MADRID – Much of Spain took time Friday morning to listen to the radio, look at a television screen or check their mobile phones to see if luck had chosen them by making their ticket a pathway to some of the nearly 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) showered on the nation by the country’s Christmas lottery.
As the number for the top prize, El Gordo (the Fat One), reverberated around Spain, elated locals began to congregate outside in the rural northwestern town of Vilalba after they had confirmed that winning tickets had netted them some 520 million euros, with 200 million euros landing among clients of just one bar.
Its owner, Pilar Ferreiro, confirmed to Efe that the prize money “is very well distributed among locals, causing great joy here because they are humble and hardworking people, who really need it.”
The Cascudo Bar had sold its regular customers 50 series of El Gordo, although some visitors from outside the town also bought some tickets, Ferreiro said.
The El Gordo numbers, which were called out as tradition commands in a sing-song voice by children Yossueff Salhi and Noelia Katiuska, spread cheer around Spain by favoring some other winners in the cities of Madrid, Santander (north), Murcia (southeast), Malaga and Cadiz (south) and other smaller municipalities.
“El Gordo winners will receive 400,000 euros for each tenth of a ticket, with 680 million euros to be distributed with this main prize,” said Inmaculada Garcia, president of Spain’s state lottery organization.
According to Garcia’s office, 130 full tickets bearing the winning number 71,198 had been sold through a lottery vendor on Rua da Pravia, a street that runs through the town’s center.
Spain’s El Gordo lottery, the richest in the world, is one of the few things that helped unite the country at a time when separatism is on the minds of many.
Other lotteries around the world have larger jackpots, but El Gordo’s system keeps the top prize smaller by spreading winnings out among a larger number of tickets.
For example, the second prize this year amounts to 1.25 million euros per series of 10, or 125,000 euros for a one-tenth ticket, and the third is 500,000 euros to the series with 50,000 euros to the tenth.
The taxman also benefits, as any prize over 2,500 euros in value is liable to 20 percent taxes.
Spain established its national lottery as a charity in 1763, during the reign of King Carlos III, but its purpose gradually shifted toward filling state coffers. El Gordo itself dates from 1812 and today its standard ticket (one-tenth) costs 20 euros ($23.7).
People tend to chip in together and buy tickets along with friends, family members or workmates.
Long lines form outside lottery stores, particularly those which have established a reputation as lucky ones, weeks ahead of the draw.
The prize ticket numbers are sung out by pupils of a public elementary school in Madrid, Saint Ildefonso, during a nationally-televised event held in the city’s luxurious Teatro Real opera house.
The children first sang out the winning numbers in 1771, when the school was still an orphanage, as orphans were seen as less likely to cheat.