Spain 'El Gordo' lottery provides break from crisis woes
Hundreds of fans of Spain's annual Christmas lottery turned out to the draw on Saturday, some clad in wacky costumes and all hoping to win a piece of the pie and forget their economic woes.
Europe's biggest lottery, the El Gordo or "The Fat One" will pay out a total of 2.47 billion euros ($3.25 billion) in prize money this year, down from 2.68 billion in 2011.
With the draw beamed live on television, the country held its collective breath when two schoolchildren announced the winning number: 76058.
"This year again, I didn't win, but that's okay. We're there with friends to have fun and clown around. It's kind of a way to counter the crisis," said Enrique Vilches, an 80-year-old retiree decked out in a clown costume.
Like many others, Vilches spent more than he would have liked on the lottery, whose tradition holds that anyone who is gifted a ticket must return the favour.
"I spent around 200 euros ($260) but if my wife knew that she'd kill me," he said.
The couple share a 900-euro a month pension, which they also use to help out the grandchildren whose parents are unemployed like many in a country whose jobless rate is around 25 percent.
While residents spent eight percent less on the draw this year, they still dished out an average of 52 euros per person, down from 57 euros last year.
"Now in a time of crisis is when the lottery is especially important. We play even more and hope to win something," said 31-year-old Oscar Binon.
"People aren't doing well in the crisis. But we haven't lost hope," said Rufino Huertas, a 55-year-old metro employee.
Clad in an outfit covered in "hand-made" pesetas -- Spain's currency before the euro -- Huertas said: "Why the pesetas? Because life was better with the peseta."
© 2012 AFP