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Excitement builds ahead of Spain’s famous Christmas lottery

Punters across the country are eagerly awaiting the results of the multi-million-euro prize, known as ‘El Gordo,’ which will be drawn on Saturday, December 22

Last year’s winners of the Christmas lottery.
Last year’s winners of the Christmas lottery.JAIME VILLANUEVA

Excitement is building ahead of Spain's famous Christmas lottery, which will be held this year on Saturday, December 22 at the Teatro Real opera house in Madrid.

A total of €2.38 billion, or 70% of overall ticket sales of €3.4 billion, is up for grabs. The top prize, known as El Gordo’ (The Fat One), is worth €680 million, although this amount is widely shared out.

The event will begin at 9am on Saturday and could last between six and seven hours

In Spain’s Christmas lottery, every ticket (billete) has a number ranging from 00000 to 99999. Each billete, which costs €200, is further divided into 10 identical fractions or décimos costing €20 each, which is what most people buy. But because numbers are also divided into 170 series, there are actually 1,700 décimos for every number, which would cost €34,000 in its entirety.

There are a total of 170 million décimos on sale this year across the country. Many people buy even smaller stakes in several décimos at a time, to increase their chances of winning something. A €1 stake in El Gordo is worth €20,000, while a €20 décimo pays out €400,000 before taxes.

But those who miss out on El Gordo can still win a prize. Second prize awards €125,000 to each winning décimo or €6,250 for every euro played. Third prize is €50,000 for a décimo or €2,500 for every euro. The Christmas lottery also includes 1,794 prizes of €1,000 for every décimo or €5 for every euro  (the so-called Pedrea). Punters also have the chance to win back the cost of a décimo (the Reintegro) if the last digit of their number matches the last digit in the six-digit sequence that wins first, second or third prize.

All prizes of over €2,500 are subject to a 20% tax which means holders of a décimo that wins El Gordo will take home €320,050, with the rest going out to the tax agency, lottery sellers and the state lottery organization, which falls under the remit of the Finance Ministry.

The winning numbers and their corresponding prizes will be drawn out of these rotating cages.
The winning numbers and their corresponding prizes will be drawn out of these rotating cages.EFE

And it is always possible that the winning ticket, the big one, will not be sold, so that the prize money set aside for that ticket won’t be shared out either, as was the case in 1931.

Following tradition, the winning numbers will be sung out by children from the San Ildefonso school – a former orphanage – in Madrid. The event will begin at 9am and could last between six and seven hours. Punters can watch the results live on EL PAÍS, which will be covering the event from Madrid and various points across Spain.

Tickets for the Christmas lottery will be on sale until 10pm on December 21 at lottery offices and until 11.45pm at authorized sales points and online. Once the results are announced, winners have until March 22, 2019 to collect their prize.

Last year, the winning number was 71198 and left the town of Vilalba in the northwestern region of Galicia €520 million richer. The number was also sold by Madrid’s famous Doña Manolita lottery shop and the equally famous Bruixa D'Or lottery organization, which are widely believed to be blessed with good luck. Since the Christmas tradition began, the top prize has landed in Madrid 78 times.

Long tradition

Spain’s first national Christmas lottery took place on December 18, 1812. But historians say it was first conceived to buy bullets and make cannons to fight the French troops attacking the Andalusian city of Cádiz, which in 1812 was Spain´s last line of defense against the Napoleonic invasion.

Although the lottery was created during the siege of Cádiz, by the time the lottery was celebrated the siege had already ended, having lasted from February 5, 1810 to August 25, 1812.

The war, however, was still raging, and the lottery spread from Andalusia to the rest of Spain as the Spanish troops defeated the French. In 1814, when the war was nearly over, the lottery headquarters moved from Cádiz to Madrid, and it has remained in the capital ever since.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

Christmas lottery prizes (for each of the 170 series)

  • 1st prize. El Gordo: €4 million
  • 2nd prize: €1.25 million
  • 3rd prize: €500,000
  • 4th prize: two prizes of €200,000
  • 5th prize: eight prizes of €60,000
  • Pedrea: 1,794 prizes of €1,000
  • Numbers before and after 1st prize: two prizes of €20,000
  • Numbers before and after 2nd prize: two prizes of €12,500
  • Numbers before and after 3rd prize: two prizes of €9,600
  • Numbers with the same first three digits as 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize: 297 prizes of €1,000
  • Numbers with the same first three digits as the 4th prize: 198 prizes of €1,000
  • Numbers with the same two last digits as  1st, 2nd and 3rd prize: 297 prizes of €1,000
  • Reintegro: 9,999 prizes of €200

More information

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