MADRID, Spain — Spaniards looking for a respite from the pandemic's gloom and doom turned their attention Wednesday to a rite that for more than two centuries has marked the beginning of the festive period: the country's bumper Christmas lottery, known as "El Gordo," or "The Fat One."
The draw, held annually since 1812, dished out a total of €2.4 billion (US$2.7 billion) in prizes this year, or 70% of the proceeds from ticket sales.
The top-prize number holder — number 86148 this year — gets €400,000 (US$450,000) or about €328,000 after taxes (US$370,000).
Javier Moñino Paniagua, a lottery ticket seller at a stall in Madrid's central Atocha train station, said his outlet sold tickets that won a total of €520 million (US$588 million).
The prizewinners for those tickets are probably scattered all over the country because the stall is right by the platform from where high-speed trains depart to many corners of Spain, he said.
He said he bought some tickets himself but missed out on the top prize.
People line up for hours in the days running up to the lottery to snatch their 20-euro tickets from the most popular vendors.
Some buy them for themselves or as gifts for others. Work colleagues, relatives or friends also pool money to buy them, with their eyes set on sharing the prizes.
Other lotteries have bigger individual top prizes but Spain's Christmas lottery, staged each year on Dec. 22, is ranked as the world's richest for the total prize money involved.
Despite a spiraling number of coronavirus cases — Spain on Tuesday scored its pandemic record of new infections, with nearly 50,000 reported in one day — spectators returned to Madrid's Teatro Real opera house for the draw after last year's hiatus.
Following the tradition, children from Madrid's San Ildefonso school call out the prizewinning numbers, followed by jubilant street and bar scenes of winners celebrating with bottles of sparkling wine.
The lottery is run by the state and supports several charities.
"El Gordo" sounds like a lot of fun. But I can't help but wonder what the security was like back in the early 1800's when the drawing first started. How were they able to keep the organizers and other employees from cheating since there were no computers or security cameras? I can imagine someone in Barcelona winning the top prize, but it takes them 2 months to ride to Madrid on horseback to pick up their prize. Today we have everything. We were born in the right century.
I need my eyes checked....skipped two key words from the train station. Thought initially it said sold 520 million Euros of lotto tickets! Will be looking forward to reading of winners. Quite an interesting lottery!
That top prize is way too low I believe it much higher. 172 • 4Million euros split between the holders of fractions of the winning number. Very diff from our lotteries.
ot : Powerball now at $400 million.
They decided since the next drawing falls on Christmas they'd increase the payout up $22 million vs the 'normal' 10-15 million. So thoughtful of them--insert sarcasm.
Just bought a PB/PP ticket with my $5 Cashball winnings. Quick pick and my Birthday was in the mix...so that means I'm a winner.
That's why lotteries were prohibited in the US, lottery fraud was major issue. The irony is, illegal lotteries was the reason some states introduced lotteries in the twentieth century.