Racing clubs under scrutiny

Dozens of racing clubs in the South have been ordered to hand over files as part of a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) probe into pokie grants; while the Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain confirms he is investigating options to ''tighten up regulations'' for the sector.

The Otago Daily Times understands some clubs have until tomorrow to hand over files, including grant applications and minutes of meetings, to the SFO after it issued section 9 notices last week.

Late last month, both the SFO and Internal Affairs executed search warrants as part of a joint agency investigation into the alleged manipulation of pokie grants. As part of that investigation, believed to involve at least three pokie trusts - New Zealand Community Trust, Bluegrass Trust and Infinity Foundation - investigators have interviewed racing club presidents in Otago and Southland.

Following those interviews, clubs were ordered to hand over documentation linked to the investigation.

Several people interviewed as part of the probe told the ODT inquiries were focused on club investments and pokie grant applications.

Investigators were now understood to be interviewing people in the North Island, with an estimated 75 people expected to be spoken to.

Both Racing Minister Nathan Guy and Mr Tremain had been briefed about the investigation.

''This is a large and complex investigation and it's expected to take some time,'' Mr Tremain said.

Asked if he believed the investigation was a one-off, he replied, ''No,'' and that he was concerned about compliance with the class 4 (non-casino poker machines) sector.

''I am looking at options to tighten up regulations.''

The investigation would continue the ongoing work of Internal Affairs in ensuring those in the class 4 sector complied with the law.

Internal Affairs regulatory services general manager Maarten Quivooy declined to comment on the number of class 4 investigations involving the department.

''We investigate non-compliance we consider to be serious or significant. As is common among enforcement agencies there are operational reasons why we do not reveal the number of active investigations.''

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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