Az Business and AZRE magazines announced the publications’ lists of the Most Influential Women in Arizona of 2023, including Robin Villareal, chief information officer of Gila River Resorts & Casinos. In celebration of the 12th anniversary of the Most Influential Women program, is profiling one of the Most Influential Women of 2023 each day leading up to the Most Influential Women of 2023 dinner and reception.

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The Most Influential Women for 2023 will be honored at a reception on Thursday, August 17 at Chateau Luxe in Phoenix. For sponsorship information, email For information about the event honoring the Most Influential Women, email or click here. To buy tickets, click here.

Robin Villareal, chief information officer, Gila River Resorts & Casinos

BACKGROUND: Robin Villareal’s journey to become the first Native American female CIO for Gila River Resorts & Casinos was a non-traditional path by starting her career in food and beverage. She has opened seven casinos and three hotel resort expansions since 1995. Villareal serves on the Global Gaming Women’s Membership Committee and was nominated to serve as a member on the Tribal-ISAC Steering Committee. She is a community member from the Gila River Indian Community and is Hopi from the Village of Shungopovi.

CAREER PATH INSPIRATION: “My community, the lands of the Gila River Indian people, is located just south of the City of Chandler and other metropolitan communities in the Phoenix Valley. Our community has resided here before the development of the Phoenix area. The closeness of our tribal community to cities and towns outside of our federal reservation has allowed us to take advantage of developing our tribal economic development projects. We partnered with surrounding cities such as Chandler, Mesa, Ahwatukee and the government and counties in the State of Arizona. Gila River has a long relationship in helping one another in supporting various efforts from water exchange to being a champion in support programs for our community members. I have been able to witness with pride how gaming revenues have helped our members by providing jobs, education, housing and medical care to just name a few.”

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “A few years ago, I attended a women’s conference that made me realize I was capable of stepping outside of my comfort zone and had the courage to take the next step in my career. I shared how this conference inspired me and asked to create a women’s conference for our female team members. With the help of many of our amazing executive women, we had our inaugural Glow Grow Game Women’s Leadership Conference in August. Since then, I have witnessed many women within our enterprise take the next step in their career development. They shared with me that the conference we held inspired them as the one I attended did to take the next step. I will continue to pay forward what I have learned and encourage the ladies to push their fears aside and make the advancements they are capable of doing.”

SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: “There have been many professionals within my career that have played an important role in my career over the past 28 years in gaming. Cecil Lewis instilled in me that ‘We Work, when they play.’ Gwen Merry and Sheila Morago have been there throughout my entire career and continue to be important mentors to this day. Our CEO, Kenneth Manuel was the one to provide guidance and insight on my career goals. I learned hard lessons at times but recognized these only made me stronger. He and I can openly talk of the IT Department’s journey. His expectations of a CIO challenged me to be innovative and to network. Rich Straffela, our COO has been a mentor as well with his many years of knowledge in the gaming industry. These mentors along with a supportive IT team all played a strong role in my development.” 

SURPRISING FACT: “My Dad’s grandfather, Lewis Tewanima, participated in the 1908 Summer Olympics in London and the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, where we won the Silver Medal in the 10,000 meter run for the United States.”

Robin Villareal, chief information officer of Gila River Resorts & Casinos.