Scottish football faces a ''gambling epidemic'' that has the potential to ruin both lives and threaten the integrity of the sport, it was claimed last night.

Kevin Twaddle, a gambling addict who has reformed his life, has travelled around Scottish clubs advising players on the dangers of betting.

He said last night: "It is quite frightening the scale of the problem among experienced pros and the young lads are highly vulnerable.''

The former Motherwell and St Mirren player was speaking after the Scottish Football Association charged Steve Simonsen, the Rangers goalkeeper, with breaching gambling rules.

A notice of complaint from the governing body accuses the 35-year-old of betting on 55 football matches over two separate periods. One charge relates to 18 matches in the 2013-14 campaign, the other to 37 games this season. Simonsen has until 29 January to respond to the charge, with a principal hearing date set for 12 February.

The notice of complaint says there is no evidence of Simonsen gambling on any matches he has played in, or in any game featuring Rangers.

SFA disciplinary rule 33 prohibits players, coaches, club officials and referees in Scotland from betting on football anywhere in the world.

In September 2013, Ian Black, also of Rangers, was fined and banned for 10 matches, seven of which were suspended.

Twaddle believes there is a culture in Scotland where players are drawn to betting and that gambling on football is part of that.

Twaddle, who estimates he lost more than £1m on gambling, believes gambling poses a threat to "the integrity of the game''.

There is no suggestion that Simonsen suffers from an addiction to gambling and the SFA has pointed out he did not play in any of the matches on which he placed a bet.

Twaddle, in contrast, accepts that the situation could have been much different for him.

"When I was in the depths of troubles with gambling, and without a shadow of doubt, I would have stopped at nothing. I would have thrown games, I would have given away penalties, I would have taken part in any scam. My gambling was horrific. It took me to places where I did not want to go,'' he said.

"I was fortunate I did not become involved in anything underhand in football but gambling had a devastating impact on me."

Twaddle said he knew of players who had "horrific problems", but he added that PFA Scotland, the players' union, and clubs in Scotland had taken measures to address the problems.

The former player travels around the country giving advice to players, particularly youngsters.,

''I do not preach to anybody. I just tell them what happened to me and hope that helps them. I can also point them to further help,'' said Twaddle.

"But I know of players who have been desperate and needed support,'' he added.

Twaddle has suffered personally from gambling but said betting presented a potentially catastrophic threat to the game. ''We all know there have been a series of police investigations and we have all heard the stories about fixed games or even guys cashing in on the first throw-in or whatever,'' he said.

He accepted the "zero tolerance" approach by the SFA on football betting was difficult to enforce but said it had to be pursued so that the integrity of the sport was not "tainted".