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The world's richest lottery

December 22, 2012

A select group of lucky Spaniards, many of whom hail from outside Madrid, have won the world's largest lottery. The sweepstake has dished out prizes worth 2.5 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in total.

Carmen, right celebrates with family and friends after winning one of the main Christmas lottery prize ?El Gordo? (?The Fat One?) in Alcala de Henares, just outside of Madrid, Saturday Dec. 22, 2012. (Foto:Paul White/AP/dapd)
Image: dapd

The 200-year-old Christmas lottery, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), has awarded 180 jackpots. Tickets are sold in batches that carry the same numbers, so prizes tend to converge geographically.

It is rare in Spain for any one person to win the entire jackpot because each ticket costs 200 euros. Instead, most people buy only a fraction of a ticket, the smallest being a "decimo," which awards a tenth of the prize and costs 20 euros.

Millions of people around Spain, a country currently experiencing its second recession in three years, had hoped for a piece of the payout.

El Gordo: Spain is in Lottery Fever

Despite reports from ticket vendors saying lottery sales had declined, long lines formed at popular kiosks that had previously sold winning numbers.

The lottery is also popular outside of Spain, with people as far away as Asia buying tickets over the internet.

"It is almost easier to win the lottery than to find a job," an unemployed man told the DPA news agency, referring to the one-in-four people in the Spanish workforce without a job.

This year's lottery was the last in which the prizes will not be taxed. New government austerity measures include a 20 percent tax on all lottery prizes bigger than 2,500 euros starting January 1.

The draw for the jackpot took place at Madrid's Teatro Real opera. The event, which lasted more than three hours, featured orphans from the San Ildefonso school chanting the winning numbers.

The Spanish Christmas lottery has been organized every year since 1812.

dr/hc (dpa, Reuters)