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Spain’s ‘El Gordo’ Christmas lottery awards billions

More than €2.4 billion will be shared by winners of Spain’s “El Gordo” Christmas lottery, with a top prize of €4 million. There were 172 top division winners.

The winning numbers are sung by children on national television

Spain’s “El Gordo” lottery paid out €2.4 billion ($2.93 billion) to winners on Wednesday.

Different from other lotteries that have only a few big winners, “El Gordo” (the “Fat One”) shares the wealth of its €2.4 billion pot with thousands of winners nationwide.

The biggest prize is worth €4 million. With a winning number of 72897, it paid out 172 times,

Since a full “El Gordo ticket,” which costs €200, is too expensive for many players, people often buy one-tenth of a ticket, entitling them to a 10% share. For those lucky winners, their €400,000 prize netted them about €325,000 after taxes.

However, traditionally many families, friends and co-workers also share the purchase of these smaller €20 tickets, and band together in the hope of good fortune.

Fat history of ‘El Gordo’

Though other national lotteries have bigger individual top prizes, Spain’s “El Gordo,” held each year on December 22, is ranked as the world’s richest in total prize money.

Established as a charity in 1763 during the reign of Spain’s King Carlos III, it has been held uninterrupted since 1892. The national lottery’s continuing objective is to help several charities while also filling up state coffers.

‘El Gordo’ winners in 2019 included the owners and employees of the shop Dona Manolita

Winning numbers announced by children

Held according to tradition despite the coronavirus, the winning numbers were sung out by children from Madrid’s San Ildefonso school, a former orphanage, in a nationally televised drawing at the Teatro Real opera house.

Even without an audience, organizers and participants on stage took PCR tests and donned masks. The children, however, were allowed to briefly remove them as they sang out the numbers and prizes.

Coronavirus mutes celebrations

Normally a cause for jubilation, this year most celebrations were muted with participants wearing masks and taking other measures to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Spain’s capital, Madrid, continues to be a hotspot for the virus which has infected more than 1.8 million people and killed close to 50,000 nationwide — one of Europe’s worst outbreaks.

With most bars and offices closed throughout the year, the lottery raised over €2.6 billion euros in sales, down 11% from 2019, according to the state body that runs it.

More than €2.4 billion will be shared by winners of Spain's "El Gordo'' Christmas lottery, with a top prize of €4 million. There were 172 top division winners.

Spanish El Gordo de Navidad

Buy tickets for the next Navidad 2021 draw:

Biggest Ever Jackpot €4,000,000

Overall Odds of Winning 1 in 31

Odds of Winning Jackpot 1 in 139,838,160

How to play

El Gordo translates as ‘the big one’ and refers to the coveted first prize, but is also frequently used to describe the game in general. It is played on 22nd December each year and is a raffle rather than a traditional lottery draw. Players purchase pre-printed tickets bearing five-digit codes. While players can buy a full ticket, known as a billete, for €200, they can also choose to buy one-tenth of a ticket, called a décimo, for €20.

El Gordo Prizes

Prize Tier Total Prizes Prize per Billete*
El Gordo – First Prize 1 €4,000,000
Second Prize 1 €1,250,000
Third Prize 1 €500,000
Fourth Prize 2 €200,000
Fifth Prize 8 €60,000

*A billete is a full ticket containing ten décimos.

The prize value per person is determined by how many players have contributed to each billete. For example, if one player had bought a whole billete that won the first prize (El Gordo), they would win €4 million, whereas if ten players had a décimo each with the same winning code, they would each receive €400,000.

Each raffle number is printed more than a hundred times in what are known as series. Each billete that bears the same code wins the stated prize, which means that more than a hundred jackpot prizes of €4 million are won on the night.

Further prizes are also awarded in la Pedrea (“the avalanche of pebbles”). In total, 70 percent of the money generated from ticket sales is paid back out in prizes, and in 2015 there were 15,304 ways to win.

Latest Result

This shows the latest 2020 result for El Gordo de Navidad

You can play El Gordo by buying tickets from authorised retail stores throughout Spain, but players from abroad can also join in on the festive fun by playing online.

Interesting Facts

The first El Gordo de Navidad draw was held in 1812 and forms a large part of Christmas celebrations in Spain. Today, it is famous for its staggering prize fund, which typically exceeds €2 billion.

The whole El Gordo draw is shown live on TV as pupils from the San Ildefonso School sing the results to accompany the drawing of each ball in a ceremony that can last for several hours. The winning numbers are drawn from one machine at the same time as another ball is drawn from the second machine to determine the prize amount.

The format also resembles a raffle more than a lottery, as two machines are used to draw both the winning numbers and the associated prize values. It is incredibly popular because there are over 15,000 ways to win, and players often join together to buy tickets. It is not uncommon to see several players across a neighbourhood, or even a village, win the top prize on El Gordo de Navidad, as one or two local shops might only sell a few sets of serial numbers. It is estimated that most of the adult population in Spain, perhaps more than 90 percent, have at least a décimo at stake in the El Gordo draw.

Find out more about El Gordo de Navidad here including how to play, prizes and odds and the latest results. ]]>