Racing clubs will have to pass an independent audit to get a betting licence because of growing concerns over how some have used pokie money.

The New Zealand Racing Board has ordered clubs to submit to the gaming audits after being stung by a study that found only 16 per cent of New Zealanders have a positive impression of racing and wagering.

Clubs will have to advise the board of the outcome of an independent audit of their accounts by December 1 if they are to gain a betting licence for the 2011-12 season.

Without a licence, a club can host races but the TAB will not take bets on them.

The board has admitted embarrassment at some racing clubs' involvement in poker machine money irregularities.

Department of Internal Affairs probes are still going on into some cases.

The new audit will mean that clubs with gaming machines at their venues, or with investments in businesses that have gaming machines, or receive grants from gaming trusts, will have to give more details on those activities.

Clubs that refuse to provide audit results will not be granted a betting licence for next season, and a licence may be withheld if a club does not resolve problems revealed in an audit.

Racing board chairman Michael Stiassny said it was critical that New Zealanders had confidence in the integrity of racing.

"Racing clubs should see this as an opportunity to identify and deal with any issues and put an end to the industry's reputation being tarred by the unethical behaviour of a few," he said.

The finding in a Nielsen research study that only 16 per cent of New Zealanders had a positive impression of racing was a surprise.

"I think we all appreciate that there are some people who don't like the sport, don't like gambling and betting, but I would honestly say that that number is a lot lower than we anticipated," he said.

Researchers found 47 per cent of those surveyed had a negative impression of racing, and 37 per cent had no impression of the sport.

The study canvassed the views of more than 1000 New Zealanders, and found that racing rated worse than any other sport on measures of perceived integrity.

The other sports in the survey were rugby, rugby league, soccer, tennis and cricket. Racing scored worst on 11 of the 13 attributes studied, including the six that related to integrity - corruption, drugs, professionalism, people value, ethics and honesty.

Mr Stiassny said that as long as perceptions of racing's integrity were poor, people would not participate as punters, spectators or owners.

The board was working with the three codes - thoroughbred, harness and greyhound - to establish an independent tri-code integrity unit which would have responsibility for policing the rules of racing. It was expected to be fully operational by the end of this racing season.

"The racing industry needs to ensure it is beyond reproach in every way. The way races are conducted, the behaviour of the participants, betting systems and all funding sources must be able to withstand scrutiny."

- NZPA