A gambling addiction can tear families apart, leaving them in financial ruin. This is not a new problem but it appears to be getting worse thanks to the easy accessibility of online gambling and the fact that every betting shop in the country has what are commonly referred to as ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’ – fixed odds betting terminals. These betting machines are highly addictive and have been causing controversy for a number of years now, with many punters losing thousands of pounds in minutes on them.
However, for former Chelsea footballer Kerry Dixon, gambling addiction is an illness he has suffered with since he was thirteen years of age. He has now opened up about the illness that destroyed his life and recently said that some of his experiences were ‘life-threatening’.
Dixon has described gambling as being the ‘root of all evils for me’. He said his gambling addiction left him feeling desperate and penniless, and ultimately resulted in him spending time in prison. Dixon stated that despite having a good wage when playing for Chelsea, he never managed to hold on to any of it as it was gambled away.
When he started gambling at just thirteen years of age, he admits to having no idea that he would become so obsessed that it would destroy his life. He said, “By the time I reached the peak of my career, it had become a disease that had taken a firm grip on my life. I remember nipping down to Ascot one day and leaving with £35,000 in cash. One bookie had to close up as a result of my big betting.”
Nevertheless, as with most gamblers, Dixon’s losses soon started to pile up, and he said he found himself in trouble with the bookies. His gambling became so bad that he ended up losing three homes. He said, “I played football and gambled in a vicious circle in which all the money made playing went into gambling. At one point in my Chelsea career, I was £135,000 down when I was earning £130,000 a year at my peak.”
Dixon went to the then Chelsea manager for financial help, and he assumes that the manager then spoke to the chairman because a deal was struck whereby the bookies accepted a one-off payment of £25,000. Chelsea Football Club insisted that Dixon closes down all of his betting accounts.
However, just weeks later he was in trouble again. He said, “I was out of control.”
At this point, the bookies began threatening him and told him the ‘heavies’ would soon be sent to collect.
Ken Bates, the Chelsea chairman at the time, sent Kerry to an addiction centre for rehab. The programme was for ten weeks, and he was to attend twice a week. However, he admits that he went just three times.
Dixon confesses that he grabbed the chance to move to Southampton in 1992, even though he did not really want to leave Chelsea. The new contract provided the opportunity for all his debts to be settled, so to him, it was ‘problem solved overnight’.
He accepts that he earned a lot of money during his career and that he consequently wasted it all. He continued, “No one knew how badly I had fallen on hard times, and I am sure they wouldn’t have sympathised if they did. I’d had enough chances and squandered them.”
Dixon tried to get into the pub business towards the end of his career, but his debts made this hard. After managing to take over a pub in Dunstable, he found himself in debt to the brewery, and they subsequently had him declared bankrupt. This meant his future hopes of becoming a landlord were gone.
In 2015, he was convicted of assault and was sent to prison for nine months. He said, “When I went to prison last year, my lifelong gambling addiction actually helped me in a perverse sort of way. You needed a thick skin, and I had developed that through taking so many knocks and learning to fight back. When I was inside, I hoped at least the rest of the world would leave me in peace. Not a bit of it. I received a threatening letter from the legal-aid system claiming I owed more than £5,000 in legal fees and that the bailiffs had been called. People say that it’s tough at the top, but it’s a damn sight tougher at the bottom.”
Kerry Dixon’s story is one that many people will find familiar. Any type of addiction has the ability to destroy lives. Those affected often find they are unable to pull themselves out of their downward spiral, no matter how hard they try.
With addiction, it is important to seek help as soon as possible as this is a progressive illness that will continue to get worse unless it is treated.
If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment program, we guarantee you'll stay clean and sober, or you can return for a complimentary 30 days of treatment.