The Spanish are a lively bunch. And their famous lottery, called The El Gordo Lottery, is just as lively. It takes place once a year only, at Christmas, and the jackpot reaches dizzying heights.
“El Gordo” means The Fat One. And this Spanish Christmas lottery is called The Fat One for a good reason. Which has to do with money. Because the jackpot of this annual lottery is one of the highest in Europe. But not just the main, grand prize (or jackpot) of the Spanish Christmas lottery can be considered fat. No, because the El Gordo lottery offers many prizes in all categories. In fact, there are so many chances to win The El Gordo lottery that most people feel obliged to participate. If the last number of your chosen numbers coincides with the last number of the winning numbers, you get back the exact amount that you bet! That is a one to ten chance of winning, just there. The Spanish Christmas lottery also gives away around 5 million dollars to everybody who has the winning numbers in a different series than the main jackpot. In 2016 this turned out to be 165 tickets.
The Spanish Christmas lottery (El Gordo lottery) has been around for some time. And we’re not just talking decades here because the first draw took place way back in 1812. That’s right, 24 short years after the US constitution was in place, the Spaniards were giving away prizes to its citizens. And from the start, the lottery has been controlled by the Spanish state. Today, El Gordo is the second longest continuously running lotteries in the world. And interestingly enough, this traditional lottery was seen as so important that it even continued its draws during the Civil War. But there are other records that the El Gordo lottery is responsible for holding. And here we come back to the large amount of prizes that the Christmas lottery gives out. The El Gordo lottery is considered the biggest lottery worldwide in terms of prizes. No other lottery gives more to its players.
Before we look more specifically at the Spanish Christmas lottery numbers, you need to understand that the El Gordo lottery is very different from regular US lotteries. To play, you need to buy a ticket. And the tickets come with the numbers specified for you. In other words, you cannot choose the numbers yourself. The numbers have five digits and therefore go from zero to 99,999. In other words, the Spanish Christmas lottery has 100,000 numbers. With tens of millions of tickets sold, it goes without saying that there are more than one series of tickets. In fact, the Christmas lottery in 2015 had nearly 200 series. And to give you an idea of the amounts of money we’re talking about, let’s have a look at what happened back in 2015. That year the El Gordo lottery reached new record heights. The total number of tickets sold were a staggering 18 million. Each ticket had a value of around 300 US dollars. Which means that the Fat One reached almost five and a half billion dollars in sales. A whopping 70% of that sum went straight back to the players in the form of prizes. An unheard of sum of money for most lotteries. And that same year, the lucky winner of the main jackpot won well over one billion US dollars! Now…do you understand why the lottery is called El Gordo?
Now, with lottery ticket prizes of 300 US dollars, you may wonder how normal people can afford to buy these tickets. A normal lottery ticket in the US (and the regular European lotteries) is a dollar, only! The answer is that many Spaniards wanting to play the El Gordo lottery do not even buy a whole, single ticket, but instead team up with friends and family to buy one. They all chip in with equal parts, and if that ticket is the winning ticket, then the prize is divided into equal parts, as well. Or so the theory goes, as there have been many disputes with tickets in the El Gordo Christmas lottery. Most people manage to agree on how to split the prizes, but the safest bet is to put everything in writing before the prize is won. The most common way of splitting an El Gordo ticket is to divide by ten. Ten people join in and pay the equivalent of 30 US dollars each. If the win, the get one tenth of the prize. In 2016, the El Gordo delivered out prizes for about 2.5 billion US dollars. And the main prize of four million euros was won by a group of ten friends from Barcelona! They got off to a very happy 2017, for sure!