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When Sport Stars Run into Trouble in Casinos

Here we detail six sporting stars who have been caught red handed gambling in casinos.


14 May 2016

From time to time, everyone from all walks of life needs the opportunity to wind down and have some fun and enjoyment.

However, the careers of sports stars are more under the microscope than most, meaning that their private lives are far from secretive. If they get a new tattoo, someone will realise. If they trip up a kerb, it is likely this will be caught on camera. Frequent or infrequent trips to a casino are no different.

There have been numerous public examples in the past of sports stars running into issues of various types while visiting a casino. Here are six that have hit the headlines:

Papiss Cisse

Back in 2013, Premier League football club Newcastle United agreed a shirt sponsorship deal with payday loan company Wonga.

However, this didn’t sit well with the club’s leading striker Papiss Cisse, who refused to wear any kit bearing the name of the company on religious and ethical grounds as a practicing Muslim.

His demands to wear an unbranded shirt seemed reasonable until a few weeks later when images emerged of Cisse inside a casino in Newcastle. Like charging interest on loans, gambling is also considered unethical by Muslims.

Although it never came to light as to whether Cisse had actually gambled, just being in the casino was deemed enough to give off the wrong message and soon after he reached an agreement with his club to wear shirts sponsored by Wonga.

Moin Khan

Two years later and a similar story developed from the world of cricket, where chief selector of the Pakistan national team Moin Khan was also spotted inside a casino.

Although it was eventually accepted that Khan was only inside having dinner with family and friends, both gambling and alcoholic consumption is forbidden in Islamic Pakistan and the news caused protests and disturbances at both Karachi airport and the former wicket-keeper’s house.

Khan was asked to return home from the ongoing Cricket World Cup jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand and apologised, stating that although he wasn’t in the casino for gambling purposes, the decision to visit was still inappropriate.

Phil Bardsley

Back to football and somebody else to run into trouble with management was Sunderland defender Bardsley, who was pictured lying flat on his back in a casino, covered in a pile of £50 notes.

Then-Sunderland Paolo Di Canio was a stickler for discipline and club rules and didn’t take kindly to both the defender and teammate Matthew Kilgallon being out until the early hours and appearing drunk.

Both players were left out of the club’s next game against Tottenham and fined, with Di Canio saying: “There is no excuse to behave like Bardsley did. From now I will be more strict because we have to improve our professionalism.”

Willie Thorne

Also spotted in a casino in Sheffield was legendary snooker player and current commentator Willie Thorne, who was attempting to win big on the slot machines.

Thorne put the recent session down to “passing time” and that he had only gambled £20, with the story being noteworthy because the ex-player had developed a considerable addiction in the 1980s that has landed him in massive debt.

In 2015, Thorne had declared himself bankrupt after his debts had reached £1 million.

John Daly

However, Thorne’s gambling losses were not a patch on those suffered by US golfer John Daly, who discovered that in the period between 1991 and 2007, he was down somewhere in the region of $57 million (£39 million).

At the peak of his gambling powers, Daly would play slots worth $5,000 a spin in Las Vegas, but doesn’t regret this stage of his life because of the fun he had.

The golfer now gambles much less frequently, but, if he does, he sticks to $25 slot machines.

Federico Macheda

Macheda signed his first professional football contract with Manchester United on his 17th birthday, having been signed from Lazio in Italy and within a year he had scored in the Premier League against Aston Villa.

However, not everything went so swimmingly for the young striker. Despite still being underage, Macheda was keen to use some time away from the pitch inside some of Manchester’s most well-known casinos.

Unfortunately, his manager Sir Alex Ferguson was on the ball in terms of what Macheda may consider doing socially and pre-warned the casinos in question that the Italian wasn’t old enough to enter.