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Features > When Good Neighbours... Take A Gamble by Spencer

With Melbourne being the home of Australia’s biggest horse race, The Melbourne Cup, many of the residents of Ramsay Street have occasionally enjoyed a small flutter on the races. It’s also been known for the lads to gather together on a Friday night enjoy a few beers and have a game of poker. It’s all harmless fun, right? Well in most part the answer would be yes! However, some of our favourite Neighbours have taken their game playing a little too far and for a few, it has ended with disastrous consequences. As Lucas starts to get help for his gambling problem, which resulted in the death of Bridget Parker, we look at his, and other, gambling addictions in Erinsborough...

Lucas Fitzgerald
Cocky & confident Lucas rocked up in Erinsborough when he finished working with Reyada Motorbike Company which had been touring Europe. Unknown to Lucas he was living in the same suburb as his estranged brother Daniel Fitzgerald, and the brothers' rocky relationship took a while to rebuild, but once it had been repaired the boys began enjoying poker nights with their mutual friends Ty Harper, Stephanie Scully, Steve Parker & Toadie Rebecchi. Lucas always did ok when it came to poker and on occasion snuck out of the house to join his mates for a card game when his girlfriend Elle Robinson's back was turned. Lucas was always keen to have a little flutter, and he even took a bet from Steph to get a girl's number at Charlie’s Bar.

Another Ramsay Street poker game saw Lucas clear out Steve, Dan and Toadie but it does not stop there. When he got home he logged on and began playing poker on a gambling website. Lucas' thirst for poker became much more apparent when he took his girlfriend Elle to the Winter Cool Festival. Whilst walking through the crowds, Lucas stumbled across a backstage area where the roadies and security staff were gambling. At first, Lucas decided not to go in but later he decided to join the game. After a few successful games of two-up, he headed back to his tent and Elle.

On return to Erinsborough and keen to keep his winning streak up, he challenged some undesirables to a bet on who can win a game of pool at Charlie’s Bar. This time, after winning the bet, he was not so lucky as after the game he was jumped and beaten up by the thugs he played against. It was then that Lucas got involved with the group and joined their poker ring. Lucas had a good run and continued to win big, until a game that he organised at the garage went horribly wrong, and he lost against bad boy Johnno Brewer. This time Lucas didn't have the money to pay him and things started to get heated, as his friend and colleague Steph turned up. The pair scarpered, and Lucas explained to Steph that he had lost $4000. When Lucas was unable to raise all the cash he had no choice but to turn to his brother Dan for the money and luckily Dan pulled through for him, but on the condition Lucas stopped with the poker games. Unfortunately, when Lucas handed over the money, he was told that he now owed interest, and that the cars on the forecourt would be smashed up if Johnno didn't get his money.

Lucas seemed to have taken Dan’s advice, and cooled it with the poker games for a while. During this time, Steph was growing fonder of Lucas and when she approached him about what is going on between them he reacted badly and gave her more work to do. One of the jobs he passed on to her was the service on Steve Parker's car, with the Parker family planning a trip to Queensland. After collecting the car, they headed off but hadn't been on the road for long when a horse ran out and Steve crashed the car, resulting in the death of his daughter, Bridget. Steph was accused of shoddy workmanship on the car and Bridget’s husband Declan Napier decided to take legal action against her. When Steph insisted that she'd been through it all in her head and her work on the car had been up to standard, Dan started to smell a rat and, after checking CCTV footage, he spotted Johnno sneak onto the forecourt and tamper with the Parkers' car. Though Lucas is now attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings and trying to overcome his problem, it's too late to bring Bridget back.

Darcy Tyler
Dastardly Dr Darcy Tyler frequently saw himself as superior to everyone else in Ramsay Street and his charismatic yet sleazy persona always landed him in some sort of trouble. It was no surprise when he lost a huge amount of money on a poker game after being accepted into the prestigious Aurora Club. As Darcy became more and more involved with the club his taste for poker grew which resulted in him inviting members of the club to his home for a more private game. On the outside Darcy may have seemed suave and in control, but by the end of one particular game he wound up losing $10,000. His ex-girlfriend at the time, Dee Bliss, found out about his dodgy card games and after many attempts to win his way back into her heart Dee felt overwhelmed and made haste to Tasmania.

Darcy’s thirst for Poker grew and grew and in his next game he ended up losing another $60,000 to Club Member James Atkinson. Darcy had no idea how he was going to raise this cash and followed Dee to Tasmania in hope that James Would not be able to find him to claim his winnings. On Darcy’s return to Erinsborough he realised that James still very much wanted his money, which resulted in Darcy taking desperate measures. First he stole from the till at Lou’s Place and after Karl & Susan announced that they had inherited valuable jewellery from relatives; Darcy saw his opportunity to cash in on his family’s small fortune. Darcy broke into the Kennedy’s and whilst fleeing from their home he knocked neighbour Lyn Scully to the ground. Thankfully for Darcy, Lyn took a big blow to the head and for now had no memory of who the intruder was. Darcy was finally able to pay off his debts to James but his problems were far from over.

Whilst the police investigated the robbery they found themselves a new suspect. Conveniently for Darcy, Harold had recently befriended gambling addict Ruby Dwyer and in true soap fashion the police were able to pin the robbery on her. This was very good news for Darcy who now thought he was home and dry. This was until Lyn’s memory returned and she remembered just who the intruder was. However his Aunty Susan was not having any of it – How could her nephew do such a thing? Amongst the jewellery that Darcy had stolen was Susan’s wedding ring. Not able to bring himself to pawn the family heirloom he hid it in a plant pot at his apartment. Dee and Darcy’s friendship was beginning to get stronger and she began spending more time with him at his home. Darcy could not have been happier. That was until kind Dee decided to give his bachelor pad a good clean. Whilst she was engaging in her good deed she came across Susan’s ring and put two and two together. Disgusted with herself that she had begun to trust Darcy again she contacted the police and Darcy was convicted. Darcy was given a reasonably light sentence of 18 months in prison. This was because his Aunt Susan found it very difficult to provide a damning character reference for her nephew. Darcy not only lost the woman he loved but also the respect of his family.

Lance Wilkinson
Lovable Lance was always a bit of a geek and no one would ever believe that he would get involved in anything stupid, let alone develop a gambling problem. Lance started out harmlessly placing a few bets on the horses, but after a couple of good wins he was finding the temptation of the horse track too tantalizing. As Lance began betting more money, more often, his friends rallied and warned him he was being stupid and his winning streak would come to an end. When Lance’s girlfriend, Amy, found out about his secret she warned him that unless he stopped she would have to reconsider their relationship. Things seemed to be back on track for Lance, but soon enough he was tempted once again, forcing Amy to inform Lance she needed a break from him, as she was no longer able to trust him.

Lance tried to get his life back on track. He spent his time trying to win back Amy’s trust and began a course at University in horticulture. After a few disastrous jobs and Amy turning her romantic attentions to newcomer Damien, Lance’s confidence was at rock bottom and he soon turned back to the racetrack and began placing bets again. His sister, Anne and now ex-girlfriend Amy saw him exchanging money with one of his gambling associates at The Lassiters complex and immediately confronted him about his behavior. Lance tried desperately to deny he was gambling again.

In order to place one last large bet Lance decided to pawn a fob watch that his mother Ruth had given him. Lance was over the moon when his horse won and for the time being was in the money. However when Anne saw him once again claiming his money from his associate she demanded to know the truth and gave him an ultimatum - either he confided in their mother, or Anne would tell her everything! With his guilt taking over he decided to approach his mother and tell her what he'd been doing. Ruth was extremely disappointed in her son and had no idea how to help. The only person that was going to be able to Lance was Amy. Lance decided to track down the pawned fob watch and wrote to his mother desperately trying to apologize for any hurt he may have caused. Thanks to the help his friends Billy, Toadie, Amy and his sister Anne, Lance was finally able to put his addiction behind him and begin attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

Doug Willis
Doug Willis was not so much of a gambling addict but just one bet on Lauren Carpenter's daughter’s horse, ‘Chuck a Mental’, was all it took to put him on the path to financial ruin! Some of the Ramsay Street residents, including Doug, bought shares in the racehorse, and when the neighbours got together for what was supposed to be a great day out at the annual Melbourne Cup, Doug decided to place a bet on what he was to believe was a sure fire winner - “Chuck a Mental”.

In true “Keeping up with the Joneses” style Doug matched his wealthy neighbour Raymond Lim’s bet of $5000. The money he used was that week’s payroll for the team he had working for him on the building site and when ‘Chuck a Mental’ came third Doug lost the lot! Forced to raise the money he lost so he could pay his work force Doug was forced to sell his shares in Lauren’s horse. Things looked set to be getting better when Doug’s building firm got offered the job to rebuild The Waterhole after a gas explosion. Just as work was to commence on the Waterhole site, a rival building firm, Constructocom, offered to buy out Willis Construction, but Doug was reluctant to let his business go.

Doug’s troubles were going to get a lot worse before they got better. When his company was audited it was realized that he owed $70,000 to the Australian Tax department. This time Doug has no option to sell to Constructocom. Although Doug was kept on as a paid employee his workforce were all out of work, which all but broke him. When Doug eventually lost his job with the company depression followed, as he thought he would never be able to work again due to his age. Just goes to show a little flutter at the races can be more dangerous than you first thought!