MADRID, Spain — People lucky enough to hold tickets with the number 71198 were blessed with thousands of euros in prize money in Spain's bumper Christmas lottery Friday.
Children from Madrid's San Ildefonso school called out the top prize number three hours after the much-followed, nationally televised draw began around 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) at Madrid's Teatro Real opera house.
The lottery, known as El Gordo, or The Fat One, will dish out 2.4 billion euros (US$2.8 billion) in prizes this year.
Despite the huge amount of money awarded, nobody gets ultra-rich from El Gordo. It is called a lottery, but is actually more akin to a raffle, in which the prize money is spread out amount thousands of winning tickets.
Still, El Gordo, held each Dec. 22, is described by many as the "world's richest" due to the total prize-money involved.
The top prize per winning ticket is 400,000 euros (US$473,000) and there are several smaller prizes too.
Each ticket — costing 20 euros — is typically not sold as one unit. Tickets are broken into ten parts, called Decimos, sold for 2 euros each. So one decima that wins the top prize would be worth 40,000 euros.
People traditionally chip in together and buy shares of several or many tickets among friends, families or workmates in one of the most popular Christmas customs in Spain.
Lines form outside lottery booths weeks ahead of the draw and people tune in across all media to find out if they are among the lucky ones in a draw that dates back to 1812.
Spain set up its national lottery as a charity in 1763, during the reign of King Carlos III, but later its objective shifted toward filling state coffers.
Organizers said ticket sales totaled 2.8 billion euros (US$3.3 billion) this year, up 3 percent from last year.
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