US 20030190944 A1
To self-limit play, a player selects a trigger event and an associated action. During play, the game is monitored for the trigger event. If the trigger event occurs, the associated action is performed.
1. A method for self-limiting play of a game, the method comprising:
selecting a trigger event by a player;
selecting an action by the player;
playing the game; and
performing the action.
2. A method according to
3. A method according to
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8. An apparatus for self-limiting play of a game, the apparatus comprising:
selecting means for selecting a trigger event and an associated action by a player;
monitoring means for monitoring the game for the trigger event; and
performance means for performing the associated action.
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the action includes a global ban; and
the performance means further includes a transmission circuit designed to transmit a signal to a central station that the trigger event has occurred.
 This invention pertains to gaming, and more particularly to preventing players from abusing gaming.
 Casino gaming has long been a very successful business. Despite having full knowledge that they have little chance of winning, the allure of the winning a lot of money draws millions of players a year. Whether they play blackjack, any of several varieties of poker, roulette, or slot machines, players dream of beating the house against the odds, and walking away with a big payoff.
 In an effort to keep people coming back despite losing money, casinos have implemented a number of changes in recent years. Gone are the days when casinos were dimly lit rooms filled with dense smoke. Today, casinos are air conditioned, well ventilated, and brightly lit. New methods of increasing payouts, such as progressive jackpots, entice players to groups of machines, rather than individual, specific machines. And recognizing that players travel with their families, casinos provide entertainment to non-players, such as children, as well.
 One technique casinos have been using of late to keep old players and lure new players is with identification cards. By signing up for an identification card with the casino, players can earn points toward bonuses, designed to encourage loyalty to a particular casino. The identification cards also provide a bonus to the casino: the casino gets information about the player's playing habits.
FIG. 1 shows a schematic of several slot machines in a casino. Slot machines 105, 110, and 115 are all connected to central station 120. The slot machines, like slot machine 105, all provide slot 125 for players to insert an identification card. As players play on slot machines 105, 110, and 115, assuming they insert their identification cards into slot 125, the player's history can be stored for later analysis within central station 120 (for example, on a server).
 But there is a risk associated with encouraging players to continue gaming. Gambling addiction is a recognized addiction: the player is unable to control his play. Using identification cards to entice players to continue gaming only exacerbates the problem for addicts, since they are encouraged to do the very activity that is dangerous to them.
 In addition, it is very easy for a player to lose track of how much time he is spending gaming, or how much money has been risked. Even if the player is not addicted to gambling, players can find themselves having invested too much money or time in gaming without realizing it. For example, since casinos are brightly lit during all hours of the day, players do not have the light-based cues alerting them to the passage of time.
 One of the jobs undertaken by casino employees is to remind players to play safely. Thus, if a casino employee notices that a particular individual has been playing a game for several hours, the employee can ask the player if he thinks he has played too much. But it is difficult for casino employees to monitor all players: the number of players is frequently changing, and in any event is too large to effectively monitor with employees.
 Accordingly, a need remains for a way to allow players to monitor their own gaming habits and to limit their playing accordingly, to address these and other problems associated with the prior art.
 The player is given choices for self-limiting play. First, the player selects a trigger event and an associated action to result when the trigger event occurs. Then, while the player plays, the game is monitored to see if the trigger event occurs. If the trigger event occurs, then the associated action is performed.
 The foregoing and other features, objects, and advantages of the invention will become more readily apparent from the following detailed description, which proceeds with reference to the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 shows a schematic of several slot machines in a casino.
FIG. 2 shows an embodiment of a slot machine with an attached self-limiting selection device.
FIG. 3 shows a kiosk for self-limiting of gaming using, for example, the slot machine of FIG. 2.
FIG. 4 shows the kiosk of FIG. 3, further allowing self-limiting of gaming.
FIG. 5 shows the kiosk of FIG. 3, further allowing cancellation of self-limiting of gaming.
FIG. 6 shows the slot machine of FIG. 2 equipped to track and transmit statistics about play.
FIG. 7 shows the slot machine of FIG. 2 limiting play according to the selected self-limit.
FIG. 8 shows a second slot machine in the casino with the slot machine of FIG. 2, the second slot machine also limiting play according to the selected self-limit.
FIG. 9 shows the second slot machine of FIG. 8 in a second casino.
 FIGS. 10A-10C show a flowchart of the method of self-limiting gaming for use in the slot machine of FIG. 2.
FIG. 2 shows an embodiment of a slot machine with an attached self-limiting selection device. In FIG. 2, slot machine 202 includes an attached self-limit selector 205. Self-limit selector 205 is shown as including buttons 210, 220, 230, 240, 250, 260, 270, 276, 278 and 280 for selecting adjacent triggers 215, 225, 235, 245, 255, 265, 275, 277, 279, and 285. (Trigger 279 is shown as blank, but could be used for another trigger not listed here.) For example, if the player wants to self-limit based on play time (trigger 215), the player can press button 210, if the player wants to self-limit based on total buy-in (trigger 225), the player can press button 220, and so on.
 Also included in self-limit selector 205 is a cancel self-limit trigger (trigger 285). This trigger can be used when the player has a previously established self-limit which he wishes to remove. By canceling the self-limit, the player can play without worrying about how much or how long he plays. However, in an alternative embodiment, the cancel self-limit trigger (trigger 285) is not presented, to avoid players who need a self-limit being able to stop self-limiting early. In the alternative embodiment, players can only cancel a self-limit via an attendant.
 There are several different ways players can self-limit. Each of these techniques is now explained briefly. First, a player can select to self-limit based on time (trigger 215): for example, the player can indicate that he wants to be stopped after playing for two hours. A player can select to self-limit based on his total buy-in in a fixed amount of time (trigger 225): for example, the player can indicate that he wants the game to stop if he inserts $200 into the game. (Buy-in is defined as the amount of money the player inserts into the game out of his pocket, without regard to any winnings or actual play.) The player can select to self-limit based on coin-in in a fixed amount of time (trigger 235): for example, the player can indicate that he wants the game to stop if he “drops” $100 into the game. (Coin-in is defined as the amount of money actually spent playing the game.) Note that the terms “coinin” and “drops” suggest that actual coins are used. But a person skilled in the art will recognize that bills can be “dropped” into the machine, and count as “coin” for purposes of calculating the “coin-in” for the machine.
 To help make clear the distinction between buy-in and coin-in, consider the following situation. A player sits down at a $1 slot machine (i.e., a slot machine that takes bets in increments of $1). The player inserts a $100 bill into the machine, establishing a credit of $100 in the machine. The player then plays 30 games at $1 apiece, and loses every game. The player then cashes out his remaining credit, receiving $70 back. The player's buy-in is $100, since he inserted a $100 bill into the machine. In contrast, the player's coin-in is $30, since he played 30 $1 games.
 Although in the above example the player's buy-in was higher than the player's coin-in, a person skilled in the art will recognize that the opposite can also be true. For example, a player can insert $1 into a $1 slot machine and immediately win a $100 jackpot. The player can then play $29 more games without winning anything, and then cash out the remaining $71. In this case, the player's buy-in would be $1 since the player only inserted one $1 bill, but the player's coin-in would be $30 since he played 30 $1 games.
 Returning to FIG. 2, the player can select to self-limit his play based on his accrued credit. Accrued credit is defined as buy-in+jackpot−coin-in−coin-out. There are two preferred ways accrued credit can be used to self-limit play, although a person skilled in the art will recognize other ways accrued credit can be used as a self-limit. The first way to self-limit play based on accrued credit is by comparing the accrued credit with a fixed limit. When the accrued credit exceeds the fixed limit, play is stopped. The disadvantage of this technique is that with a sufficient buy-in, play can be stopped before the player has played even one game.
 The second way to use accrued credit to self-limit play is to stop play when the accrued credit drops to some fraction of its maximum value. For example, if the accrued credit reaches a maximum value of 1000 coins, play can be stopped when the accrued credit drops to 500 coins. (Of course, if the player continues to win and the accrued credit reaches, say, 1500 coins, then play would be stopped when the accrued credit drops to 750 coins.) There are two disadvantages to this use of accrued credit. First, play can continue for an arbitrary length of time, provided the accrued credit does not drop too low. Second, by cashing out, the player could reset the accrued credit counter and continue playing indefinitely.
 A player can select to self-limit based on a one-time win (trigger 255): for example, the player can indicate that he wants to be stopped if he wins a 100-coinjackpot. This self-limit, like accrued credit, has the problem that play can continue indefinitely, since there is no way to tell when a player will hit the trigger jackpot amount. A player can select to self-limit based on a total win (trigger 265) or a total loss (trigger 275). Under these triggers, when the total win level (i.e., jackpots−coin-in) or total loss level (i.e., coin-in−jackpots) is reached, play is stopped. Again, these triggers can allow for unlimited play, if the total win level or total loss level is not reached.
 A player can select to self-limit based on a maximum bet (trigger 277). For example, the player can indicate that he wants to be stopped if he tries to bet, say, more than $25 at one time. Such a self-limit can allow for unlimited play, if the player never tries to exceed the maximum bet.
 All of the self-limits (triggers 215, 225, 235, 245, 255, 265, 275, and 277) can operate on timers. That is, after a certain amount of time, the statistics being tracked by the casino to help the player self-limit will be erased. For example, consider a self-limit using play time (trigger 215). Assume the player set the time limit to three hours. The player then plays two hours and leaves the casino, not returning until the next day. If the casino does not erase the statistics, then the player will only be able to play 1 hour the next day. This is counterproductive for two reasons. First, the casino will lose business from the player, since it is capping his play time at a total of three hours within the casino over the player's life, until the self-limit is changed or canceled. Second, the player is not concerned with how much he plays over his life, but rather with how much he plays within a certain period of time.
 There are several techniques that can be used to decide when to erase statistics. For example, the casino can erase the statistics at midnight, when a new day starts. Or the casino can erase the statistics after a window of, say, eight hours without any play by the player. Or the casino can track every game statistic generated by the player within a window of, say, eight hours, and can erase statistics that were generated outside the window. (The eight-hour duration of the windows presented above is arbitrary: larger or smaller windows can be used. Further, the window width can be determined by the casino or the player.) A person skilled in the art will recognize other techniques the casino can use to determine when to erase statistics. For ease of reference, the remainder of this document assumes that statistics are erased at midnight each day.
 Although in FIG. 2 self-limit selector 205 is shown with buttons for selecting a trigger and as attached to slot machine 202, other formats are available. For example, self-limit selector 205 can be at an attended station. By positioning self-limit selector 205 at an attended station, a casino employee can assist the player in selecting an appropriate self-limit. Or touch screen can be stationed at a kiosk, allowing players to self-limit without assistance. By using a station or kiosk, the impression that the selected self-limit applies to only a single game (which is an incorrect impression) can be avoided. Finally, self-limit selector can use a touch screen, instead of buttons.
FIG. 3 shows self-limit selector 310 of FIG. 2 as part of kiosk 305. In FIG. 3, self-limit selector 310 uses a touch screen, so buttons are not needed. FIG. 3 shows self-limit selector 310 after the player has selected to limit play based on total buy-in per unit time (trigger 225 from FIG. 2). Self-selector 310 of FIG. 3 prompts the player to specify the total buy-in and the unit time interval to be used. Field 315 is used to store the total buy-in allowed, and field 320 is used to store the unit time interval. The player can touch field 315 and use keypad 325 (again implemented using touch screen technology) to enter the maximum total buy-in. The player can then touch field 320 and use keypad 325 to enter the unit time. When the player is finished, the player can press done button 330 to store the self-limit.
FIG. 4 shows the kiosk of FIG. 3, further allowing self-limiting of gaming. Once the player has selected the desired trigger event, the player can select the appropriate action. Four actions are presented to the player: notification (action 405), forced rest (action 410), ban (action 415), and global ban (action 420). Notification (action 405) is the least intrusive alternative: the player is notified, preferably via a message displayed on a screen on the game, that the trigger event has occurred. The player can continue to play, if desired, without any repercussions. Forced rest (action 410) stops play of the game until the player has rested for some period of time. As with the trigger event, the player can specify the duration of the forced rest period, or the casino can establish a predefined rest period. Ban (action 415) blocks the player from playing in the casino until the ban is removed. As discussed above with reference to FIG. 2, the player can removed the ban in a manner similar to canceling the self-limit, but preferably removing the ban requires the involvement of a casino employee. Finally, global ban (action 420) not only bans the player from playing within the casino, but also from playing in other casinos that share statistics with the casino.
 Although the actions described above (notification, forced rest, banning, and global banning) are explained in the context of slot machines, they can be applied to other gaming alternatives, such as table games, bingo, sports betting, etc. For example, when a player sits down at a blackjack table, the dealer can ask the player for his identification card. A swipe of the identification card lets the dealer access information about the player, such as that the player might be in a forced rest period (in which case the dealer should refuse to let the player participate in the game). The dealer can also use the identification card to add statistics to the player information, such as buy-in at the table.
 Banning and global banning can also be applied beyond the scope of playing a machine or a game. For example, some casinos use turnstiles to control admission to the casino (such as casinos in Missouri, where the tax on casinos is based on the number of people in the casino during a cruise). To enter the casino, the player must use his identification card at the turnstile. If a player is banned from the casino, he can be prevented from even entering the casino, since once his identification card is scanned, the system can identify the player as a banned player.
FIG. 5 shows the kiosk of FIG. 3, further allowing cancellation of self-limiting of gaming. In FIG. 5, the player has selected to cancel the self-limit. Self-limit selector 310, again using the touch screen, presents the player with field 505, querying the player to make sure he wants to cancel the self-limit. If the player touches field 510, the self-limit is canceled. Otherwise, if the player touches field 515, the self-limit is retained.
FIG. 6 shows the slot machine of FIG. 2 equipped to track and transmit statistics about play. For simplicity, FIG. 6 does not show self-limit selector 205 of FIG. 2 attached to slot machine 202. In FIG. 6, the player has chosen to self-limit play based on total buy-in per unit time. Memory 605 stores the current statistics of the game. As can be seen, in memory 605 the player has been gaming for one hour, 12 minutes, and has so far bought in $395.
 As shown in FIG. 6, slot machine 202 can include display 610. Display 610 allows the player to track on his own the statistics that the microprocessor (not shown in FIG. 6) within slot machine 202 is tracking.
 As statistics are generated by slot machine 202 and stored in memory 605, they can be forward to transmission circuit 615. Transmission circuit 615 is in turn responsible for forwarding the statistics, along with player identification information, to central station 620. By having each game forward statistics to central station 620, the player can play several games over time, and statistics generated by each game can be cumulated to compare with the self-limit.
 Central station 620 is similar to central station 120 of FIG. 1, except that central station 620 includes comparator 625. Comparator 625 compares the statistics generated by slot machine 202 (cumulative with any other games played by the player) and compares the statistics with the self-limits established by the player.
 Although FIG. 6 shows central station 620 determining whether the trigger event has occurred, a person skilled in the art will recognize that other configurations are possible. For example, when the player inserts his card in the slot in slot machine 202, slot machine 202 can send a request to central station 620 for the player's statistics, the trigger event, and the associated action. Then, slot machine 202 can add to the statistics as the player plays. If the trigger event occurs, slot machine 202 can execute the associated action. Finally, when the player withdraws his card from the slot in slot machine 202, slot machine 202 can transmit updated statistics back to central station 620.
 Where slot machine 202 monitor's the player's activities, there are several variations of the embodiment. In one variation, slot machine 202 monitors the player's activities using its standard microprocessor. In another variation, a specialized circuit, (for example, built into a daughterboard for slot machine 202) monitors the player's activities, freeing up the microprocessor for other activities. A person skilled in the art will recognize other ways in which slot machine 202 can monitor the player's activities.
 Provided the trigger event does not occur (for example, in FIG. 6, the trigger event is $500 buy-in in two hours), the player can continue to play. But when the trigger event occurs, central station 620 executes the associated action. FIG. 7 shows the slot machine of FIG. 2 limiting play according to the selected self-limit. In FIG. 7, the player has selected to self-limit play to a total buy-in of $500 within two hours. But, in the 86 minutes since the player began playing, his buy-in has reached $525, as shown by the statistics in memory 705. Since comparator 625 has determined that the trigger event has occurred, central station 620 sends a message to slot machine 202. The message is received by receiver circuit 715 and displayed in display 717.
 Depending on the message received from central station 620, receiver circuit 715 can also instruct blocking circuit 720 to block the player from further playing slot machine 202. Blocking circuit 720 is not activated if the associated action is only a notification. But if the associated action is a forced rest, ban, or global ban, blocking circuit 720 simply refuses to let the player do anything but cash out any remaining credits and remove his identification card.
FIG. 8 shows a second slot machine in the casino with the slot machine of FIG. 2, the second slot machine also limiting play according to the selected self-limit. In FIG. 8, the player has spent some time and money playing on slot machine 202. As can be seen in memory 805, the player has been playing for 1 hour and 26 minutes, and has a total buy-in of $525 in that time. Because the player has chosen to limit his total buy-in to $500 within two hours, the player's self-limit has prevented further play on slot machine 202. As discussed above, the statistics generated by slot machine 202 are transmitted to central station 620. The player tries to then play slot machine 810, on the premise that one machine does not know what has transpired at another machine. When slot machine 810 communicates with central station 620, central station 620 sends a message to slot machine 810, indicating that player has reached the self-limit. Slot machine 810 then displays the message in display 815, that the player has exceeded the limit. Finally, blocking circuit 720 blocks the player from further playing slot machine 810.
 Although FIG. 8 shows the player attempting to play a second slot machine within the same casino, there is no reason to limit the invention to slot machines within the same casino. FIG. 9 shows the second slot machine of FIG. 8 in a second casino. In FIG. 9, slot machine 202 is in casino 905. Slot machine 910 is in casino 915. If the player attempts to play slot machine 910 in casino 915, slot machine 910 communicates with central station 620 in casino 905. The self-limits, as well as statistics generated within casino 905 can then be applied to the player in casino 915.
 Although FIG. 9 shows slot machine 910 in casino 915 communicating with station 620 in casino 905, a person skilled in the art will recognize that slot machine 910 can instead communicate with a central station (not shown in FIG. 9) in casino 915. When the player attempts to play slot machine 910 in casino 915, the second central station can query central station 620 for any player statistics. By using different central stations in different casinos, self-limits can be imposed both intra-casino and inter-casino, as desired.
 Although typically casinos share player information only with other casinos within the corporate family, a person skilled in the art will recognize that this is an arbitrary limitation. By sharing player information with casinos in another corporate family, self-limits can be made more effective, as players will not be able to avoid the limits simply by heading to a casino in a different corporate family.
 FIGS. 10A-10C show a flowchart of the method of self-limiting gaming for use in the slot machine of FIG. 2. In FIG. 10A, at step 1005, the player selects a trigger event. At step 1010, the player selects an associated action to occur when the trigger event is reached. At step 1015, the player prepares to play the machine (e.g., by inserting his identification card). The player identification is then transmitted to the central station. This allows the central station to load any statistics already generated by the player. At step 1020 (FIG. 10B), the player begins to play the game. At step 1025, the game transmits play statistics to the central station. At step 1030, the central station checks to see if the trigger event has occurred. If the trigger event has not occurred, then at step 1035 the game checks to see if the player is still playing the game. If the player is still playing the game, then processing returns to step 1020.
 If at step 1030 the trigger event occurred, then at step 1040 (FIG. 10C) the associated action (notification, forced rest, ban, or global ban) is performed. Then, if the trigger event occurred (at step 1030 in FIG. 10B) or if player has stopped playing (at step 1035 in FIG. 10B), then at step 1050 the system checks to see if the player has chosen to cancel the self-limit. If the player has chosen to cancel the self-limit, then at step 1055 the self-limit is canceled.
FIG. 10C is slightly incomplete in representing what happens if the associated action is notification. As described above, notification simply alerts the player that the self-limit has been reached. Notification does not force the player to stop playing. Accordingly, even if the associated action of notification is performed at step 1040 in FIG. 10C, the player can continue playing at step 1035 in FIG. 10B.
 Although FIGS. 10A-10C describe the central station monitoring the player's play, a person skilled in the art will recognize how FIGS. 10A-10C can be modified to allow the game to monitor the player for self-limits. Specifically, when the player begins playing at step 1015 of FIG. 10A, the central station can transmit, at the machine's request, the player's statistics, trigger event, and associated action. Step 1025 can be eliminated, and the machine can check for the trigger event itself at step 1030. Finally, a new step is necessary before step 1050, so that the machine can transmit updated statistics to the central station.
 A person skilled in the art will also recognize that the flowchart of FIGS. 10A-10C consists of three groups of events, which do not have to occur at or near the same time. Specifically, the player can select the self-limit in steps 1005-1010 of FIG. 10A at one time, play the machine in steps 1015-1040 of FIGS. 10A-10C at another time, and cancel the self-limits in steps 1050-1055 of FIG. 10C at a third time.
 While the above discussion is centered on a player self-limiting play, a person skilled in the art will recognize that these limits can be invoked on behalf of a player without their involvement. For example, if a player knows he has a problem with gambling but nonetheless plays, the player's doctor (e.g., psychologist) can instruct the casino to limit play on the player's behalf. The casino is then responsible for setting the appropriate limits for the player. Of course, in this variation, the casino can request an authorization from the player to accept limit instructions from the player's doctor.
 A person skilled in the art will also recognize that, although the above discussion utilizes a slot machine, the description is equally applicable to other games. The invention is also applicable to non-electronic games, such as blackjack, poker, craps, and the like, although the determination of the player's wins and losses in these games typically requires dealer involvement.
 Having illustrated and described the principles of our invention in a preferred embodiment thereof, it should be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that the invention can be modified in arrangement and detail without departing from such principles. We claim all modifications coming within the spirit and scope of the accompanying claims.