Silence hits the room when the game starts. The players listen carefully, focused on what they hear and what’s in front of them. Does it match? Yes. No.
The level of concentration in the players’ eyes rises, and the anxiety is apparent in some. Then you hear it. One person, sometimes more, yells, “Bingo!”
Whether in elementary school, at holiday parties or even in casinos, bingo might be the game that everyone has played — or heard of — at least once.
But for 66-year-old Marci Popp Gibson, bingo has been a daily part of more than half her life.
It started in 1977 when a friend of Gibson’s offered her work at the bingo room in Palace Station, 2411 W. Sahara Ave. Now, 36 years later, bingo is a bigger part of her life than she ever would have imagined.
“First you work five years, then 10, next thing it’s 20 and then 25,” Gibson said. “You just don’t think about it.”
Gibson worked at Palace Station for 16 years before she transferred to the bingo room in Boulder Station, 4111 Boulder Highway, because it needed a Spanish-speaking employee.
Gibson’s typical day begins at 8:30 a.m. when bingo customers line up to buy their tickets. The first game is scheduled at 9 a.m. and every odd hour after. Her tasks include calling out numbers, checking the players’ bingo cards and rewarding winners with cash.
Her favorite part about the job is being out on the floor interacting with customers. Because many of them are regulars, Gibson has developed genuine relationships with some. She knows about their grandchildren, spouses and even gossip, she said.
Bystanders can catch Gibson waving to players across the 8,000-square-foot room when she’s calling out numbers from the podium. On the floor she’s seen high-fiving winners and hugging players who have become friends. Gibson believes the one-on-one interaction with customers is a critical part of their bingo experience.
“My customers are important to me,” she said. “They not only bring in revenue, but I feel like I bring some joy to them.”
Iva Stegich has been playing bingo for two years and said Gibson has made it a pleasant experience for her.
“She’s just very friendly and always there to help if you need something,” Stegich said. “Makes you feel like you want to come back all the time.”
Gibson’s personality has gotten some players to develop a level of comfort with her over the years. Sometimes they catch her by surprise.
She recalls a time she was at a restaurant having dinner with her then-husband. They were sitting next to each other in the booth sharing a romantic meal when an unfamiliar face joined them.
“Marci, I needed B3, you know that I needed it, and you called B4,” the stranger said.
Gibson said she has run into players all over Las Vegas and even once at Disneyland.
Her time at Station Casinos has earned her many interesting stories to share, from the pranks she’s played to the time a truck ran into Palace Station and missed her by a few inches.
Gibson was also close with the Fertittas, who founded Station Casinos.
“They are just remarkable people,” she said. “They’re genuine, they’re caring, they’re giving. They raised my family. The Fertittas have made it a wonderful company to work for.”
One year, she made the late Frank Fertitta Jr. a birthday cake, as she usually did for her co-workers. Because he was special to her, she made him a three-layer cake that she decorated in whipped cream, she said.
“As everyone was singing happy birthday to him, he went to cut it but couldn’t,” she said, laughing.
As it turned out, Gibson had made the cake out of Styrofoam.
Outgoing and outspoken, her personality is what seems to make her memorable among the people she has encountered, Gibson said.
“She’s very enthusiastic, always willing to help out,” said Trina Baca, bingo room supervisor at Boulder Station.
Glen Meadows, Station Casinos corporate director, believes Gibson cares deeply about the company, the guests and her fellow team members.
“Team members like Marci come around once in a blue moon,” Meadows said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure having the opportunity to work closely with Marci. She’s one of a kind.”
Contact reporter Yvette Cruz at email@example.com or 702-383-0256.