CELTIC manager Neil Lennon has defended the involvement of betting companies in Scottish football after his Hamilton counterpart Brian Rice revealed he is battling a gambling addiction.

Lennon sent a message of support to Rice, who has been charged with breaching strict SFA rules on gambling on football after reporting himself to the governing body.

However, the Northern Irishman denied having gambling firms as tournament and team sponsors constituted a conflict of interest.

"I don't agree with that," he said. "I think the betting companies put a lot into the game for the right reasons.

"And they do have restrictions at times on the amount people can use.

"We know that some people can get carried away, but it's not just football. It's other sports and other walks of life.

"You can't just tarnish the betting companies with this situation. I think that's totally unfair."

Lennon stated there was no problem with betting on football at Celtic.

"The rules are the rules," he said. "Back in the day I liked a wee bet myself - not big bets, just a bit of fun.

"But for other people it becomes a way of life and becomes a 24/7 thing, and that's why the rules have been put in place.

"Allied to that there are covert operations going on with regards the betting side of things as well."

Lennon added: "I'm not aware of it going on in our dressing room. The players here adhere to the laws, restrictions and rules, as do the staff.

"I think there is scope for betting companies - at the end of the day it can be exciting and a bit of fun.

"I think Brian is strong enough to get through it. We all wish him the very best."