The El Gordo (The Fat One) Christmas lottery is the most traditional lotto draw in Spain with the vast majority of the country’s residents participating. In fact, this draw has turned out to be a national diversion with 98% of Spain’s population taking part. This is not really unexpected when you hear that the El Gordo is the largest prize fund lotto game globally.
The average Spaniard spends roughly 73 Euros in the Christmas draw and in 2008 the prize fund is estimated to top a staggering €2.20 billion. Here are a number of fundamental features of the El Gordo lottery:
• In excess of 13,000 prizes are paid out.
• It is operated by the Spanish Government.
• There is an outstanding 1 in 6 probability of grabbing a cash prize.
• All prizes are paid out at once and are tax exempt for Spanish residents.
• 70% of the money brought in by the sale of tickets is paid out in cash prizes.
Ever since December 1812 this Spanish lottery game has operated in precisely the same manner year on year. Two huge sphere-shaped containers are used; one of them contains tens of thousands of small wooden balls representing all ticket numbers; the other one contains fewer wooden balls representing the prizes to be drawn. In the Lotería Nacional hall in Madrid, students of the San Ildefonso School (previously reserved for orphans of public servants) draw the numbers and corresponding prizes, singing the results out loud to the huge Madrid crowd while both Spanish national television and radio broadcast the event.
Owing to the vast quantity of numbers and prizes, this process takes approximately three hours to finish. In recent years, in excess of 4,800 individual numbers have collected no less than €1,000 per billete (€100 per décimo) in the Christmas draw. The individuals who are not lucky enough to grab one of the many prizes frequently make the predictable comment that “it’s health that really matters”. Individuals who only recoup their entry fee will frequently re-invest the winnings in a ticket for El Niño, the second most significant draw, which takes place on January the 6th every year.
The two vessel arrangement is the long-established method of drawing the numbers in Spanish lotteries but this system is now reserved exclusively for the famous Christmas lottery draw. The rest of the weekly draws as well as the five other yearly El Gordo draws use five containers with ten balls in each, from where the winning numbers are pulled out.
Lottery shops in Spain mostly only sell tickets for one or two numbers, so the winners of the biggest prizes frequently live in the same town or region or work for the same firm. In 2005, the winning number was sold in the town of Vic in Catalonia (population 37,825), whose inhabitants won around €500 million.
Historically, you could only participate in the El Gordo if you were a citizen of Spain. However, with the introduction of lottery ticket sales agents you now have the chance to partake in this world famous Spanish lottery regardless of where you live globally. Some worldwide El Gordo lottery syndicates have also been introduced to not only allow more people access to this lottery but to boost their chances of collecting cash prizes too.
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