|Publication number||WO2007080421 A1|
|Publication date||19 Jul 2007|
|Filing date||15 Jan 2007|
|Priority date||13 Jan 2006|
|Also published as||WO2007080421B1|
|Publication number||PCT/2007/103, PCT/GB/2007/000103, PCT/GB/2007/00103, PCT/GB/7/000103, PCT/GB/7/00103, PCT/GB2007/000103, PCT/GB2007/00103, PCT/GB2007000103, PCT/GB200700103, PCT/GB7/000103, PCT/GB7/00103, PCT/GB7000103, PCT/GB700103, WO 2007/080421 A1, WO 2007080421 A1, WO 2007080421A1, WO-A1-2007080421, WO2007/080421A1, WO2007080421 A1, WO2007080421A1|
|Inventors||Anton James Churchill, Steven James Slough|
|Applicant||Casino Technologies Limited|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (5), Referenced by (1), Classifications (7), Legal Events (3)|
|External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet|
This invention relates to roulette wheels and more particularly to roulette wheels which are adapted to enable secure, accurate and monitored operation particularly in conjunction with distributed play, i.e. play in which participation is not limited to a relatively small number of people physically gathered around a roulette table.
The rules of roulette do vary slightly from country to country and, indeed, within jurisdictions but, generally speaking, they require that for each "play", a rotating wheel portion of a roulette wheel is spun, bets are placed by the players, a ball is then propelled into the annular track which surrounds the rotating wheel, with sufficient speed to ensure that it continues around the track for several laps and then, as its energy is dissipated, drops downwards and radially inwards towards the rotating wheel portion, eventually coming to rest in one of the numbered pockets. This basic structure of each play is the same irrespective of whether the wheel is continuously rotated by a suitable drive means or whether it is spun manually by the croupier, continuing to rotate under its own momentum, and irrespective of whether the ball is projected into the track manually by the croupier or mechanically by an appropriate mechanism, often referred to as a "ballshooter".
At some point during the play, the croupier calls a halt to the placing of further bets, usually just before the ball starts to approach the rotating wheel portion.
Once the ball has become securely lodged in one of the pockets of the rotating wheel portion, which pocket it is lodged in needs to be detected, so that the result can be announced and the stakes collected and payouts made consequent on the bets being placed and the result itself. This is conventionally done by a croupier located at a roulette table around which the players are physically present.
Since its development, roulette has been a popular casino game, part of its attraction being its transparency of operation. Rendering the outcome, i.e. which numbered pocket of the rotating wheel portion of the roulette wheel the ball falls into, otherwise than random is difficult, and the result is instantly and clearly visible to those playing. The variety of the different types of bets which may be placed allows for different game playing strategies to be practised and the game remains very popular.
In recent years, two areas of development have occurred: in one, a number of suggestions have been proposed to mechanise roulette wheels and the tables associated with them for a variety of purposes. With the development and availability of electronic displays, the markings on roulette tables may be back-illuminated. Additionally, sensing means may be associated with the roulette wheel itself with a view to determining parameters such as the direction of spin of the rotatable wheel portion, the direction of rotation of the ball in the annular track, see e.g. US-A-4396193, EP-A-0046306, DE- 20320888 C1 and the detection of which of specific numbered pocket the ball comes to rest in, see e.g. US-A-4396193, US-A-4643425, US-A- 4735416, GB-A-2348821 and GB-A-2395139. Some of the ball position sensing mechanisms have relied on the positioning of some form of sensor or detector head above the edge of the rotating wheel portion, which, while effective, is unaesthetic and disliked by the traditional physical players present round the wheel.
A separate area of development relates to the desire by casino operators to attract more people to play a game of roulette. The physical space around a traditional roulette table restricts the number of people who can effectively play at any one time and while this may be satisfactory from the point of view of the casino operator if the stakes are sufficiently high, in general terms, it can be seen as restricting their profits. Systems have accordingly been developed to enable players who are not situated immediately adjacent the roulette table to play, for example by a remote display of what is going on at any particular roulette table and which can be within the same general physical location such as a casino, or, more recently, by making use of the wholly remote display possibilities afforded by means of high speed network communications technology.
Indeed, in that area, there are numerous proposals for operation of casino type games including roulette in a wholly virtual environment, i.e. there is no physical "roulette wheel" and the game is entirely operated in accordance with what the players hope is an impartial programme.
Although playing roulette in this virtual way is acceptable to some players, there is a very substantial concern by others that play should be essentially based on the behaviour of a traditional physical roulette wheel, and that, for player confidence, the wheel itself should be supervised by a real croupier, located in a real, legitimate and appropriately licensed gambling establishment.
As just noted, the use of traditional roulette wheels and real persons operating them instills a degree of confidence in the players even if those players are operating from a remote terminal connected via the Internet, and this promotes the use of the services of the roulette wheel operator in question. What that operator naturally also wishes to do is to be able to ensure that the systems are being operated correctly and that they are physically functioning properly.
It is the object of the present invention to provide improved roulette wheels which are designed to be operated by a real person in traditional fashion, which maintain the traditional and familiar appearance of the wheel set in a roulette table, which enable play to be carried out in connection with that wheel both locally to it and remotely from it, and which enables the operation of the wheel to be properly monitored and analysed.
According to a first feature of the present invention, there is provided a roulette wheel consisting of a rotatable wheel having a series of peripheral pockets and set in a surrounding casing, wherein the casing has an annular surface providing a track around which a ball may travel, the lower edge of the annular surface being substantially located at the same height as the edge of the rotating wheel when the roulette wheel is in use wherein, located at a number of angularly spaced positions around the track, sensors are provided to enable detection of the passage of a ball past the sensor as it circulates in the track, wherein sensors are provided to detect which pocket on the wheel a ball falls into, and wherein the sensors are unobtrusive and the outputs from the sensors are fed to a processing and recording device to enable the performance of the wheel to be analysed.
According to a further feature of the present invention, there is provided a roulette wheel comprising a rotatable segmented wheel mounted for rotation about a generally vertical axis in an external housing, the rotatable wheel having a set of angularly spaced segments with a depression in each segment adapted to receive a ball rolling from a surface of the housing on to the surface of the rotatable wheel under the effect of gravity, and characterised in that the base of the pocket is formed of transparent material and that, at two or more angularly spaced positions below the rotatable wheel, there is located an emitter/sensor unit, wherein the emitter is capable of emitting radiation which will pass through the transparent window and be reflected from a ball above the window (if present) and the sensor is adapted to detect emitted radiation reflected from the ball. The provision of at least two such emitter/sensor units materially improves the monitoring capacity compared to that possible with the system shown in EP-A-0046306.
Preferably the direction of emitted and reflected radiation is not at an angle substantially normal to the transparent window itself. Preferably there are at least three emitter/sensor units located at spaced positions around the axis of the rotatable wheel and below it. Preferably the rotatable wheel also carries a position coding disc or ring and, adjacent the position coding disc or ring, in fixed relationship to the housing, is a detector unit capable of sensing the coding on the ring and providing a signal representative thereof.
An alternative approach to the detection of the pocket into which the ball has dropped is to provide an unobtrusive optical detector mounted around the annular track. Preferably at least two such optical detectors are mounted around that track and in a particularly preferred form of the invention the roulette wheel includes, located around the track, an annular base member having mounted on it at angularly spaced positions around it, a plurality of sensors, at least two of which are arranged to detect the passage of a ball in the track past the sensors and at least two of which are arranged to detect the passage of a ball located in a pocket.
The individual features of the invention indicated above may be used separately or, preferably, are used in combination in order to provide a roulette wheel which may be used in a conventional casino type environment, i.e. located at one end of a roulette table and supervised by a human croupier, but which at the same time may be enabled, by suitable electronics, to link with not only an appropriate audit and data storage system, either located in the casino itself or managed remotely by a casino operator and/or regulator, but additionally to enable the position of the wheel and the location of the ball to be transmitted essentially instantaneously via a communications network to players remote from the physical location of the wheel itself.
By using appropriate processing techniques on signals derived from the various sensors, the details of each "play" may be continuously monitored and appropriate details recorded for audit purposes. Thus, the sensors located in the housing at spaced positions round the annular ball track may provide signals which indicate the direction of rotation of the ball in the track as well as essentially counting the number of times the ball rotates in the track before it falls downwardly on to the rotating wheel. If the number of laps traversed by the ball is insufficient for the play to be a valid one under local regulations, that play can be instantaneously aborted and, by using appropriate visual or audio-visual signalling means, the croupier and the players may be alerted to this fact. Also, the decision as to when to cut off the betting may be automatically generated and signalled to those at the table as well as to remote players.
The length of time between the ball leaving the track and coming to rest in one of the pockets in the rotating wheel may likewise be monitored and, as soon as the ball has come to rest in one of the pockets, it is possible very rapidly to determine which pocket it is since, sooner or later, that pocket will travel past e.g. an emitter/sensor unit located below it or a sensor mounted on a ring above the track, and a signal representative of a ball being present may be combined with a signal derived from the coding disc to enable the electronics to identify the number associated with the pocket and display it or (using standard voice synthesis technology) announce it.
The detailed programming and operation of roulette using wheels in accordance with the invention may vary very widely and the appropriate programming must be undertaken to enable them to be operated. The present description does not go into details of that since it is standard and straightforward. Rather, the invention resides in the various features, separately or taken together, identified above. It should, however, be observed that, by using sensor data, not only in real time to monitor and control each 'play1, but by storing it for later analysis, very sophisticated monitoring of the performance of each wheel may be achieved, leading either to the detection of under-performance of the wheel itself (in which case it may be repaired or reformatted) or to the detection of interference with its operation. Additionally, unusual behaviour by the croupier, for example a strong preference to launch the ball into the track only in one sense, may be detected and appropriate action then taken.
The invention may be applied to roulette wheels which are purely hand-spun and to those driven in continuous rotation.
The invention is illustrated by way of example (and not by way of limitation), with reference to a roulette wheel shown in the accompanying drawings in which:
Figure 1 is a part broken away general perspective view of a roulette wheel in accordance with the present invention,
Figure 2 is a diagrammatic illustration relating to the detection of the presence of a ball,
Figure 3 is a diagrammatic representation of a modular sensor unit for installation below the rotating wheel portion in the housing of the roulette wheel,
Figure 4 is a diagrammatic representation of a sensor ring, and Figure 5 is a diagrammatic vertical partial section through the wall of a roulette wheel showing how the ring of Figure 4 is mounted thereon.
Referring to Figures 1 to 3 of the drawings, and more particularly Figure 1 , a particular embodiment of a roulette wheel according to the invention illustrated in the drawings consists of a rotatable wheel 1 set in a generally cylindrical outer casing 2. The wheel itself is mounted on a central bearing assembly generally indicated at 3 and has an upwardly projecting vertical stub shaft 5 which may be twisted to rotate the wheel 1 about a vertical axis.
The mass, and accordingly the inertia of the wheel when rotating, are substantial so that, once set in rotation, the wheel will continue to rotate, in whichever direction it is spun, for some time before gradually slowing down. As indicated, the upper surface of the wheel consists of an inner generally frusto-conical surface 6 which extends from the base of the stub shaft 5 downwards to a ring of pockets 7. Radially outwardly of pockets 7 is located a marked annular frusto-conical section 10 which bears the numbers 1 to 36, 0 and, if appropriate, 00 in conventional fashion, displayed in red and black as is traditional.
Surrounding the outer rim of the wheel 1 is a sloping frusto-conical surface 12 having a series of raised lozenge-shaped bumps formed in it or set on to it, these being denoted 14 in the drawing and being arranged to interfere with the direction of travel of the ball which passes across surface 12 when a "play" of roulette is carried out.
Surface 12 merges into an annular ring surface 16 which, in cross-section in a vertical plane, is concave and shaped so that if a roulette ball is projected in a direction substantially tangential to but slightly spaced from the edge of the rotating wheel, it then is forced to roll around against the surface 16, held against that surface by centrifugal force so long as its speed is sufficient. As its speed drops after a few revolutions (provided it has been impelled to run round the rim with sufficient velocity in the first place), the ball drops towards the surface 12 rolling as it does so, usually then impacting on one or more of the raised areas 14 and eventually rolling across surface 10 and into one of the pockets 7. It may do so without venturing on to the frusto-conical surface 6, but sometimes the momentum possessed by the ball is sufficient that it initially jumps the ring of pockets 7 and then rolls back down from surface 6 to lodge, sooner or later, in one of the pockets 7.
While it is circulating in the track 16, the ball goes successively past five detector heads 20 mounted around the upper edge of the surface 16 and located inside casing 2. These may be optical, magnetic or some other variety of detector, the only necessary criterion being that they are able to provide a signal when a ball passes them. With suitable electronics connected to the outputs of the detectors 20 it is straightforward to determine when a ball is rolling round the track, how fast it is going and in which direction.
The floor of each pocket 7 is made of transparent material. By this is not necessarily meant a material which, to the human eye, looks transparent, but rather one which is transparent to light type radiation from an appropriate source, in particular transparent to infrared radiation. By suitable choice of materials, the base of each pocket may be made to look exactly like the normal base of a conventional roulette wheel, but nevertheless be transparent to radiation which may be reflected from a ball, if there is one in the pocket.
Located at three equally angularly spaced positions about the axis of rotation of the wheel, and underneath the wheel in the casing 2, are three generally wedge-shaped sensor support plates 25. These contain various sensors, the operation of which will be described below. In particular, radially inner sensors may detect markings on the undersurface of a disc 26 which is fixed to the underside of the rotatable wheels 1. Turning now to the sensor support plates 25, one of these is illustrated in an enlarged scale, diagrammatically, and not installed in the roulette wheel itself, in Figure 3.
As can be seen, set on the sensor support plate 25 is a line of seven optical semiconductor sensor devices 28, and, separately, an emitter/sensor combination 30, 31. Emitter 30 is configured to emit light of a given wavelength, most preferably infrared, while the sensor 31 is sensitive to such radiation.
Angularly spaced from emitter 30 and sensor 31 is a second emitter/sensor pair 30', 31 '.
Diagrammatically indicated in Figure 3 is the location of the generally trapezoidal-shaped base of one of the pockets 7, denoted 33 in Figure 3. Additionally to that, the position of a ball in such a pocket is indicated at 34.
The precise operation of ball sensing is illustrated diagrammatically in Figure 2. This essentially shows a vertical section through the floor of one of the pockets 7 which, as illustrated, consists of a thin sheet of acrylic plastics material denoted 40. The emitter 30 or 30' is a conventional packaged component which is arranged to emit a beam of infrared radiation in a specific direction and this emitted beam is denoted 41 in Figure 2.
As can be seen from the right-hand portion of the Figure, where there is no ball located in the pocket, i.e. above the acrylic plastics sheet 40, the radiation passes predominantly through the sheet 40, emergent beam 42 shown in the drawing, though there will be minor reflected beams denoted 43 at the two surfaces of sheet 40. However, because beam 41 is directed not normally to the plane of sheet 40, these minor reflections 43 are directed laterally away from the incident beam 41. The left-hand portion of Figure 2 shows the position when a roulette ball is lying on top of sheet 40, the ball being denoted 50. The surface of a roulette ball is conventionally highly polished metal and this constitutes a good mirror reflective surface so that, instead of an emergent beam 42, a reflected beam 45 travels back from the ball through the acrylic sheet 40. As it does so, there are minor reflective losses denoted 46 which, from obvious geometrical considerations, are directed oppositely to the stray reflection beams 43, but, as can be seen, the reflected beam 45 is pointing back at the location of the emitter and accordingly if the emitter 30, 30' is placed adjacent the respective sensor 31 , 31', then the sensor will pick up the reflected beam 45 and the processing electronics connected to the sensor can then interpret the reflection as indicating the presence of a ball.
The use of infrared radiation emitters and detectors is convenient not least because the radiation they emit is invisible to the human eye and accordingly, combined with the fact that the sheet 40 may be non- transparent to optical wavelengths means that the detection is completely invisible, i.e. the roulette wheel looks just as it does normally. However, there are often many sources of infrared radiation around, i.e. there is a lot of "background noise", in particular from lighting apparatus, for example, in the context of the present invention, the high-powered down lighters which conventionally illuminate the playing area of a roulette table and, more particularly, the wheel, so that everyone can see what is going on.
In order to be able to compensate for this, the signals from emitter/sensor combination 30, 31 and emitter/sensor combination 30, 31' may be compared. Put very simply, by continuously subtracting the background noise signal from detector 31 ' from the signal from detector 31 (as shown in Figure 3), the signal resulting from reflection from the ball 34 may be identified, so substantially increasing the reliability of proper detection, and this may be further increased by providing, as shown in Figure 1 , more than one sensor support plate and arranging the software to delay the announcement of which pocket the ball has lodged in until, for example, the same result has been produced by two successive ball detections.
A further feature which may be incorporated into the processing of the signals from the sensors 31 , 31' is to look at the signals only at a point in time when the sensors are "looking at" the underside of the base of each pocket, and correspondingly ignoring the signal when the sensor is pointing at the dividing wall between two adjacent pockets.
These dividing walls are normally made of metal and can accordingly give rise to substantial spurious reflections of the beam from the respective emitter, so it is best to look at the signals from the sensors only when the dividing walls are out of the way. This may be easily achieved electronically, particularly since the precise angular position of the wheel as it rotates is continuously being detected by the row of sensors 28 and their associated electronics, the sensors reacting to the coded disc on the underside of the rotatable wheel 1.
Clearly, numerous modifications may be made in terms of the detailed construction of the wheel, but, as can be seen from Figure 1 , the overall appearance of the wheel to the roulette players is substantially identical to the appearance of a traditional purely mechanical roulette wheel, i.e. one having no sensors of any sort, and just one moving part - the rotatable wheel itself.
However, the sensors described above are connected and the signals from those sensors processed to enable the precise real time monitoring of operation of the roulette wheel in question. This operation is recorded, for example, using standard computer programming technology, and the record may be processed in real time or downstream separately to monitor wheel performance. Figures 4 and 5 show an alternative approach to producing a roulette wheel which likewise is adapted for monitoring. The approach shown in Figures 4 and 5 is of particular value where a casino operator wishes to enhance the effect of a given roulette wheel by making its operation available to a wider audience and who separately wishes to be able to monitor the operation of that wheel (and its croupier) appropriately, but who does not wish to invest in original equipment in the form of a new wheel, for example, of the construction described above. Accordingly, the system show in Figures 4 and 5 consists of a ring 50 of rigid material having recesses at a number of spaced angular positions around it each of which receives a sensor block 51 or 52. As shown in Figure 4, there are two sensor blocks 51 which are designed to detect the presence of a ball in the pocket, while there are five sensor blocks 52, each of which is configured to enable detection of the passage of a bail rolling in the annular track past the sensor block. The sensor blocks 51 and 52 look in the direction of the track, their field of vision being denoted 55 in Figure 5, or of the pockets at the rim of the rotating wheel member, the field of vision denoted 56 in Figure 5, respectively. It should be noted that although Figure 5 is a notional vertical section, both the angle of view of the detectors on detector blocks 51 , denoted 58 and that of the detectors on detector blocks 52 (denoted 59) is shown, even though these are angularly spaced from one another around the ring 50.
Signals from the detector blocks 51 and 52 are fed out through a suitable signal lead 60 and connected to an appropriate signal processing device, for example an appropriately programmed computer.
As can be seen from Figure 5, the ring 50 sits on top of the heavy roulette wheel base 62 and is covered by an annular covering 64. The ring 64 may have an entirely plain upper surface, or, for example, bear an appropriate decorative pattern but, in either event, it simply looks like the top rim of the housing which contains the rotating wheel. The sensors may rely on reflections from the ball as it passes at wavelengths which are not visible to the human eye, and accordingly their operation cannot be seen. The overall appearance of the wheel is accordingly that of an entirely traditional roulette wheel.
|Cited Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|WO2001032278A1 *||6 Nov 2000||10 May 2001||Richard William Cammegh||Improved roulette wheel|
|EP0046306A1 *||19 Aug 1981||24 Feb 1982||Perner, Erich||Roulette game|
|EP0160157A2 *||26 Oct 1984||6 Nov 1985||Mario Herzenberger||An electronic roulette structure|
|GB2395139A *||Title not available|
|US4396193 *||18 May 1981||2 Aug 1983||Imagineering, Inc.||Roulette wheel directional sensing apparatus|
|Citing Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US7708630||11 Dec 2006||4 May 2010||Igt||Rotor-based gaming device having a system for changing the quantity of potential game outcomes for subsequent plays|
|International Classification||A63F5/00, A63F5/04|
|Cooperative Classification||A63F5/0082, A63F5/04, A63F5/00|
|European Classification||A63F5/00, A63F5/04|
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