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What is El Gordo, the World's Richest Lottery

28 Apr 2016
What is El Gordo, the World's Richest Lottery

Every year, on December 22nd, people of Spain head to the nearest store and buy a ticket for the El Gordo lottery. El Gordo is translated as the “Fat One” – it has the reputation of being the richest lottery in the world. El Gordo is the traditional annual Christmas lottery of Spain.

Last year, on December 22nd, El Gordo distributed €2.24 billion in prize money across Spain among thousands of winners across Spain, including some recent immigrants to Spain from Africa, who were working as daily-wage laborers in the Spanish countryside.

It is believed that over 75% of Spain’s population plays El Gordo and each Spanish resident spends an average of €62.72 on buying El Gordo tickets. In fact, buying El Gordo tickets is a popular Christmas tradition in Spain, which has been around for more than 200 years.

No other lottery in the world can transform as many lives as El Gordo does, because unlike Powerball or MegaMillions, where hundreds of millions of dollars are won by just one person, in El Gordo, over EUR 2 billion are distributed among thousands of people, with each person getting tens of thousands of Euros.

No, winning El Gordo won’t make you rich beyond your wildest dreams – but it will give you enough money to pay off your debts, buy a decent house and get your children admitted into a decent school.

 History of El Gordo

El Gordo is the second oldest lottery in the world. The very first El Gordo was held on 22nd December 1812 in the city of Cádiz. El Gordo has since been held on the same day every year since then. Not even the Spanish Civil War could stop the El Gordo. The lottery had to be shifted to Valencia when Madrid was under seize during the Spanish Civil War, but came back to Madrid at the end of the war.

How El Gordo Works

El Gordo has a complicated ticketing system because so many people participate in it. All lottery shops will have certain numbers available which you have to pick – you cannot pick the numbers of your choice. Generally, people who win El Gordo are from the same area, as the lottery is won by people who have won the tickets from a particular shop. You can buy El Gordo tickets from a shop or buy the tickets online as well.

The magic of El Gordo is that each number is repeated 160 times. So if you have the winning ticket in your hands, you will be sharing your prize money with 159 other people who have the same number. That’s why the payouts in El Gordo are not massive – an individual can at best make €4 million from it.

An El Gordo ticket costs €200, which is very high indeed. But you can choose to buy one-tenth of a ticket for €20. Generally shops buy tickets in full and them divide them into ten parts and sell the parts to customers.

 What Happens on December 22nd?

On the night of December 22nd, when the El Gordo lottery draw is held, everybody in Spain will be glued to their TV sets, streets are deserted and shops are closed early. The El Gordo lottery draw can take over 3 hours.

There are two spherical vessels, one that contains balls that are embossed with the numbers of the winning lottery tickets and other that contains all the secondary prizes. The balls are drawn in a very unique manner and the winning numbers are sung by the students of Madrid's San Ildefonso school.

This school was once a home for orphans and traditionally winners of El Gordo used to donate a part of their winnings to the orphanage. This tradition is no longer there, as the San Ildefonso is no longer an orphanage.

Can I take part in the El Gordo?

Yes, you can. Anyone can buy the El Gordo tickets which are sold online.

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Last Modified: Wednesday 11 May 2016 09:42
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