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METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR
FACILITATING MONETARY AND REWARD
TRANSACTIONS AND ACCOUNTING IN A
This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/921,716 filed Aug. 3, 2001 now abandoned, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/497, 10 788 filed Feb. 3, 2000 now abandoned.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to methods and devices for 15 permitting monetary and reward transactions, and especially those associated with game play.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Traditionally, the play of casino games and other games of chance was based on the wagering of actual money, such as coins and currency. Coins and currency have traditionally been used directly as bets in table games such as poker and blackjack. Alternatively, the coins and currency are 25 exchanged for chips which have a representative monetary value.
As mechanical games of chance were developed, such as the well-known slot machine, coins were used to activate the machines. Later, bill validators were provided which allowed 30 players to avoid the need to convert their currency to coins before playing a gaming machine.
Outside of the gaming industry, the consumers were provided with a large variety of options to effectuate their banking and other monetary transaction needs. For example, the 35 credit card was developed and has become widespread in use.
In some instances, the gaming industry has come to embrace some of this technology and provide greater flexibility to consumers. In general, however, the development of this technology has focused upon interfacing existing exter- 40 nal systems, such as banking systems, with internal casino accounting. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,457,306 discloses the use of credit cards in association with gaming machines.
The prior art has not addressed, at least from the consumer or player's point of view, providing convenient means for 45 effecting financial transactions in the gaming environment. In addition, players are not provided with a convenient mechanism for tracking their play, including expenditures and winnings. Player tracking or reward systems and the financial aspects of playing games also remain independent. 50
It is desirable to provide one or more methods and devices which serve to facilitate monetary and commercial transaction in a manner overcoming the above-stated limitations.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION 55
The present invention comprises methods and apparatus for effectuating financial and reward transactions in a casino or gaming environment.
One or more embodiments of the invention comprises a 60 system. In one embodiment, the system includes a network linking a plurality of gaming machines and at least one transaction host or server.
The gaming machines are arranged to accept input of player identification information. In one embodiment, the 65 gaming machine includes a card reader for reading identification information from a magnetic stripe.
The transaction host includes a memory. At least one data file is stored at the memory in association with each player. The at least one data file is accessible with the identification information. The data file includes financial information. Preferably, the financial information comprises credit information. The credit information represents credits or monies which belong to the player and/or may be used to play a gaming machine. In one or more embodiments, the player's file or files represent one or more financial or award accounts.
In one or more embodiments, the data file includes player play or reward information. The reward information may include points which have been awarded to the player.
The system is configured to update credit information corresponding to a player in the player's file based on amounts bet and amounts won. The system is also configured to record or track game play information as a player plays a game.
In one embodiment, the system includes a gateway via which a player may access the transaction host and obtain financial and reward information, and engage in financial and reward transactions. A player may also engage in these activities through a kiosk, customer service station or the like associated directly with the network.
In one embodiment, the system includes a financial host and a reward host, each containing one or more files regarding a player. The financial and reward hosts are linked. Use by a player of their player card permits the player to access both their financial account (such as by betting credits associated with the account) and their reward account (such as by accumulating credits based upon the player's game play).
In accordance with a method, one or more accounts or files are associated with a player. One or more of the files or accounts are financial accounts having associated credit information.
A player may deposit funds which are credited to their file or account. The funds may be deposited electrically, such as by a wire transfer. The funds may also be deposited to a cashier and then credited by the casino. A player may engage in the play of a gaming machine and place bets using credits associated with their file or account. Winnings maybe credited to the player's account.
In one or more embodiments of the invention, a player and/or the casino operator may place criteria or restrictions upon the account. For example, only a certain amount of money or credits may be deducted from the player's account over a predetermined period of time. In one embodiment, a player may have a main account comprising a debit account from which bets are deducted. The player may have a secondary account to which all winnings are credited.
A player may divert all or a portion of their winnings. For example, a portion of each win may be deposited in the player's account and a portion may be diverted to a charity account. The casino may also divert a portion of the player's winnings representing a tax withholding.
A player may access and manipulate their one or more accounts via an on-line communications link. The player may combine, close and open accounts. The player may deposit and deduct funds. The player may purchase reward points and redeem points for prizes or credits which are deposited in the player's funds account.
In accordance with the invention, a player establishes a financial account directly with a casino. The player and casino are permitted to manage the account. The player is also provided with a separate or integrated reward account.
In one embodiment, a system of the invention includes a game server. The game server is adapted to generate game information for transmission to a remote location where a game is presented using the generated information. The game
transaction server is also adapted to receive input, such as a player's input regarding the play of a game.
In this embodiment, a player is permitted to play a game from a remote location, such as a remote station, home or office computer. A player's identification information is pro- 5 vided to the system, such as via the gaming gateway. A communication link is provided between the player's remote location and the gateway. This link may comprise the Internet or a dedicated line.
The player's identification information is utilized to verify l o funds available to the player for establishing entitlement to a play a game, i.e. the placing of a wager or bet. The player's play may be tracked and the player may manipulate their account(s) and having winnings from the play of the remote game credited to their accounts(s). 15
Further objects, features, and advantages of the present invention over the prior art will become apparent from the detailed description of the drawings which follows, when considered with the attached figures.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a flow diagram illustrating a method in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 1(a) is a flow diagram illustrating in detail a method 25 comprising a step of establishing an account in accordance with the method illustrated in FIG. 1;
FIG. 1(b) is a flow diagram illustrating in detail a method comprising a step of activating an account in accordance with the method illustrated in FIG. 1; 30
FIG. 1(c) is a flow diagram illustrating in detail a method comprising a step of determining if access to an account is permitted in accordance with the method illustrated in FIG. 1;
FIG. 1(d) illustrates various flow diagrams of methods comprising a variety of methods of utilizing an accordance in 35 accordance with the method illustrated in FIG. 1;
FIG. 2 illustrates a gaming casino player financial and award transaction system in accordance with an embodiment of the invention; and
FIG. 3 illustrates a gaming machine which may be utilized 40 in the system illustrated in FIG. 2.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
The invention comprises one or more methods and appa- 45 ratus for facilitating monetary and commercial transactions. In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a more thorough description of the present invention. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art, that the present invention may be practiced without 50 these specific details. In other instances, well-known features have not been described in detail so as not to obscure the invention
In general, the invention comprises one or more methods and apparatus for facilitating transactions, such as monetary 55 finds transfers and purchases, and especially those occurring at least partially electronically. In one embodiment, the invention comprises methods and apparatus for facilitating commercial transactions, such as the purchase of goods and services. In other embodiments, the invention comprises 60 methods and apparatus for facilitating monetary and reward transactions in a gaming environment.
Referring to FIG. 1, there is a flowchart illustrating generally a method of creating an account and utilizing an account in accordance with the invention. In a first step SI, an account 65 is established. The account is established by an account provider. The account provider may be a retailer, bank or other
entity, such as described in more detail below, a casino. As provided below, regardless of whether the account is referred to as a financial, bank, debit, monetary or other named account, the account has certain characteristics that define it. The account may be established at the request of a party for use by themselves or for use by another or others.
Referring to FIG. 1(a) there will be described one or more methods for establishing an account. In a first step Sla, a customer interfaces with an account provider. This step may comprise the customer accessing a website belonging to the account provider, calling an account provider customer representative, or accessing one or more other means now known or later developed by which the customer may provide information to the account provider. Also, the customer may travel to the location of the account provider or to a designated location provided by the account provider (such as a kiosk).
In a step Sib, the customer provides data to the account provider. This data is used to set up the account. The particular data which is required may vary by provider. In one or more embodiments, the data may include the customer's name and/or the name(s) of the parties which are to be permitted to access the account, address, telephone number, social security number, birth date, mother's maiden name and/or other information. In the event the customer is a business, the information may comprise the business name, address, telephone number, taxpayer identification number and/or similar information.
The particular manner by which this information is transmitted to the account provider may depend upon the interface the customer is using. For example, the data may be input into a graphical user interface associated with the account provider's website and then sent to the account provider's computer, such as over the Internet. The data may be provided orally over the phone by the customer to the account provider. The customer may also fill out a printed form and transmit the form, such as by mail or facsimile.
In a step Sic, an account type is established. In one or more embodiments, the account type may comprise one or more of the following: general customer, charity debit, promotional, or allowance account. The account may be utilized for a wide variety of purposes and need not be limited to those described below.
A general customer account is preferably of the type where funds belonging to the customer are assigned or credited to the account, and payments, outgoing transfers and the like are associated with direct debits of these funds from the customer's account. As described below, the customer account preferably permits deposits thereto as well. In one embodiment, the nature of the account as a debit account differs from a credit type account where those funds which are debited belong to the account provider or other creditor with the requirement that the customer repay the account provider with their funds at a date after a particular transaction. In general, the general customer account permits a customer to make and pay for purchases, obtain funds (such as currency), and transfer funds into and out of the account. As described in more detail below, in one embodiment, such transactions may comprise the debiting of funds from the account as payment for a wager or bet when playing a game, and may include the deposit of winnings.
A charity debit account is preferably of the type where the customer may only transfer funds from the account to an authorized charity or similar entity, with no other debits permitted (except return of the funds to the customer or transfer of funds to another account belonging to another account at the specific instruction of the customer). Generally, the customer will provide the account provider specific information
about the charity to which funds are to be transferred. The may only offer accounts having pre-set limits, such as $50,
customer may arrange the account such that funds are debited S100, $250 or $500. In another embodiment of invention, the
and transferred to the charity at one or more predetermined account has no limit.
times and for one or more predetermined amounts. In a step SI/funds are deposited into the account. In an
A promotional account is preferably of the type where the 5 embodiment where the account has a minimum limit, the
. • . • . r , maximum amount of funds which may be deposited into the
customer is a promoter arranging an account tor use by one or A x, r. A ■ i -a
more other parties. For example, the promoter may be a store
account does not exceed the funds maximum value associated with the account.
owner and the parties who may use the account may comprise T ', . . • ,
. , „ , , In one or more embodiments, the customer may provide customers or potential customers of the store. The promo- JQ data whichpermits the account provider to obtain funds electional account is arranged so that the parties or users may tronically. In one or more embodiments, this comprises proaccess the account in accordance with the terms of a promo- viding the account provider with a routing number for a tion offered by the promoter. A promoter may establish an checking or savings account at a bank, account and access account having funds permitting a number of parties to pay information for an ATM card linked to an account, or a credit for a certain dollar amount of goods purchased at their store i5 card. In one or more embodiments, a customer may be pervia the promotional account. For example, a promoter may mitted to deposit funds by mail or similar non or partially establish a promotion for a number of parties, such as 1000 non-electronic manner. A customer may also be permitted to existing customers, whereby $ 10 of each purchase from the deposit monies in person, such as at a cashier cage at a casino promoter over $20 is payed for by the promoter. The $10 or a bank teller.
payment may be debited from the promotional account at the 20 In a step Slg, the established account may be assigned an
time each party makes a qualifying purchase to credit the expiration date. In one or more embodiments of the invention,
parties' payment of the goods or services. In one embodi- this step comprises associating date data with the account,
ment, the promotional account may comprise an account The expiration date may be generated in a wide variety of
entitling a party to play a predetermined amount of money at manners. The expiration date may comprise a date which is
games at a casino, or to obtain other goods or services from 25 determined by adding a fixed period of time to the date on
the casino operator. which the account is established or, as described below, the
An allowance account is preferably of the type where funds date on which the account is activated. As described below,
are arranged to be periodically transferred into the account. the account is arranged such that when the actual date reaches
Such an account may be extremely useful to parents having the expiration date, the account can not be accessed except by
children. In accordance with this account arrangement, funds 30 me account provider.
are periodically transferred into the account for subsequent In a step Sl/z, an account signature is generated and asso
use. The funds may be transferred from another established ciated with the account. The signature comprises a unique
account, or an account or other source not associated with the code or otner element for identifying the account and/or
account provider. For example, parents may establish a cus- establishing entitlement to access the account. In one or more
tomer account from which funds are periodically transferred, 35 embodiments, the account provider generates the code based
such as every two weeks, into an allowance account which is °n one or more elements of data associated with the account,
accessible by one or more of their children. These children such as customer provided data, the initial funds deposit
may access the allowance account to pay for books and the amount, the account number, the account expiration date
like. In this manner, the parents may control (and as described and/or one or more other elements. In one or more embodi
below, track) the spending, of their children or other parties 40 ments, the account signature is generated from, or includes,
which have access to the account. an access code or personal identification number (PIN) data
Anallowanceaccountmayalsobeusedtopaybillsandpay assigned to or selected by the customer as described below. In
for entertainment or be for other purposes. Monies maybe one or more embodiments, the data used to generate the
deposited in the account periodically for paying particular signature may be input into an encryptor to generate an output
bills, especially those which are payable on a predetermined 45 whlch c°mPTMes the account signature. The account signa
regularbasis.Theallowanceaccountmaybeusedtodefinean mremay be generated randomly as well. Preferably, whatever
amount of money for a particular discretionary purpose. For means J? used to Senerate the signature, each signature is
example, a family may deposit monies into an allowance unique for a particular account.
account which may be used in that or successive months for In a steP S1<'the acc°unt slSnature or identification infor
entertainment purposes, such as gaming, travel, movies, or 50 matlon « Provlded to the customer. In one or more embodi
the like ments, the account signature is mailed to the customer, told
. . over the phone by a customer representative of the account
Those of skill in the art will appreciate that the particular idef tQ ^ ... or is transmitted eiectronically to
type(s) of accounts and their various features or characters- thecustomer. As described below, in the event the customer is
tics may be different than those provided above. For example, 55 ided ^ an ... ... then ^ ...
an account may have one or more features associated with signature may be provided on the account media. The account
more than one of the account types provided above. signature may be printed on, embossed in, or encoded on the
In a step Sid, the account provider generates an account account media or an element associated therewith,
number and associates the account number with the account. in a step SI/, an account access code is generated and
The account number may be used by the account provider and 60 associated with the account. In one or more embodiments, the
customer to identify the account. account provider generates the access code. In other embodi
In a step Sle, in one embodiment of the invention, the ments, the customer generates the code and provides it to the
account provider assigns the account with a maximum funds account provider. The access code may comprise a personal
value or value limit. In general, this value may be selected by identification number or "PIN" comprising one or more let
the customer. Most often, the maximum value will comprise 65 ters and/or numbers.
the amount of an initial deposit into the account by the cus- In a step Slk, the access code is provided to the customer,
tomer. In one or more embodiments, the account provider In the case where the customer selects the access code, this
step is completed at the same time as step Sl/z. When the account provider generates the code, the code may be mailed, electronically transmitted or spoken to the customer.
In a step SI/, in one or more embodiments, the customer is provided with an account access media. The access media 5 may comprise a card, check, ticket, chip or a wide variety of other items. In one or more embodiments, the account signature is associated with the access media. When the access media comprises a card, check or the like, the account signature and/or account may be printed or encoded thereon. The 10 account signature may be provided in one or two-dimensional bar code form or be encoded in a magnetic stripe or a chip or other data storage element associated with the media.
The account signature and/or access code may comprise a physical characteristic of the customer. For example, the 15 access code may comprise a fingerprint or the customer's retinal features. In general, the account number, signature and access code are for use in identifying the particular account and ensuring that only those parties with authority to access an account can do so. A variety of other methods and devices 20 may be used for these purposes.
In one or more embodiments, the method need not include all of the above-referenced steps. A variety of other steps and may be associated with the establishment of an account for the customer, and the steps described above need not be 25 completed in the order in which they were described.
In the above—described embodiment, an account number, account signature and access code (i.e. PIN) are used to identify and gain access. For example, in one arrangement, only an account identifier, such as an account number, is 30 assigned and used to gain access to an account. In another embodiment, a PIN is also utilized. In one embodiment, an account number may be used to gain access to an account via a customer service representative. A more complex account signature may be associated with an access media for gaining 35 access to the account, as the user need not remember the complex account signature if it is stored and readable.
Referring again to FIG. 1, in a step S2, an account which the customer wishes to access is activated. Normally, this step will be in response to a customer wishing to access a newly 40 established account.
Referring to FIG. 1(a), there is illustrated one embodiment of a method of activating an account in the event the account has not been activated. In a first step S2a, the customer accesses the account. In one or more embodiments, this step 45 comprises a customer contacting the account provider, such as via a website of the account provider or by telephone with a customer service representative.
In a second step S2b, the customer provides their account number, signature and, in one or more embodiments, the 50 access code. This account identification and access data may be provided by a customer telling an account representative the information, typing the information into a data input accepting element of a graphical user interface of a website, or otherwise transmitting such to the account provider. In one 55 embodiment, the account number and signature may be scanned off of an account media provided the customer, such as with a magnetic stripe or bar code reader.
In a step S2c, the account provider activates the account. In one or more embodiments, this step comprises associating 60 data with the account which indicates that the customer and/ or other designated and/or appropriate parties may utilize and access the account.
The account activation may be accomplished in a wide variety of other manners. For example, in one embodiment, a 65 customer may activate an account by simply calling a phone number of the account provider or entering the appropriate
data into the account provider's website. In this arrangement, it is not necessary for the customer to access the account or provide all of the account information which may be necessary for the customer to use the account.
In one embodiment, an account may be activated for use by a customer at the time it is established. When the account is created, it may automatically be activated by the account provider.
In such an arrangement, any access media associated therewith maybe separately activated. For example, the account may be activated when established, allowing a customer to make deposits, funds transfers or the like through an account provider representative or website. However, the customer may not be permitted to utilize an account media (such as for purchases or cash withdraws) until the customer activates the account as to the media. The customer may activate an access card by calling a representative of the account provider after the card is received or other means.
Referring again to FIG. 1, in a step S3 it is determined if a customer wishes to access an account, as by a customer's attempted use of the account. This step may be remote in time from step S2, or at the same time. For example, a customer may activate an account shortly after establishing it, but not access the account for several days or weeks thereafter. A customer may also wish to activate an account and utilize it at the same time, such as when the customer wishes to pay for a purchase at a store.
In one or more embodiments, this step comprises determining if a customer is accessing a bank, automated teller, customer service representative, account provider website, remote payment station, gaming machine or the like. In order to determine if the customer is attempting to access an account, particular account information and associated access data is required. This data may be provided to the account provider or other account access controlling entity in a number of manners. In one or more embodiments, the account information may be directly provided by the customer, as through data input into a website or spoken to an account representative, or by reading the information from the access media.
The customer may wish to access the account for a number of reasons. For example, in the event a customer wishes to complete a purchase from a vendor, such as on-line or at a store, the customer may seek to access the account to pay for the purchase. The customer may seek access to the account to obtain funds from an automated teller machine.
In one or more embodiments, data must be provided to the account provider to establish the entitlement of the customer to access the designated account. This information may comprise the account signature and/or access code. Again, the particular means and/or method by which this information is provided may vary. In an embodiment where a customer is seeking to access an account using an access media, the account signature may be read or scanned from the card, and the access code may be provided by the customer, such as through a keypad. The customer may also provide such information through a variety of data input devices, such as a computer or customer station at a store, or provide the information directly to an account representative.
When a customer wishes to access an account, in a step S4 it is determined if the access to the account is permitted. In one or more embodiments, and referring to FIG. 1(c), this step includes a step S4a of determining if the provided account access information is correct and complete. In one or more embodiments, this step comprises comparing the provided account identification and/or access information to that associated with the account which the customer is seeking to