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Spain’s Christmas Lottery – El Gordo

Wondering what all the long queues are in streets around Spain in the lead up to Christmas? Then wonder no more! People are waiting to take part in Spain’s unique ‘El Gordo’ (the Fat one) Christmas lottery – the richest in the world.

El Gordo – Spanish Christmas Lottery

With a chance of winning put at one in six, no wonder the whole of Spain is gripped by the Christmas lottery. El Mundo (large Spanish newspaper) states that 75% of Spaniards buy tickets for El Gordo, spending a total of €3.2 billion in the process.

El Gordo – History Of The Spanish Lottery

The first Spanish Christmas lottery took place in Cadiz on 22nd December 1812 and since then has become a national Spanish institution and also is the world’s 2nd oldest lottery. Even during Spain’s Civil War El Gordo continued each year, although it moved to Valencia when the Republican government relocated there from Madrid. Following the Civil War the lottery moved back to Madrid where it has stayed until this day. San Ildefonso school was originally built for orphans and the tradition continues that El Gordo winners donate some of their winnings to San Ildefonso. Until 1984 the balls were only drawn by boys.

El Gordo – How To Buy Tickets

Because of the sheer volume of people playing El Gordo, the ticketing system is a little complicated. Unlike the UK lottery for example, those wishing to play can’t go into a newsagent and choose numbers on the lottery card. In Spain, for El Gordo lottery shops have certain numbers available which is why the big winners of El Gordo Christmas Lottery are normally from the same town or area as many people have bought their tickets from the same shop. This means if you want to ‘play’ your favourite number, you have two options – either travel to the shop that has your ‘favourite’ number for sale — or buy your El Gordo ticket online. If you want to find where your ‘favourite’ number is being sold you can use an online search tool like this one from El Pais.

El Gordo – How To Play

With each ticket costing a massive €200, many people can only afford to buy a tenth of a ticket (called un décimo) for €20. Also smaller portions of tickets can be bought as it is commonplace for bars and restaurants to buy a ticket and then to sell small portions of that ticket to their customers for just €1.

El Gordo – The Draw Itself

On 22nd December streets in Spain are deserted as everyone watches their televisions to watch the live El Gordo lottery draw, a process which can take over 3 hours, during which the balls are drawn and the numbers are sung out by the schoolchildren of Madrid’s San Ildefonso school. On the stage at the school are 2 spherical vessels, one of which contains balls embossed with the numbers matching the lottery tickets and the other contains the prizes in euros.

El Gordo – Prize Money

Each year at Christmas time, the Spanish go lottery mad and queue for hours to buy their tickets for the famous Christmas lottery. This year (2014) the prize money will total €2.2 billion, with the top individual prize (El Gordo) being a staggering €4 million. Because of the vast number of people playing El Gordo, numbers are repeated up to 160 times which means winners of El Gordo will be sharing their prize with at least 159 others, which explains why the top individual prize in El Gordo comes in at €4 million!

So why not buy a ticket for El Gordo this Christmas? Buena suerte!

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