El Gordo spreads cheer in crisis-hit Spain
As many as 1,950 people bought the winning number 78294 and will receive EUR 300,000 each in the world’s biggest lottery.Madrid – Spain's El Gordo, the world's biggest lottery in terms of prize money, on Tuesday gave out EUR 2.32 billion in Christmas prizes across the country which has one of the highest jobless rates in Europe.
The top prize this year went to the 1,950 tickets bearing the number 78294. Each holder of a ticket with this number won EUR 300,000.
All of the tickets bearing this number were sold in a lottery office in the working-class residential district of Tetuan in central Madrid which is home to many Latin American immigrants.
Sabino Calderon, a 50-year-old unemployed bricklayer from Ecuador, was one of the lucky holders of a winning ticket.
"With the money, the first thing that I am going to do is visit my wife and my children who live in Ecuador," he told reporters at the lottery office that sold the winning tickets, adding he had not seen his family in three years.
While other lotteries have bigger individual top prizes, El Gordo (the Fat One), is ranked as the world's richest for the total sum paid out.
Instead of a single jackpot, the lottery -- which is always held on 22 December -- is designed so that as many people as possible across Spain get a windfall in time for the holidays.
"I'm going through tough times because business is slow, this will help pay the mortgage," she said at the lottery office where she went accompanied by her two daughters.
"We are very happy and want to spend all the money, we are not going to save anything!" one of her daughters, Manuela Romero, a freelance publicist who has not worked for a year, said through tears.
Sales for El Gordo were down around 3.0 percent on last year at EUR 2.7 billion but the total prize money remained the same at EUR 2.32 billion, the state lottery agency said.
The Spanish economy entered into its first recession in over a decade at the end of 2008 as the international credit crunch hastened a correction which was already under way in its key property sector.
The country's unemployment rate has doubled over the past two years to hit 19.3 percent in October, the second highest rate in the 27-nation European Union behind Latvia.
El Gordo tickets cost EUR 20 each and they go on sale in July. Co-workers, friends and relatives often pitch in to buy tickets together are then glued to the television and radio as the prize numbers are called out.
The winning numbers are drawn by pupils of Madrid's Saint Ildefonso School, a former orphanage, who take turns to sing out the winning numbers and the amount won in a nationally televised draw lasting over three hours that brings Spain to a virtual standstill.
According to national statistics, 80 percent of Spaniards play El Gordo, using half their annual lottery spending on the festive draw which has been held since 1812 and is considered the start to the Christmas season.
The state lottery agency estimates each Spaniard spent around EUR 60 on the lottery this year.
Spaniards often choose lottery numbers matching significant dates. One of the most requested ticket numbers this year was 25609, which corresponds to 25 June 2009, the day pop star Michael Jackson died.
The number proved to be unlucky as it was not drawn in the lottery.
AFP / Daniel Silva / Expatica