725. The gaming machine 1621 may also be operatively coupled to the Arbiter 1633 via the data link 1749, and the network computer 1723 may likewise be operatively coupled to the Arbiter 1633 via the data link 1747.
  • [0235]
    Communications between the gaming machine 1621 and the network computer 1723 may involve different information types of varying levels of sensitivity resulting in varying levels of encryption techniques depending on the sensitivity of the information. For example, communications such as drink orders and statistical information may be considered less sensitive. A drink order or statistical information may remain encrypted, although with moderately secure encryption techniques, such as RC4, resulting in less processing power and less time for encryption. On the other hand, financial information (e.g., account information, winnings, etc.), download information (e.g., game and/or peripheral software, licensing information, etc.) and personal information (e.g., social security number, personal preferences, etc.) may be encrypted with stronger encryption techniques such as DES or 3DES to provide increased security.
  • [0236]
    As disclosed in further detail in the Arbiter Application, the Arbiter 1633 may verify the authenticity of devices in the gaming network, including but not limited to devices sending queries and/or remote procedure calls to gaming machines. The Arbiter 1633 may receive a request for a communication session from a network device. For ease of explanation, the requesting network device may be referred to as the client, and the requested network device may be referred to as the host. The client may be any device on the network and the request may be for a communication session with any other network device. The client may specify the host, or the gaming security arbiter may select the host based on the request and based on information about the client and potential hosts. The Arbiter 1633 may provide encryption keys (session keys) for the communication session to the client via the secure communication channel. Either the host and/or the session key may be provided in response to the request, or may have been previously provided. The client may contact the host to initiate the communication session. The host may then contact the Arbiter 1633 to determine the authenticity of the client. The Arbiter 1633 may provide affirmation (or lack thereof) of the authenticity of the client to the host and provide a corresponding session key, in response to which the network devices may initiate the communication session directly with each other using the session keys to encrypt and decrypt messages.
  • [0237]
    Alternatively, upon receiving a request for a communication session, the Arbiter 1633 may contact the host regarding the request and provide corresponding session keys to both the client and the host. The Arbiter 1633 may then initiate either the client or the host to begin their communication session. In turn, the client and host may begin the communication session directly with each other using the session keys to encrypt and decrypt messages. An additional explanation of the communication request, communication response and key distribution is provided in the Arbiter Application.
  • [0238]
    Referring again to FIG. 16, the communication link(s) between casino 1605 and central system 1663 preferably have ample bandwidth and may, for example, comprise one or more T1 or T3 connections and/or satellite links having comparable bandwidth, etc. Network 1629 is the Internet in this example. However, it will be understood by those of skill in the art that network 1629 could include any one of various types of networks, such as the public switched telephone network (“PSTN”), a satellite network, a wireless network, a metro optical transport, etc. Accordingly, a variety of protocols may be used for communication on network 1629, such as Internet Protocol (“IP”), Fibre Channel (“FC”), FC over IP (“FCIP”), Internet SCSI (“iSCSI,” an IP-based standard for linking data storage devices over a network and transferring data by carrying SCSI commands over IP networks) or Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (“DWDM,” an optical technology used to increase bandwidth over existing fiber optic backbones).
  • [0239]
    If a host device is located in a remote location, security methods and devices (such as firewalls, authentication and/or encryption) should be deployed in order to prevent the unauthorized access of the gaming network.
  • [0240]
    Similarly, any other connection between gaming network 1605 and the outside world should only be made with trusted devices via a secure link, e.g., via a virtual private network (“VPN”) tunnel. For example, the illustrated connection between sb™ server 1630, gateway 1650 and central system 1663 (that may be used for communications involving peripheral device software downloads, etc.) is advantageously made via a VPN tunnel. Details of VPN methods that may be used with the present invention are described in the reference, “Virtual Private Networks-Technologies and Solutions,” by R. Yueh and T. Strayer, Addison-Wesley, 2001, ISBN#0-201-70209-6, which is incorporated herein by reference and for all purposes. Additionally VPNs may be implemented using a variety of protocols, such as, for example, IP Security (IPSec) Protocol, Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Protocol, etc. Details of these protocols, including RFC reports, may be obtained from the VPN Consortium, an industry trade group (http://www.vpnc.com, VPNC, Santa Cruz, Calif. ).
  • [0241]
    Alternatively, a permanent virtual circuit (“PVC”) can be established to provide a dedicated and secure circuit link between two facilities, e.g., between a casino and central system 1663. A PVC is a virtual circuit established for repeated use between the same data terminals. A PVC could be provided, for example, via AT&T's Asynchronous Transfer Mode (“ATM”) switching fabric. Some implementations provide a dedicated line from an endpoint (e.g., from casino 1605) into the ATM backbone. Other implementations provide a connection over another network (e.g., the Internet) between an endpoint and the nearest device of the ATM backbone, e.g., to the nearest edge router. In some such implementations, the fixed-sized cells used in the ATM switching fabric may be encapsulated in variable sized packets (such as Internet Protocol or Ethernet packets) for transmission to and from the ATM backbone.
  • [0242]
    For security purposes, information transmitted to, on or from a gaming establishment may be encrypted. In one implementation, the information may be symmetrically encrypted using a symmetric encryption key, where the symmetric encryption key is asymmetrically encrypted using a private key. The public key may, for example, be obtained from a remote public key server. The encryption algorithm may reside in processor logic stored on the gaming machine. When a remote server receives a message containing the encrypted data, the symmetric encryption key is decrypted with a private key residing on the remote server and the symmetrically encrypted information sent from the gaming machine is decrypted using the symmetric encryption key. A different symmetric encryption key is used for each transaction where the key is randomly generated. Symmetric encryption and decryption is preferably applied to most information because symmetric encryption algorithms tend to be 100-10,000 faster than asymmetric encryption algorithms.
  • [0243]
    Some network implementations may use Trusted Network Connect (“TNC”), which is an open architecture provided by the Trusted Network Connect Sub Group (“TNC-SG”) of the Trusted Computing Group (TCG). TNC enables network operators to provide endpoint integrity at every network connection, thus enabling interoperability among multi-vendor network endpoints. Alternatively, or additionally, the Secure Internet File Transfer (“SIFT”) may be employed. SIFT allows devices to send and receive data over the Internet in a secure (128-bit encryption) method of transport.
  • [0244]
    Providing secure connections between devices in a gaming network, such as the connections between the local devices of the gaming network 1605 and central system 1663, allows for the deployment of many advantageous features. For example, a customer (e.g., an employee of a gaming establishment) may be able to log onto an account of central system 1663 to obtain the account information such as the customer's current and prior account status. Automatic updates of a customer's software may also be enabled. For example, central system 1663 may notify one or more devices in gaming establishment 1605 regarding new products and/or product updates. For example, central system 1663 may notify server (or other device) in computer room 1620 regarding new software, software updates, the status of current software licenses, etc. Alternatively, such updates could be automatically provided to a server in computer room 1620 and downloaded to networked gaming machines.
  • [0245]
    After the local server receives this information, relevant products of interest may be identified (by the server, by another device or by a human being). If an update or a new software product is desired, it can be downloaded from the central system. Similarly, a customer may choose to renew a software license via a secure connection with central system 1663, e.g., in response to a notification that the software license is required.
  • [0246]
    In addition, providing secure connections between different gaming establishments can enable alternative implementations of the invention. For example, a number of gaming establishments may be owned and/or controlled by the same entity. In such situations, having secure communications between gaming establishments makes it possible for a gaming entity to use one or more servers in a gaming establishment as an interface between central system 1663 and gaming machines in multiple gaming establishments. For example, new or updated software may be obtained by a server in one gaming establishment and distributed to gaming machines in that gaming establishment and/or other gaming establishments. A server in one gaming establishment may perform services, such as patron identification services, in response to a request from a device in another gaming establishment.
  • [0247]
    FIG. 18 illustrates an example of a network device that may be configured for implementing some methods of the present invention. Network device 1860 includes a master central processing unit (CPU) 1862, interfaces 1868, and a bus 1867 (e.g., a PCI bus). Generally, interfaces 1868 include ports 1869 appropriate for communication with the appropriate media. In some embodiments, one or more of interfaces 1868 includes at least one independent processor and, in some instances, volatile RAM. The independent processors may be, for example, ASICs or any other appropriate processors. According to some such embodiments, these independent processors perform at least some of the functions of the logic described herein. In some embodiments, one or more of interfaces 1868 control such communications-intensive tasks as encryption, decryption, compression, decompression, packetization, media control and management. By providing separate processors for the communications-intensive tasks, interfaces 1868 allow the master microprocessor 1862 efficiently to perform other functions such as routing computations, network diagnostics, security functions, etc.
  • [0248]
    The interfaces 1868 are typically provided as interface cards (sometimes referred to as “linecards”). Generally, interfaces 1868 control the sending and receiving of data packets over the network and sometimes support other peripherals used with the network device 1860. Among the interfaces that may be provided are FC interfaces, Ethernet interfaces, frame relay interfaces, cable interfaces, DSL interfaces, token ring interfaces, and the like. In addition, various very high-speed interfaces may be provided, such as fast Ethernet interfaces, Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, ATM interfaces, HSSI interfaces, POS interfaces, FDDI interfaces, ASI interfaces, DHEI interfaces and the like.
  • [0249]
    When acting under the control of appropriate software or firmware, in some implementations of the invention CPU 1862 may be responsible for implementing specific functions associated with the functions of a desired network device. According to some embodiments, CPU 1862 accomplishes all these functions under the control of software including an operating system and any appropriate applications software.
  • [0250]
    CPU 1862 may include one or more processors 1863 such as a processor from the Motorola family of microprocessors or the MIPS family of microprocessors. In an alternative embodiment, processor 1863 is specially designed hardware for controlling the operations of network device 1860. In a specific embodiment, a memory 1861 (such as non-volatile RAM and/or ROM) also forms part of CPU 1862. However, there are many different ways in which memory could be coupled to the system. Memory block 1861 may be used for a variety of purposes such as, for example, caching and/or storing data, programming instructions, etc.
  • [0251]
    Regardless of network device's configuration, it may employ one or more memories or memory modules (such as, for example, memory block 1865) configured to store data, program instructions for the general-purpose network operations and/or other information relating to the functionality of the techniques described herein. The program instructions may control the operation of an operating system and/or one or more applications, for example.
  • [0252]
    Because such information and program instructions may be employed to implement the systems/methods described herein, the present invention relates to machine-readable media that include program instructions, state information, etc. for performing various operations described herein. Examples of machine-readable media include, but are not limited to, magnetic media such as hard disks, floppy disks, and magnetic tape; optical media such as CD-ROM disks; magneto-optical media; and hardware devices that are specially configured to store and perform program instructions, such as read-only memory devices (ROM) and random access memory (RAM). The invention may also be embodied in a carrier wave traveling over an appropriate medium such as airwaves, optical lines, electric lines, etc. Examples of program instructions include both machine code, such as produced by a compiler, and files containing higher-level code that may be executed by the computer using an interpreter.
  • [0253]
    Although the system shown in FIG. 18 illustrates one specific network device of the present invention, it is by no means the only network device architecture on which the present invention can be implemented. For example, an architecture having a single processor that handles communications as well as routing computations, etc. is often used. Further, other types of interfaces and media could also be used with the network device. The communication path between interfaces may be bus based (as shown in FIG. 18) or switch fabric based (such as a cross-bar).
  • [0254]
    Turning next to FIG. 19, one example of a video gaming machine 2 is shown. Machine 2 includes a main cabinet 4, which generally surrounds the machine interior (not shown) and is viewable by users. The main cabinet includes a main door 8 on the front of the machine, which opens to provide access to the interior of the machine. Attached to the main door are player-input switches or buttons 32, a coin acceptor 28, and a bill validator 30, a coin tray 38, and a belly glass 40. Viewable through the main door is a video display monitor 34 and an information panel 36. The display monitor 34 will typically be a cathode ray tube, high resolution flat-panel LCD, or other conventional electronically controlled video monitor. The information panel 36 may be a back-lit, silk screened glass panel with lettering to indicate general game information including, for example, a game denomination (e.g. $0.25 or $1). The bill validator 30, player-input switches 32, video display monitor 34, and information panel are devices used to play a game on the game machine 2. The devices are controlled by circuitry (e.g. the master gaming controller) housed inside the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2.
  • [0255]
    Many different types of games, including mechanical slot games, video slot games, video poker, video black jack, video pachinko and lottery, may be provided with gaming machines of this invention. In particular, the gaming machine 2 may be operable to provide a play of many different instances of games of chance. The instances may be differentiated according to themes, sounds, graphics, type of game (e.g., slot game vs. card game), denomination, number of paylines, maximum jackpot, progressive or non-progressive, bonus games, etc. The gaming machine 2 may be operable to allow a player to select a game of chance to play from a plurality of instances available on the gaming machine. For example, the gaming machine may provide a menu with a list of the instances of games that are available for play on the gaming machine and a player may be able to select from the list a first instance of a game of chance that they wish to play.
  • [0256]
    The various instances of games available for play on the gaming machine 2 may be stored as game software on a mass storage device in the gaming machine or may be generated on a remote gaming device but then displayed on the gaming machine. The gaming machine 2 may executed game software, such as but not limited to video streaming software that allows the game to be displayed on the gaming machine. When an instance is stored on the gaming machine 2, it may be loaded from the mass storage device into a RAM for execution. In some cases, after a selection of an instance, the game software that allows the selected instance to be generated may be downloaded from a remote gaming device, such as another gaming machine.
  • [0257]
    The gaming machine 2 includes a top box 6, which sits on top of the main cabinet 4. The top box 6 houses a number of devices, which may be used to add features to a game being played on the gaming machine 2, including speakers 10, 12, 14, a ticket printer 18 which prints bar-coded tickets 20, a key pad 22 for entering player tracking information, a fluorescent display 16 for displaying player tracking information, a card reader 24 for entering a magnetic striped card containing player tracking information, and a video display screen 42. The ticket printer 18 may be used to print tickets for a cashless ticketing system. Further, the top box 6 may house different or additional devices than shown in FIG. 19. For example, the top box may contain a bonus wheel or a back-lit silk screened panel which may be used to add bonus features to the game being played on the gaming machine. As another example, the top box may contain a display for a progressive jackpot offered on the gaming machine. During a game, these devices are controlled and powered, in part, by circuitry (e.g. a master gaming controller) housed within the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2.
  • [0258]
    Understand that gaming machine 2 is but one example from a wide range of gaming machine designs on which the present invention may be implemented. For example, not all suitable gaming machines have top boxes or player tracking features. Further, some gaming machines have only a single game display—mechanical or video, while others are designed for bar tables and have displays that face upwards. As another example, a game may be generated in on a host computer and may be displayed on a remote terminal or a remote gaming device. The remote gaming device may be connected to the host computer via a network of some type such as a local area network, a wide area network, an intranet or the Internet. The remote gaming device may be a portable gaming device such as but not limited to a cell phone, a personal digital assistant, and a wireless game player. Images rendered from 3-D gaming environments may be displayed on portable gaming devices that are used to play a game of chance. Further, a gaming machine or server may include gaming logic for commanding a remote gaming device to render an image from a virtual camera in a 3-D gaming environments stored on the remote gaming device and to display the rendered image on a display located on the remote gaming device. Thus, those of skill in the art will understand that the present invention could be implemented on various types of gaming machines now available or that may hereafter be developed.
  • [0259]
    Some gaming machines of the present assignee are implemented with special features and/or additional circuitry that differentiates them from general-purpose computers (e.g., desktop PC's and laptops). Gaming machines are highly regulated to ensure fairness and, in many cases, gaming machines are operable to dispense monetary awards of multiple millions of dollars. Therefore, to satisfy security and regulatory requirements in a gaming environment, hardware and software architectures may be implemented in gaming machines that differ significantly from those of general-purpose computers. A description of gaming machines relative to general-purpose computing machines and some examples of the additional (or different) components and features found in gaming machines are described below. This description is made only by way of illustration and is not intended to be limiting in any way.
  • [0260]
    At first glance, one might think that adapting PC technologies to the gaming industry would be a simple proposition because both PCs and gaming machines employ microprocessors that control a variety of devices. However, because of such reasons as 1) the regulatory requirements that are placed upon gaming machines, 2) the harsh environment in which gaming machines operate, 3) security requirements and 4) fault tolerance requirements, adapting PC technologies to a gaming machine can be quite difficult. Further, techniques and methods for solving a problem in the PC industry, such as device compatibility and connectivity issues, might not be adequate in the gaming environment. For instance, a fault or a weakness tolerated in a PC, such as security holes in software or frequent crashes, may not be tolerated in a gaming machine because in a gaming machine these faults can lead to a direct loss of funds from the gaming machine, such as stolen cash or loss of revenue when the gaming machine is not operating properly.
  • [0261]
    For the purposes of illustration, a few differences between PC systems and preferred gaming systems will be described. A first difference between gaming machines and common PC based computers systems is that gaming machines are designed to be state-based systems. In a state-based system, the system stores and maintains its current state in a non-volatile memory, such that, in the event of a power failure or other malfunction the gaming machine will return to its current state when the power is restored. For instance, if a player was shown an award for a game of chance and, before the award could be provided to the player the power failed, the gaming machine, upon the restoration of power, would return to the state where the award is indicated. As anyone who has used a PC, knows, PCs are not state machines and a majority of data is usually lost when a malfunction occurs. This requirement affects the software and hardware design on a gaming machine.
  • [0262]
    A second important difference between gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is that for regulation purposes, the software on the gaming machine used to generate the game of chance and operate the gaming machine may have been designed to be static and monolithic to prevent cheating by the operator of gaming machine. For instance, one solution that has been employed in the gaming industry to prevent cheating and satisfy regulatory requirements has been to manufacture a gaming machine that can use a proprietary processor running instructions to generate the game of chance from an EPROM or other form of non-volatile memory. The coding instructions on the EPROM are static (non-changeable) and must be approved by a gaming regulators in a particular jurisdiction and installed in the presence of a person representing the gaming jurisdiction. Any changes to any part of the software required to generate the game of chance, such as adding a new device driver used by the master gaming controller to operate a device during generation of the game of chance can require a new EPROM to be burnt, approved by the gaming jurisdiction and reinstalled on the gaming machine in the presence of a gaming regulator. Regardless of whether the EPROM solution is used, to gain approval in most gaming jurisdictions, a gaming machine must demonstrate sufficient safeguards that prevent an operator or player of a gaming machine from manipulating hardware and software in a manner that gives them an unfair and some cases an illegal advantage. The gaming machine should have a means to determine if the code it will execute is valid. If the code is not valid, the gaming machine must have a means to prevent the code from being executed. The code validation requirements in the gaming industry affect both hardware and software designs on gaming machines.
  • [0263]
    A third important difference between some gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is the number and kinds of peripheral devices used on a gaming machine are not as great as on PC based computer systems. Traditionally, in the gaming industry, gaming machines have been relatively simple in the sense that the number of peripheral devices and the number of functions the gaming machine has been limited. Further, in operation, the functionality of gaming machines were relatively constant once the gaming machine was deployed, i.e., new peripherals devices and new gaming software were infrequently added to the gaming machine. This differs from a PC where users will go out and buy different combinations of devices and software from different manufacturers and connect them to a PC to suit their needs depending on a desired application. Therefore, the types of devices connected to a PC may vary greatly from user to user depending in their individual requirements and may vary significantly over time.
  • [0264]
    Although the variety of devices available for a PC may be greater than on a gaming machine, gaming machines may still have unique device requirements that differ from a PC, such as device security requirements not usually addressed by PCs. For instance, monetary devices, such as coin dispensers, bill validators and ticket printers and computing devices that are used to govern the input and output of cash to a gaming machine have security requirements that are not typically addressed in PCs. Therefore, many PC techniques and methods developed to facilitate device connectivity and device compatibility do not address the emphasis placed on security in the gaming industry.
  • [0265]
    To address some of the issues described above, some gaming machines may include a number of hardware/software components and architectures may be utilized in that are not typically found in general purpose computing devices, such as PCs. These hardware/software components and architectures, as described below in more detail, include but are not limited to watchdog timers, voltage monitoring systems, state-based software architecture and supporting hardware, specialized communication interfaces, security monitoring and trusted memory.
  • [0266]
    A watchdog timer is normally used in IGT gaming machines to provide a software failure detection mechanism. In a normally operating system, the operating software periodically accesses control registers in the watchdog timer subsystem to “re-trigger” the watchdog. Should the operating software fail to access the control registers within a preset timeframe, the watchdog timer will timeout and generate a system reset. Typical watchdog timer circuits contain a loadable timeout counter register to allow the operating software to set the timeout interval within a certain range of time. A differentiating feature of the some preferred circuits is that the operating software cannot completely disable the function of the watchdog timer. In other words, the watchdog timer always functions from the time power is applied to the board.
  • [0267]
    IGT gaming computer platforms preferably use several power supply voltages to operate portions of the computer circuitry. These can be generated in a central power supply or locally on the computer board. If any of these voltages falls out of the tolerance limits of the circuitry they power, unpredictable operation of the computer may result. Though most modern general-purpose computers include voltage monitoring circuitry, these types of circuits only report voltage status to the operating software. Out of tolerance voltages can cause software malfunction, creating a potential uncontrolled condition in the gaming computer. Gaming machines of the present assignee typically have power supplies with tighter voltage margins than that required by the operating circuitry. In addition, the voltage monitoring circuitry implemented in IGT gaming computers typically has two thresholds of control. The first threshold generates a software event that can be detected by the operating software and an error condition generated. This threshold is triggered when a power supply voltage falls out of the tolerance range of the power supply, but is still within the operating range of the circuitry. The second threshold is set when a power supply voltage falls out of the operating tolerance of the circuitry. In this case, the circuitry generates a reset, halting operation of the computer.
  • [0268]
    The standard method of operation for IGT slot machine game software is to use a state machine. Different functions of the game (bet, play, result, points in the graphical presentation, etc.) may be defined as a state. When a game moves from one state to another, critical data regarding the game software is stored in a custom non-volatile memory subsystem. This is critical to ensure the player's wager and credits are preserved and to minimize potential disputes in the event of a malfunction on the gaming machine.
  • [0269]
    In general, the gaming machine does not advance from a first state to a second state until critical information that allows the first state to be reconstructed is stored. This feature allows the game to recover operation to the current state of play in the event of a malfunction, loss of power, etc that occurred just prior to the malfunction. After the state of the gaming machine is restored during the play of a game of chance, game play may resume and the game may be completed in a manner that is no different than if the malfunction had not occurred. Typically, battery backed RAM devices are used to preserve this critical data although other types of non-volatile memory devices may be employed. These memory devices are not used in typical general-purpose computers.
  • [0270]
    As described in the preceding paragraph, when a malfunction occurs during a game of chance, the gaming machine may be restored to a state in the game of chance just prior to when the malfunction occurred. The restored state may include metering information and graphical information that was displayed on the gaming machine in the state prior to the malfunction. For example, when the malfunction occurs during the play of a card game after the cards have been dealt, the gaming machine may be restored with the cards that were previously displayed as part of the card game. As another example, a bonus game may be triggered during the play of a game of chance where a player is required to make a number of selections on a video display screen. When a malfunction has occurred after the player has made one or more selections, the gaming machine may be restored to a state that shows the graphical presentation at the just prior to the malfunction including an indication of selections that have already been made by the player. In general, the gaming machine may be restored to any state in a plurality of states that occur in the game of chance that occurs while the game of chance is played or to states that occur between the play of a game of chance.
  • [0271]
    Game history information regarding previous games played such as an amount wagered, the outcome of the game and so forth may also be stored in a non-volatile memory device. The information stored in the non-volatile memory may be detailed enough to reconstruct a portion of the graphical presentation that was previously presented on the gaming machine and the state of the gaming machine (e.g., credits) at the time the game of chance was played. The game history information may be utilized in the event of a dispute. For example, a player may decide that in a previous game of chance that they did not receive credit for an award that they believed they won. The game history information may be used to reconstruct the state of the gaming machine prior, during and/or after the disputed game to demonstrate whether the player was correct or not in their assertion.
  • [0272]
    Another feature of gaming machines, such as some IGT gaming computers, is that they often contain unique interfaces, including serial interfaces, to connect to specific subsystems internal and external to the slot machine. The serial devices may have electrical interface requirements that differ from the “standard” EIA 232 serial interfaces provided by general-purpose computers. These interfaces may include EIA 485, EIA 422, Fiber Optic Serial, optically coupled serial interfaces, current loop style serial interfaces, etc. In addition, to conserve serial interfaces internally in the slot machine, serial devices may be connected in a shared, daisy-chain fashion where multiple peripheral devices are connected to a single serial channel.
  • [0273]
    The serial interfaces may be used to transmit information using communication protocols that are unique to the gaming industry. For example, IGT's Netplex is a proprietary communication protocol used for serial communication between gaming devices. As another example, SAS is a communication protocol used to transmit information, such as metering information, from a gaming machine to a remote device. Often SAS is used in conjunction with a player tracking system.
  • [0274]
    IGT gaming machines may alternatively be treated as peripheral devices to a casino communication controller and connected in a shared daisy chain fashion to a single serial interface. In both cases, the peripheral devices are preferably assigned device addresses. If so, the serial controller circuitry must implement a method to generate or detect unique device addresses. General-purpose computer serial ports are not able to do this.
  • [0275]
    Security monitoring circuits may detect intrusion into an IGT gaming machine by monitoring security switches attached to access doors in the slot machine cabinet. Preferably, access violations result in suspension of game play and can trigger additional security operations to preserve the current state of game play. These circuits also function when power is off by use of a battery backup. In power-off operation, these circuits continue to monitor the access doors of the slot machine. When power is restored, the gaming machine can determine whether any security violations occurred while power was off, e.g., via software for reading status registers. This can trigger event log entries and further data authentication operations by the slot machine software.
  • [0276]
    Trusted memory devices are preferably included in an IGT gaming machine computer to ensure the authenticity of the software that may be stored on less secure memory subsystems, such as mass storage devices. Trusted memory devices and controlling circuitry are typically designed to not allow modification of the code and data stored in the memory device while the memory device is installed in the slot machine. The code and data stored in these devices may include authentication algorithms, random number generators, authentication keys, operating system kernels, etc. The purpose of these trusted memory devices is to provide gaming regulatory authorities a root trusted authority within the computing environment of the slot machine that can be tracked and verified as original. This may be accomplished via removal of the trusted memory device from the slot machine computer and verification of the secure memory device contents is a separate third party verification device. Once the trusted memory device is verified as authentic, and based on the approval of the verification algorithms contained in the trusted device, the gaming machine is allowed to verify the authenticity of additional code and data that may be located in the gaming computer assembly, such as code and data stored on hard disk drives. A few details related to trusted memory devices that may be used in the present invention are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,685,567 from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/925,098, filed Aug. 8, 2001 and titled “Process Verification,” which is incorporated herein in its entirety and for all purposes.
  • [0277]
    Mass storage devices used in a general purpose computer typically allow code and data to be read from and written to the mass storage device. In a gaming machine environment, modification of the gaming code stored on a mass storage device is strictly controlled and would only be allowed under specific conditions, e.g., for maintenance type events, with electronic and physical enablers required. Though this level of security may provided by software, IGT gaming computers that include mass storage devices preferably include hardware level mass storage data protection circuitry that operates at the circuit level to monitor attempts to modify data on the mass storage device and will generate both software and hardware error triggers should a data modification be attempted without the proper electronic and physical enablers being present.
  • [0278]
    Returning to the example of FIG. 19, when a user wishes to play the gaming machine 2, he or she inserts cash through the coin acceptor 28 or bill validator 30. Additionally, the bill validator may accept a printed ticket voucher which may be accepted by the bill validator 30 as an indicium of credit when a cashless ticketing system is used. At the start of the game, the player may enter playing tracking information using the card reader 24, the keypad 22, and the fluorescent display 16. Further, other game preferences of the player playing the game may be read from a card inserted into the card reader. During the game, the player views game information using the video display 34. Other game and prize information may also be displayed in the video display screen 42 located in the top box.
  • [0279]
    During the course of a game, a player may be required to make a number of decisions, which affect the outcome of the game. For example, a player may vary his or her wager on a particular game, select a prize for a particular game selected from a prize server, or make game decisions that affect the outcome of a particular game. The player may make these choices using the player-input switches 32, the video display screen 34 or using some other device which enables a player to input information into the gaming machine. In some embodiments, the player may be able to access various game services such as concierge services and entertainment content services using the video display screen 34 and one more input devices.
  • [0280]
    During certain game events, the gaming machine 2 may display visual and auditory effects that can be perceived by the player. These effects add to the excitement of a game, which makes a player more likely to continue playing. Auditory effects include various sounds that are projected by the speakers 10, 12, 14. Visual effects include flashing lights, strobing lights or other patterns displayed from lights on the gaming machine 2 or from lights behind the belly glass 40. After the player has completed a game, the player may receive game tokens from the coin tray 38 or the ticket 20 from the printer 18, which may be used for further games or to redeem a prize. Further, the player may receive a ticket 20 for food, merchandise, or games from the printer 18.
  • [0281]
    A gaming network that may be used to implement additional methods performed in accordance with embodiments of the invention is depicted in FIG. 20. Gaming establishment 2001 could be any sort of gaming establishment, such as a casino, a card room, an airport, a store, etc. In this example, gaming network 2077 includes more than one gaming establishment, all of which are networked to game server 2022.
  • [0282]
    Here, gaming machine 2002, and the other gaming machines 2030, 2032, 2034, and 2036, include a main cabinet 2006 and a top box 2004. The main cabinet 2006 houses the main gaming elements and can also house peripheral systems, such as those that utilize dedicated gaming networks. The top box 2004 may also be used to house these peripheral systems.
  • [0283]
    The master gaming controller 2008 controls the game play on the gaming machine 2002 according to instructions and/or game data from game server 2022 or stored within gaming machine 2002 and receives or sends data to various input/output devices 2011 on the gaming machine 2002. In one embodiment, master gaming controller 2008 comprises a logic system that includes logic devices such as processor(s), programmable logic devices and/or other apparatus of the gaming machines described elsewhere herein. The master gaming controller 2008 may have its own memory and/or may communicate with other memory devices inside or outside of gaming machine 2002. The master gaming controller 2008 may also communicate with a display 2010.
  • [0284]
    A particular gaming entity may desire to provide network gaming services that provide some operational advantage. Thus, dedicated networks may connect gaming machines to host servers that track the performance of gaming machines under the control of the entity, such as for accounting management, electronic fund transfers (EFTs), cashless ticketing, such as EZPay™, marketing management, and data tracking, such as player tracking. Therefore, master gaming controller 2008 may also communicate with EFT system 2012, EZPay™ system 2016 (a proprietary cashless ticketing system of the present assignee), and player tracking system 2020. The systems of the gaming machine 2002 communicate the data onto the network 2022 via a communication board 2018.
  • [0285]
    It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that embodiments of the present invention could be implemented on a network with more or fewer elements than are depicted in FIG. 20. For example, player tracking system 2020 is not a necessary feature of some implementations of the present invention. However, player tracking programs may help to sustain a game player's interest in additional game play during a visit to a gaming establishment and may entice a player to visit a gaming establishment to partake in various gaming activities. Player tracking programs provide rewards to players that typically correspond to the player's level of patronage (e.g., to the player's playing frequency and/or total amount of game plays at a given casino). Player tracking rewards may be free meals, free lodging and/or free entertainment. Moreover, player tracking information may be combined with other information that is now readily obtainable by an SBG system.
  • [0286]
    Moreover, DCU 2024 and translator 2025 are not required for all gaming establishments 2001. However, due to the sensitive nature of much of the information on a gaming network (e.g., electronic fund transfers and player tracking data) the manufacturer of a host system usually employs a particular networking language having proprietary protocols. For instance, 10-20 different companies produce player tracking host systems where each host system may use different protocols. These proprietary protocols are usually considered highly confidential and not released publicly.
  • [0287]
    Further, in the gaming industry, gaming machines are made by many different manufacturers. The communication protocols on the gaming machine are typically hard-wired into the gaming machine and each gaming machine manufacturer may utilize a different proprietary communication protocol. A gaming machine manufacturer may also produce host systems, in which case their gaming machines are compatible with their own host systems. However, in a heterogeneous gaming environment, gaming machines from different manufacturers, each with its own communication protocol, may be connected to host systems from other manufacturers, each with another communication protocol. Therefore, communication compatibility issues regarding the protocols used by the gaming machines in the system and protocols used by the host systems must be considered.
  • [0288]
    A network device that links a gaming establishment with another gaming establishment and/or a central system will sometimes be referred to herein as a “site controller.” Here, site controller 2042 provides this function for gaming establishment 2001. Site controller 2042 is connected to a central system and/or other gaming establishments via one or more networks, which may be public or private networks. Among other things, site controller 2042 communicates with game server 2022 to obtain game data, such as ball drop data, bingo card data, etc.
  • [0289]
    In the present illustration, gaming machines 2002, 2030, 2032, 2034 and 2036 are connected to a dedicated gaming network 2022. In general, the DCU 2024 functions as an intermediary between the different gaming machines on the network 2022 and the site controller 2042. In general, the DCU 2024 receives data transmitted from the gaming machines and sends the data to the site controller 2042 over a transmission path 2026. In some instances, when the hardware interface used by the gaming machine is not compatible with site controller 2042, a translator 2025 may be used to convert serial data from the DCU 2024 to a format accepted by site controller 2042. The translator may provide this conversion service to a plurality of DCUs.
  • [0290]
    Further, in some dedicated gaming networks, the DCU 2024 can receive data transmitted from site controller 2042 for communication to the gaming machines on the gaming network. The received data may be, for example, communicated synchronously to the gaming machines on the gaming network.
  • [0291]
    Here, CVT 2052 provides cashless and cashout gaming services to the gaming machines in gaming establishment 2001. Broadly speaking, CVT 2052 authorizes and validates cashless gaming machine instruments (also referred to herein as “tickets” or “vouchers”), including but not limited to tickets for causing a gaming machine to display a game result and cash-out tickets. Moreover, CVT 2052 authorizes the exchange of a cashout ticket for cash. These processes will be described in detail below. In one example, when a player attempts to redeem a cash-out ticket for cash at cashout kiosk 2044, cash out kiosk 2044 reads validation data from the cashout ticket and transmits the validation data to CVT 2052 for validation. The tickets may be printed by gaming machines, by cashout kiosk 2044, by a stand-alone printer, by CVT 2052, etc. Some gaming establishments will not have a cashout kiosk 2044. Instead, a cashout ticket could be redeemed for cash by a cashier (e.g. of a convenience store), by a gaming machine or by a specially configured CVT.
  • [0292]
    The above-described methods, devices and materials will be familiar to those of skill in the gaming industry and/or in the computer hardware and software arts. Although many of the components and processes are described above in the singular for convenience, it will be appreciated by one of skill in the art that multiple components and repeated processes can also be used to practice the techniques of the present invention.
  • [0293]
    Although illustrative embodiments and applications of this invention are shown and described herein, many variations and modifications are possible which remain within the concept, scope, and spirit of the invention, and these variations would become clear to those of ordinary skill in the art after perusal of this application. Accordingly, the present embodiments are to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive, and the invention is not to be limited to the details given herein, but may be modified within the scope and equivalents of the appended claims.
  • [0294]
    For example, some implementations of the invention provide for the aggregation of patron data, including patron event data, according to selected patron categories. Patron data that are stored for individual patrons may be analyzed to determine characteristics of patrons in a similar category, e.g., a similar age range, player loyalty program level, wager gaming characteristics (e.g., game type preference, wager/denomination level, volatility preferences, etc.), favorite beverage (e.g., beer drinkers, wine drinkers, Scotch drinkers, Cosmo drinkers), level of retail spending, level of food and/or beverage spending, etc. Such characteristics may be used for various purposes, e.g., for predictive modeling of future events, to make an educated guess regarding the preferences of a patron for whom relatively little is known, etc.
  • [0295]
    Depending on the amount of data to be evaluated and potentially stored regarding patrons, it may be advantageous to store data in a dimensional database structure. Multi-dimensional database achieve performance levels that are well in excess of that of relational systems performing similar data storage requirements. These high performance levels encourage and enable On Line Analytical Processing (“OLAP”) and other such applications that can provide the ability to analyze large amounts of data with very fast response times.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/25
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/323, G07F17/32, G07F17/3206, G07F17/3239, G07F17/3255
European ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/32C2B, G07F17/32K10, G07F17/32E4, G07F17/32E6D2
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
13 Sep 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: IGT,NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:NGUYEN, BINH T.;MILTENBERGER, PAUL D.;UNDERDAHL, BRIAN;SIGNING DATES FROM 20080825 TO 20080904;REEL/FRAME:021526/0686