THE statistics speak for themselves: more than 500 millionaires created in Scotland since the National Lottery launched 25 years ago, over 3,400 prizes of £50,000 or more won by lucky punters north of the Border, and goodness knows how many more have pocketed a few thousand or a few hundred over the years.
While most millionaires can be found in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Motherwell, it is the Selkirkshire town of Galashiels that is regarded as the luckiest place in the country – and indeed the whole of the UK. According to the National Lottery number crunchers, one in every 894 players has banked a big prize, including the most recent one in July, when a syndicate of 19 staff at Icom Scottech Ltd took home £1million with a ticket bought at the local Asda. Nine years earlier, another syndicate in Gala, this one a group of plumbers, netted £927,429 after a jackpot of more than £4.6m was shared by five ticket-holders.
And, of course, just a few miles away in Hawick, David and Carol Martin scooped £33m in 2016.
So it is with this in mind that I head down to the Borders to see if I can secure a big win.
Cherene Thomson is behind the counter in Fountain News on Bank Street and hands me two lucky dips for Wednesday’s draw.
“I didn’t know Gala is meant to be that lucky,” the 27-year-old muses, when I tell her the reason for my visit.
“I bought a lottery ticket every week at one point and the most I won, I think, was £2.70.
“I suppose that bought the kids a couple of bags of sweeties from the shop.
“Good luck with that one,” she says, nodding towards my £4 purchase.
Outside the newsagent, retired environmental health officer Robert MacKenzie is folding away his newly bought ticket.
The 66-year-old confesses he only ever plays Thunderball but has never won more than £3.10.
“The jackpots are ridiculous,” he says. “More people would play it if the jackpot was a maximum of £2m with the rollovers capped at say £10m or £14m.
“That way more of the cash could be handed out to those with four or five matching numbers, which now gets you £60 – if you are lucky. If you had a chance of winning a few thousand or tens of thousands without hitting the jackpot, it would become a more attractive option.”
But, unlike most, Robert does not dream of winning big. He’d be happy with enough to enjoy trips to the world’s biggest sporting events, with a few holidays and shopping trips for his wife.
The thought of landing a jackpot of £161m, like Ayrshire couple Colin and Christine Weir did back in 2011, gives him the shudders.
“While it enables you to give to good causes, it’s still far too much,” he adds before saying goodbye.
Outside the “lucky Asda”, as some folk refer to the store, Alexander Anderson is ready to do his shopping.
Although the retired lorry driver does not play the lottery himself, his wife sometimes does.
The 79-year-old says: “It’s only every once in a while now but to begin with it was every week.
“She had a set of numbers but never won a thing or if she did it was not all that much.
“Even when she stopped play- ing, she kept checking on her numbers, which was a mistake because eventually they did come up.
“I am that old I don’t really need anything in my life so, even if we did win big, I don’t know what I’d use the money for.”
Joyce Macvicar, is out doing her birthday shopping.
The 66-year-old, who has four children and six grandchildren, is a regular ticket buyer.
“I once won £6,000,” she says. “It’s not a huge sum, but it felt great because you don’t really expect it, even though you are meant to be ‘in it to win it’.
“But, apart from that, it’s only been a few pounds here and there. “I had no idea Gala is that lucky.
Who would have thought it.
“I don’t know anyone who has scooped a big win – or maybe they’re just keeping quiet about it. “If I won, I’d make sure my kids are cared for and jet off on a holiday to the Maldives.”
Gwen Lawrence, 71, also used to play but, once the ticket prices started to creep up, she gave her dreams of becoming a millionaire a rest.
She says: “A couple of lucky dips at the EuroMillions cost you £5. If you also play the normal Lotto and Thunderball and all the rest of them every time there is a draw, it will cost you a fortune.
“My neighbour won £10,000 in the Health Lottery but that’s about as close to winning as I’ve got.
“Some of the jackpots are too big. I think £5million would be enough.”
As the night’s draw approaches, I dig out my lucky dips hoping some of that “Gala magic” has rubbed off.
But Lady Luck is clearly having a rest and I end up with my usual “no matching numbers”.