The long queues witnessed on streets around Spain say it all – the Spaniards are going lottery mad, praying that Lady Luck smiles at them. It is the annual ‘El Gordo’ lottery season, and for punters, the likelihood of winning thousands of pounds in prize money, couldn’t have arrived at a better time!
Every year, around Christmas, Spanish towns and city centers swell with thousands of individuals participating in the country’s signature tradition. As their beloved tradition comes to life, nearly everyone jumps in and participates; hoping to cash in on the billions of euros handed out in prize money.
‘El Gordo’ (the Fat one) lottery is a no-ordinary tradition in Spain. This second oldest lottery in the world dates back to 1812 in Cádiz, its birthplace according to this site. Not even the various wars and atrocities that have happened over the years, including the Spanish Civil War, have ever stopped it from going on.
Yet, each year, the growth mirrors the meteoric rise of the online casino market. Indeed, ‘El Gordo’ is the richest lottery in the world, and when you look at the total prize money on offer, it’s easy to see why the lottery booths are swelling.
The advert is out!
Not even the strict Lockdown measures occasioned by the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic can stand in the way of El Gordo this December. Nor, the fact that hundreds of punters are reeling in the worst economic conditions in many years and possibly have to slash their Christmas budgets.
The countdown to December 22 started long ago, with many looking forward to this massively popular Christmas lottery. For a majority of them, winning the lottery’s top prize might be their best Christmas gift.
The schmaltzy advert has been running and, everybody – locals and ex-pats alike, is welcome to participate. And considering that it is the only one that rewards handsomely, who wouldn’t want to participate?
But what exactly is El Gordo?
Just as the name suggests, El Gordo is the world’s richest. In fact, the entire ‘Spanish Christmas lottery hands out by far the craziest amounts of money you could ever guess. Winners start by acquiring tickets from the over 170 million of them on offer.
Standard tickets go for €200, according to The Sun. Ticket sellers, however, create frenzy across the country every year as ambitious locals jostle for the one lucky ticket. Individuals line up to buy several of them, an activity that usually leaves the entire country gripped.
How it works and the prizes on offer
First, the long queues all over Spain every December are now part of the country’s tradition. Individuals throng the streets and line up, all hoping to snap up the winning number combo and strike riches. And because El Gordo’s complex rules permit pundits to buy as many tickets as they can, the long lines continue up to the last day of purchases.
A ticket (billete) goes for €200, a figure that often is too high for average Spaniards. Luckily, the same is also available in one-tenth tickets called Décimo and Participación – a sub-division of Décimo. As per The Telegraph, many instead resort to buying Décimo, or tenth of a ticket, costing €20.
This lottery is unlike any other.
Like the fanfare in the planet’s best gambling resorts, El Gordo draws almost all Spaniards, who simply join in the craze. However, since so many people take part, it is common to find a ticket number repeated several times. In fact, a single ticket number can be repeated 165 times.
If a repeated number ends up being the winning ticket, the entire lot of winners end up sharing the same El Gordo equally amongst themselves. That is why this single largest lottery in the world can pay a mere €4 million to an eventual winner.
But there’s the novelty of this Spanish Christmas lottery
It is perfectly understandable to scoff at the bizarre amount of money the jackpot promises. But the fact that the prize money is appealing and perhaps causes the entire country to come to a standstill means there’s more to it.
As pupils of Madrid’s San Ildefonso School read out the winning ticket numbers from Teatro Real opera house, the streets of Spain go dead-silent. The entire 3-hour live televised El Gordo lottery draw is unlike any other national event.
The school hosts the event, ideally because it is the main beneficiary of the donations from the lottery. And everyone, including the participants, dresses up in lottery-themed clothing and hats.
With every ball number picked from the two spherical vessels sung out, the amount of tension rising in each group huddled around a TV is palpable. The highlight, of course, is when participants hold their breath for a second as the €4-million ball is drawn.
Sharing of the prize money usually is what makes the annual El Gordo lottery worth looking forward to. It is a tradition that’s so profound to the locals at the season of giving that it almost always is a perfect precursor to Christmas.
There’s always a catch!
Splitting the winnings adds this lottery the spice and excitement it is associated with. But even with the slogan, “El mayor premio es compartirlo,” it’s usually those who chipped in for a décimo that only get a share of it. It isn’t similar to online casino for roulette wins that can’t be shared.
This couldn’t have been more vivid than in 2011 when Sodeto, a tiny Spanish village scooped the El Gordo. Its 250 villagers, safe for an unlucky Greek resident who never contributed anything in buying the ticket, shared the prize money.
They all claimed a piece of the€120 million, with some walking away with handsome amounts ranging from €100,000 to €1 million apiece. The Greek resident got nothing, despite being a resident of the village.
What to do ahead of the 22nd December draw
To ‘play’ a particular number, figure out the booth it is sold from and go for it. You can alternatively buy it online and save yourself the hassle of queuing for hours at the town center.
But beware of scammers by buying your El Gordo lottery tickets from authorized vendors alone. Any email telling you that you have won before the big draw is fictional – avoid it.
Lastly, don’t forget to keep your ticket safe. Remember, you can’t claim a prize without it. You must produce a genuine winning ticket to be paid.