It’s not likely to be a very happy Christmas for Hollyoaks’ Darren Osbourne, as actor Ashley Taylor-Dawson explains…

How did Darren get hooked on gambling?
“It started out with a little flutter and spiralled from there. He had a few big wins, thought ‘this is easy’ and then the gambling quickly got out of control. Now he’ll even bet on who’s going to have toast for breakfast!”

Does his dad know he’s gambling?
“Jack has no idea. Darren wants to keep it a secret. Zoe knows a little bit about it but not the whole story.”

Does Darren realise he has a problem?
“He’s slowly beginning to realise he has, yes. To begin with it’s all fun but when he starts losing the debts pile up.”

Big debts?
“Big! We’re not just talking a few quid but thousands and thousands. He’s hooked on gambling but also desperate to try and win back money to pay off his debts. It’s a terrible situation to be in.”

Who does he owe money to?
“All kinds of dodgy people. Heavies who want their money back or else! It’s very nasty. It’s like he has no control over what’s happening to him. He can’t stop because he has to win but he just ends up losing more and more.”

Does he steal to finance his habit?
“He has before and, yes, he’s stealing again. He steals off quite a few people and tries to justify it by telling himself he’ll pay them back as soon as he’s won again. It’s a kind of gambling fever.”

Zoe dumped him after his drink-and-gambling fuelled fling with Jessica. Is he still dumped?
“He’s trying his hardest to get back with Zoe. He thinks he’s getting somewhere but actually he isn’t. He really regrets the thing with Jessica… but still carries on gambling with her!”

Then he loses his half of The Dog to Warren in a poker game. How does that make him feel?
“He’s devastated. He tries to convince Warren the card game was just a joke but Warren insists he expects him to settle his debts.”

And he doesn’t relent?
“He tells Darren he can buy the pub back for £100,000!”

Jack has a heart attack – is Darren’s gambling to blame?
“It’s connected. Darren’s forced to tell his dad about the mess he’s in. Jack can’t deal with the stress and has a coronary. Darren feels incredibly guilty.”

Is it a serious heart attack?
“We’re talking life and death…”

Surely the shock will make Darren sort his problem?
“He wants to desperately but he may not be able to do it by himself. He may need professional help. He’d just better sort himself out soon or he’ll wreck his own life as well as his dad’s!”