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Ponca Tribe's Gaming Center to Close Sunday

(PONCA CITY, Okla.) - The Blue Star Gaming Center is closing its doors Sunday, but not before it finishes a weekend blackjack tournament.

The Ponca Tribe's casino is shutting down to avoid further problems with the National Indian Gaming Commission, which threatened to close Blue Star if it did not comply with federal rules.

Federal regulators accused the tribe of not performing criminal background checks on casino employees. They also said the Ponca Tribe did not install security cameras or have strict money-tracking policies.

``The industry standard is to keep track of cash at every stage,'' said Richard Schiff, acting chief of staff for the National Indian Gaming Commission. ``There's a standard in Las Vegas, and there's a standard in Indian gaming.''

Ponca Gaming Commissioner Delbert Cole said the tribe is in compliance with federal gaming laws but decided to close anyway.

``We don't want to close, but they wanted us to close,'' Cole said. ``We're already in compliance, and we hope to be better.''

The casino, which has 200 Class II gaming machines and blackjack tables, is the Poncas' only business. It provides the tribe of 2,500 people from $700,000 and $1 million a year.

Profits help fund tribal government programs.

Tribal Secretary-Treasurer Burgess Primeaux said that if the casino is closed for more than 30 days, the Poncas could have trouble funding their government.

Federal authorities wanted the gaming center to close Friday, but the tribe already had advertised a weekend blackjack and gaming machine tournament. The tournament ends Sunday.

The casino will be allowed to reopen, but no date has been set.

``We've been in these types of situations before,'' Cole said. ``The Ponca tribe has been through a lot.''

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