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Women in Power: Staci Columbo Alonso - Vegas Rated
Staci Columbo. Photograph by Andrew Sea James

Women in Power: Staci Columbo Alonso

Station Casinos’ CMO talks about her biggest passion in life

[Editor’s Note: Bree DeLano was one of the initial inspirations behind Vegas/Rated’s December 2014 Women in Nightlife feature. We loved the concept so much, Women in Power is now a monthly web exclusive, authored by DeLano and celebrating ladies who are making an impact in the city of Las Vegas.]

I’ve met some incredibly interesting and talented women in the 10 years I’ve lived in Las Vegas, some of whom have impacted my own career [in music] in an amazing way. Through Vegas/Rated’s monthly Women in Power series, I will introduce trailblazers that exude confidence, passion, intelligence and relentless hustle, and who all live in a city that has often been deemed a “boys’ club.” These are women to draw inspiration from, have a drink with and listen to their stories. They come from diverse industries and backgrounds; they vary in age and personal style, but the common denominator is passion and drive. These are women who are changing the game and playing by their own rules.

My first encounter with Staci Columbo Alonso, senior vice president of marketing and CMO of Station Casinos, and board president of Noah’s Animal House, was at a Noah’s event at Hard Rock Hotel. She was there in support of a family who lived at Shade Tree and had a Pitbull named “Cowboy” that they were desperately trying to keep in their custody. Noah’s Animal house is a facility conceptualized by Alonso to provide housing for Shade Tree residents who have pets in their lives. Staci came to discover that most women in an abusive situation will not leave their pet behind and they continue to stay in the bad relationship. Noah’s gives these women the courage to start fresh with the comfort of their pets.

Grace under fire, she greeted almost everyone in attendance, coordinated with her team, calmed the nerves of the family, and hugged her son Noah every 10 minutes. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was par for the course.

   After doing the photo shoot for this feature, I learned how involved she is in the lives of women who seek shelter at Shade Tree. One resident was kind enough to allow her dog Zeus to pose with Alonso. When the shoot was over, the woman threw her arms around Staci with tears running down her face—not only as if she were a long-time friend—but truly honored to have her dog represent Noah’s Animal House.

Alonso is fascinating and complicated. She lights up like the Las Vegas skyline at the mention of her son, as well as any four-legged animal. At 49, she is in better shape than most people at 21. A former aerobics instructor, Alonso has continued to make fitness a daily priority, working out 4 to 5 days a week. “I tend to stress a lot,” she says, and admits exercise is her stress reliever.

Stoic, yet relentlessly compassionate, she juggles being a mother, a wife and a philanthropic force. Few see the softer side of this gaming maven-by-day, but Alonso is a woman to relate to, admire and be inspired by.

What has inspired your hustle? Life. I just love life and there is so much to be done. Lucky for me, I am a Virgo, so there is always a list. If you ever read the book The Purpose Driven Life, our life’s mission is defined by “shape”—spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences. My life work is clearly “shaped” for Noah’s Animal House, named after my son when he was 4 years old. His father passed away tragically while I was pregnant. While trying to grieve, recover and cope with this crisis during my pregnancy, I found great comfort and healing from my two rescue pups. It prompted me to later ask the question of Shade Tree — “What do we do when women and children arrive at the shelter with their pets?” The answer “no pets allowed” was unacceptable to me, since this environment is when we need our pets the most. The idea of Noah’s was formed and “shaped” into a reality thanks to so many giving Las Vegas locals. It is named after my son, so he, too, can have a sense of purpose and responsibility.

What was your family experience growing up? My mom and dad divorced when I was in high school. They loved each other, but my dad didn’t know how to express that love in a healthy manner. My mom cared for him later in life when he became ill, until his death in 2012.

What did you draw from that experience, and what did you apply or do differently with your own family? My dad’s unhealthy jealousy and control over my mom impacted my life very much and played a key role in my desire to serve on the Shade Tree board. I have respect and admiration for my mom’s strength and role as a mom through it all.

How many years have you lived in Vegas? Tropicana Atlantic City transferred me to Tropicana Las Vegas in 1992. I was the first female casino host at the Trop. Those were fun and educational times! My entire career has been gaming since I turned 21, which has allowed me to work all over the U.S. and even international when I was with IGT.

Describe your title and profession. I am so lucky to work for the Fertitta family as senior vice president of marketing/CMO of Station Casinos. Having worked for most major casino companies, I am forever amazed at how Station Casinos can employ 12,000 team members and still run it with the feeling and support of a family-owned business. I worked for them when they had three casinos and now with 19, and somehow through all of that growth, the culture and core values are still the same.

What projects do you have coming up? We are introducing a cause marketing campaign at Station Casinos in May that I championed called “Month of Honor,” which allows our guests to help a local veteran from Veterans Village in multiple ways. I am very passionate about using our voice and position for the good of others in need. I am most excited about the project I am working on for my charity. We are working on a second location of Noah’s Animal House in Reno with CAAW (Committee to Aid Abused Women).

What challenges have you endured being a woman in your industry? Atlantic City had so many women in leadership roles so when I was transferred to Las Vegas in 1992, I never even thought about it. Gaming may be perceived as a male-dominated industry, but I never felt like I got a job or didn’t get a job because of being a woman. To me, it’s just about getting the job done.

What is your favorite cliche saying and why? “I got this.” Most would probably describe me as a “get it done” girl. I thrive on making things happen on time and successfully.

What are your three favorite words? Pinot Noir, please. (Just kidding). Purpose Driven Life, which is also my favorite book.

What are your passions outside of your career? Noah’s is really my passion and my purpose. When I retire from gaming, it will only be so that I can take Noah’s national. My favorite downtime is in our backyard by the pool in the sun with my husband and Noah playing water basketball.

What is your workout routine? Push-ups, triceps dips, stairs, kickboxing and free weights are some of my favorites. My husband and I also have a tandem bike and try to ride 20 to 30 miles on the weekends. Get me on an elliptical and I can jam for hours. Make me run, no way; not happening.

What is your guilty pleasure? Put me on a beach chair with a glass of Pinot, cheese, apples and crackers. Add a slice of Pizza Rock pizza and I surrender. My favorite line is a song from Zac Brown Band: “The only worry in the world is the tide going to reach my chair.” One day …

Who do you admire and why? On a personal level, Diana Bennett is my mentor. She worked for her father, gaming pioneer Bill Bennett, for years and has now built her own philanthropic legacy. If anyone thought she had it easier because of her dad, they weren’t there. She worked harder than everyone. She is a beautiful lady and gives with all her heart. I also have a girl crush on Angelina Jolie. She appears to be an amazing mother, wife and stands up for what she believes in. She gets it done.

What do you stand for? That’s easy. I stand for everything that Noah’s Animal House represents. My career has gifted me with a voice and resources to use for domestic violence victims and their family members, especially the four-legged ones. I am a crazy dog lady and am proud of it. Noah will carry it forward when I no longer can.

What does true love mean to you? When I met my husband, I had a list. He crossed off everything, but the most important to me is “to be in it with me every day.” I didn’t get married until I was 44, so I was really used to doing everything myself, to a fault. He taught me that Noah and I aren’t alone anymore.