Every year, the world’s biggest lottery takes place in the days leading up to Christmas, offering hope and excitement to millions. This is the Spanish Christmas Lottery, known locally as the ‘Loteria de Navidad’ or ‘El Gordo’ (‘the fat one’). The second longest-running lottery in the world, Spain’s Christmas Lottery has the largest payouts of any lottery in the world, and this year it has once again not disappointed, with a total of $2.8 billion distributed across the country.
The yearly draw is a cultural institution, with between 75% and 90% of the country taking part every year. Traditionally, the numbers are announced in a televised broadcast by the children of San Ildefonso primary school in Madrid, who sing all 1,807 prizes distributed by the wheels. It is known as a relatively fair lottery, with prizes more or less evenly distributed throughout the country. The odds of walking away with ‘El Gordo’ – the name given to the largest prize – are 0.001%, compared to the 0.0000000086% chance of winning the Euromillions jackpot.
This year, the prize draw took place on Friday 22nd December, and has once again made many people throughout Spain very happy in the lead-up to Christmas. Unlike many lotteries around the world, there is not a single winner of ‘El Gordo’: multiple people can purchase winning numbers, meaning multiple winners. Every number represents a ‘serie’, worth €200, which is then further divided into 10 ‘decimos’, worth €20.
2017’s lucky number was 71998, and winners of the big prize are still coming forward. As with every year, the Loteria de Navidad has brought its fair share of wonderful stories and great news for winners. One of these is the small town of Pinos Puente in Galicia, in the north of the country, within which 451 ‘decimos’ of the winning number were purchased, each worth a whopping €125,000. For a town with an unemployment rate of 29%, this means a wonderful Christmas for many of its inhabitants and a significant help for the community: some residents have already said to be overjoyed, as they will now be able to afford Christmas presents for their families.
Another heartwarming story comes from Spain’s south coast, where a Senegalese migrant who had made the perilous journey to Europe by boat with his wife in 2007 has won €400,000. Ngagne is one of many winners of ‘El Gordo’ in the town of Roquetas del Mar, which received overall €640 million distributed amongst 1,600 tickets. Roquetas del Mar also also faces high unemployment rates: Ngagne had just recently lost his job as a vegetable picker, and is overjoyed at the news.
With Spain still facing a dire economic situation and high unemployment rates, never having fully recovered from the crisis almost 10 years ago, the Loteria de Navidad presents a wonderful opportunity for disadvantaged communities throughout the country to celebrate the festive period in style. This year once again, some thousands of people have had their Christmas wishes come true and will be able to enjoy the season with their families with some comfort and reassurance for the coming year.