Former Enfield footballer's crusade against dangers of gambling

By Adrian Colley in Local People

A former footballer is holding a special event to warn against the dangers of gambling.

Tony Kelly, who played for Enfield and Cheshunt before turning professional, can speak from bitter personal experience after his addiction cost him half a million pounds.

The player who once scored at Anfield for Stoke City against Liverpool, and played at Wembley in a cup final, was left penniless by his relentless compulsion to seek thrills through punting.

Now 51, he lives in Brimsdown and works as a security officer while running a non-profit organisation which tries to educate people about gambling’s dark side.

He wrote a book about his experience – Red Card – and hopes applications in the pipeline for government funding may allow him to work full-time on spreading the anti-gambling message.

On Saturday (March 25) he is holding a gambling awareness and education event at St George’s parish hall and community centre in Hertford Road, Freezywater, Enfield, starting at 3pm.

Mr Kelly, who played for Enfield and Cheshunt in the 1980s, said: “I got into it when I was 18. I’d moved from Coventry to play for Dulwich.

“There was a bit of peer pressure and I wanted to fit in with the other players and they were doing the pools and putting £5 bets on at the bookies.

“I never put on huge bets – the most was £200 each way on a horse. The most I lost was £3,000 in a night at the casino playing roulette.

“I went bankrupt in 2010 and that was the start of my recovery. I owed £192,000 and, having been paid well as a footballer, I lost half a million in cash and property, all told. I found myself with basically nothing.

“You have got to get professional help and recognise that you need help. I had some therapy and that’s helped me to focus on what I had to do to stop.”

Mr Kelly would like to see legal action taking to restrict the extent of gambling – things like cutting the amount people can place on fixed odds betting machines at bookmakers.

Saturday’s event is not just for people who may have a problem but also for people to learn about the issue.

He says: “It’s for everybody – teachers, parents, employers who may have to deal with people who are addicted to gambling. We would love to see anyone who may want to learn more about gambling addiction and what a negative impact it can have on our lives.”

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