Tony Bloom, Albion’s new multi-millionaire chairman, launched his love of gambling on the fruit machines of West Street.

Betting has played a large part in Bloom’s fortune-building and his late grandfather Harry, the Seagulls’ former vice-chairman, was his inspiration.

Harry used to take his grandson to games at The Goldstone during the 1970s.

Bloom also inherited his grandad’s liking for a flutter, spending his school days at the centre of Brighton’s nightlife near the seafront.

“From the age of eight or nine I used to go down to the arcades in West Street with some friends and play with our pocket money on the fruit machines,” he said.

“We tried to get an edge, even then. That wasn’t possible but we had fun.

“My grandad was a gambler at heart. He was very much into betting on horses and greyhounds. I guess he was quite similar to me in many ways.

“He had a huge passion for football, a huge passion for the Albion and he loved to gamble.

“The slight difference was he wasn’t quite as successful at gambling as I have been! He passed away 30 years ago but he is still very much in my heart.”

From such low-stake beginnings it has been a fruit-to-riches fairytale for Bloom to the point where, at the age of 39, he has pumped £80 million worth of interest-free and unsecured loans into the club to secure the Falmer Stadium project.

A man with such a good head for figures would appreciate the small probability of that happening.

Bloom was educated at Lancing College before gaining a degree in mathematics at Manchester University.

He never contemplated one day becoming chairman of his favourite football club.

“What did I want to be at school? Like a lot of kids I wanted to be a professional footballer but by about ten or eleven I realised that was highly unlikely.

“Apart from going to university I never really gave it much thought. I guess getting into business and being successful and doing something I enjoyed.

“Even in the latter part of university I was making money out of gambling but it wasn’t my job.

“I spent a couple of years working for an accountancy firm. On top of that I was quite successful betting on sports.”

Poacher-turned-gamekeeper when Bloom was approached by bookmakers Victor Chandler about Asian handicap football betting, a name derived from its popularity in the Far East.

Favourites are handicapped to even up the chances, with the draw removed. Hence, if Albion were playing Manchester United, the price might be quoted as Albion +2, so United would have to overcome a two-goal disadvantage for a punter to win money on them.

“I was one of the first people outside of Asia to take a keen interest and an understanding of it,” Bloom said. “I worked in Thailand for seven months, then Gibraltar for three years.”

Bloom established his own on-line football betting company, Premierbet, which he sold to a company which went into administration.

He enjoyed more success with on-line gaming companies Tribeca Tables and St Minver, both of which were bought by blue chip organisations.

Bloom’s portfolio is diverse. He began investing in private equity companies and start-up businesses in his mid to late twenties and his property interests, both commercial and residential, stretch as far afield as Panama, South Africa and Australia.

Bloom’s wife is Australian and they have a 15-month old son, so there is less time these days for his hobby, poker, although he is off to Las Vegas in July to compete in the World Series.

His greatest passion of all now is Albion. After eight years shoring up losses at Withdean and attending Board meetings as a shareholder, the £93 million cost of the Falmer Stadium project and the danger of the credit crunch preventing it from happening has hastened him into the chair.

“It’s a bit of a no-brainer really,” he said. “I absolutely love the club, I’m passionate about the club.

“Dick (former chairman Dick Knight), us and the Board have worked tirelessly to get Falmer.

“Now that we are that close I have got the ability to make those loans. I want current and future Albion fans, my potential grandchildren, to have a football club to go to and that has to be Falmer, so it is down to me to get that to happen.”