The Generous Christmas Lottery

El Gordo, Spanish Christmas Lottery or simply Christmas Lottery as it is popularly referred to
as is a national fiesta in Spain and constitutes an integral part of the country’s Christmas
festivities. Almost 90% of the Spanish population participates in this lottery, making it not just
the biggest lottery ever, but also the most keenly looked-forward-to as well.

Spanish Christmas Lottery has been running non-stop each year since 1812 and hence is
the oldest lottery in the world today. The term El Gordo means ‘the fat one’, used to refer to
the huge prize pool of this lottery, which is close to £ 2.1 billion. The top tier offers £ 4
million, going to every winning ticket holder, which usually runs into hundreds.

The history behind the Spanish Christmas Lottery:

It was in Madrid in the year 1763 that the first ever Loterla de Navidad (Spanish Christmas
Lottery) draw was held. It was a Minister’s idea who had seen a similar lottery in Italy. The
revenue generated was to be used for covering the costs of the country’s war against
Portugal, and to deal with the growing unrest in the New World colonies of the country. That
first draw involved selection of 5 wooden balls out of 90. The lottery was an instant hit and
the revenues were double than what were projected.
Almost 48 years later in 1811 while Napoleon was planning to wage a war on Spain, the idea
was used once again to drum up funds for that war. But the population this time wasn’t keen
on funding the army as the country was already suffering from epidemics and famine.
Hence, the officials simply declared that the money generated would be used for the
orphans instead. But later the Spanish Parliament voted for creation of a formal Christmas
Lottery every year, and therefore the first official Spanish Christmas Lottery came into being
in 1812.

How it works?

Each year the draw of the Spanish Christmas Lottery happens on December 22, in Madrid,
Spain, and lasts for 3 hours. This lottery works more on the lines of a raffle instead of a
conventional lottery. Hence, instead of lottery balls there are a couple of huge drums
consisting of all the bought tickets, as is seen in case of a raffle. Every ticket has a number
printed on it, ranging from 00000 to 99999. You win a prize in the event that your ticket’s
numbers are same as that on the ticket drawn from the drum.

The overall prize pool is split into multiple tiers, each offering a specific number of prizes, for
instance, there’s just one first prize for El Gordo, however, the sixth tier involves 1794 prizes
of € 1000 each.

Please note, as there are multiple copies of the tickets printed, it’s possible for more than
one individual to hold the same ticket number. For instance, 170 people can have the same
first prize ticket and claim €4,000,000 each. To put things into perspective, a sum of $2.4 billion was paid out in total in 2015.

You can even buy shares of the tickets, up to the 1/10th of the single ticket value (referred to
as decimo). As can be expected, the cost will be 1/10 of the price of the ticket and the prize
(if it comes) is split accordingly.

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