Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, diversifying beyond Foxwoods gambling and entertainment, acquires state contracting firm

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, diversifying beyond Foxwoods gambling and entertainment, acquires state contracting firm

Foxwoods Resort Casino’s parent company announced Wednesday its latest business acquisition designed to generate revenue regardless of business conditions and pandemics.

Command Holdings, the holding company of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation with expertise in governance, healthcare, facilities management and technology, has acquired WWC Global, a Tampa, Florida-based government contracting firm focused on federal agencies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The tribe definitely intended to diversify its economy into industries that could withstand various economic downturns and cycles and away from gaming,” said Angelina Casanova, a Mashantucket Pequot Tribal member and chair of the Command Holdings board of directors.

With just under $100 million in annual revenue and 350 employees, WWC Global’s client portfolio includes the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State and the Agency for International Development.

WWC Global is a professional services contractor working on the business of government, including financial management, budgets, training and other programs. John Panamarov, CEO of Command Holdings, said federal contracting is more resilient than the seasonal type of businesses that are exposed to up and down cycles.

WWC Global was founded by women who were barred from working with their husbands on overseas military bases, said CEO Lauren Weiner.

“We had come out of professional-level careers ourselves,” she said. “We were told that we should mostly stay at home and enjoy being military spouses overseas, not work. It wasn’t what we wanted to hear. That was not what we wanted to do.

Tribal leaders decided to focus on diversifying Mashantucket Pequot businesses after the Great Recession, Casanova said. Slots revenue fell nearly 11% in 2008, an $88.7 million loss from before the 2006 recession.

More than a decade later, the pandemic and the nearly three-month shutdown of Foxwoods in 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 led to a collapse in revenue. It began to slowly climb back up as the pandemic receded.

But even before COVID-19, revenues were under pressure as casino competition intensified in the Northeast. MGM Springfield opened in August 2018, and Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor opened the following year, drawing gamblers and visitors from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun and adding to an already crowded market in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.

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Slots revenue at Foxwoods fell in each of the three years before the pandemic, from $468 million in 2017 to $431.3 million in 2019, a drop of nearly 8%.

Foxwoods, which the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation needs to shore up its credit, “creates vulnerability to competition and an inability to sell assets to pay down debt,” Moody’s Investors Service analysts John E. Puchala and Keith Foley wrote in a note from April 21.

Casino competition and the clear field in sports betting and online gambling enjoyed by some states were critical issues in negotiations last year with Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration to craft legislation to allow sports betting and expanded gambling on phones, tablets and laptops.

Nationally, tribal businesses are “economic engines, locally and regionally,” according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. As of January 2020, tribes provide more than 1.1 million jobs in the US, most of which are held by non-tribal members. The tribes are active in multiple industries, including hospitality, tourism, energy, manufacturing and development and financial services, the report said.

The recent acquisition by the Mashantucket Pequots is not the first for Command Holdings, which closed two other deals in July 2021. It acquired CeLeen Inc., a St. Louis-based information technology company, and Quattro Consulting in Washington, D.C.

She owns a fourth company, Copperhead Technologies, a computer programming and systems design company.

Steven Singer can be reached at [email protected]

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