Racing clubs must reveal pokie interests

Racing clubs must declare their interests in pokies or risk losing their betting licences, it has been revealed.

The New Zealand Racing Board confirmed all clubs had to declare their interests in pokies and "provide assurances" that those interests - including grants from trusts - were compliant with the law.

NZRB acting chief executive Bill Colgan said the declaration was a "condition of betting licences being granted", and was introduced last year.

The move aimed to improve public perception of the integrity of the racing industry, by eliminating or reducing issues that "impact negatively on the racing industry".

All clubs completed the requested declarations, and the Otago Daily Times has requested copies under the Official Information Act.

Asked if pokie grants applications would be submitted through the NZRB, rather than through each individual racing club, Mr Colgan said the "NZ Racing Board has no current or planned involvement in this process".

In a July 2, 2010 memorandum to then racing minister John Carter, the NZRB proposed a new framework for "greater transparency in racing industry receipt of gaming grants".

That proposal included a national cap on how much the racing industry received from pokies - estimated at $19.6 million each year, and a cap also for racing stakes, which would decline each year.

In addition, each racing club would forward the details of its pokie trust grant applications to the NZ Racing Board for approval. However, these proposals have been rejected by the NZRB.

A question on how many clubs were under investigation because of their involvement with pokies was referred to the Department of Internal Affairs.

An Internal Affairs spokesman said the department was involved with "a number of" investigations into racing and trotting clubs, but was unable to provide details of investigations.

"The department welcomed the NZRB's move for greater transparency and the board kept us informed of what they were doing," the spokesman said.

Mr Carter said he had expressed concern at reports of the industry's involvement, either real or perceived, in the abuse of gaming machine grants, and welcomed the efforts by the NZRB to deal with such issues.

He was satisfied the change would result in a more transparent process, and expected all "racing clubs to have been honest in their declarations".

Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand chief executive Graeme Ramsey also welcomed NZRB's move.

The NZRB had made it "quite clear" it was concerned about integrity and people's perception of the integrity of racing.

"I think it is a very good thing they are doing."

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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