Update 21 December: Just a reminder that today’s the last chance to get tickets for El Gordo … the draw is tomorrow morning!

Original post 17 November: It’s that time again …

The Christmas lottery adverts are similar in Spain to the John Lewis (and maybe Sainsbury’s this year) adverts in the UK! Last year’s was a real tear jerker (below) … a guy who didn’t buy a ticket at his local bar, and who turned up to find that the bar is a winner, but he’d failed to buy a ticket and so missed out … and ordered a coffee and was charged €21 … because the owner has bought him his share …

And today, this year’s advert has been released (above) and has already gone viral. It’s the story of Justino, a night vigilante in a shop dummies factory, alone every night surrounded by the mannequins, which he starts to move around … . It’s every bit as good as Sainsbury’s Mog, or JL’s man on the moon, in my opinion!

I’m often asked about the Christmas lottery – El Gordo – which is drawn just before Christmas every year with much fanfare. The tickets have a number and each is divided into tenths – décimos – which cost €20. So what you are buying for €20 is one tenth of one ticket. But, tickets come in “series” of up to around 200, which means each number is sold that many times, and the total prize money for any number is divided between the series. Therefore when a number comes up, the prize it wins is divided between the series, and then further divided down the décimos. To win the whole prize for a number, one would need to buy not only the ten décimos that make up the whole ticket, but every ticket in a series. A décimo costs €20, and a whole ticket €200 … for the whole series, you’d be talking up to €40,000!

The overall prize is enormous – we are talking 2.24 billion Euros! This is the biggest lottery of them all, hence its name – El Gordo – but this enormous prize is the total prize pot. So, for example, you have a décimo of number 12345 and there’s a series of 160 for that number. Then suppose it is drawn in fourth place, and the prize for fourth place is €200,000. So, you’d need to divide the prize of €200,000 by 160 (number of tickets in the series), which would give each ticket €1,250. You have a tenth of that ticket, however, so you’d actually only win €125. Most people who win the really big prizes actually win around half a million euros … not so much the “fat” prize they might have been expecting!

El Gordo is marketed as tradition, and the whole thing is made magical, with the draw, which takes hours in total, televised live, lots of gold coloured decorations, big magical ball drums with singing children withdrawing the numbers, and so on. But the chances aren’t great when you take into account that you have to match the number and then – if you have a décimo – win only a tenth of what that ticket is worth, which is the value of the total prize for that number divided by the number of tickets in the series all bearing the same number. The décimos cost a not insignificant €20, too, and the prizes are actually worse than some other lotteries. Really, what makes El Gordo the real “fat one” is that it’s a massive revenue-generating exercise for the government. And, of course, winnings are now taxed!

I wouldn’t wish to put anyone off buying a piece of a dream for Christmas, and El Gordo certainly has that fantasy feel about it, but I would say that the best bet is a Bonoloto ticket. These cost virtually nothing, have really comparatively quite decent prizes for winners, and the money goes to charity! An alternative is the primitiva … much cheaper to play and bigger individual prizes!

For those who want to take part in it, however, this year’s El Gordo is on 22 December (link to buy a ticket online). The Christmas Primitiva draw takes place on the same day: the prize is €12.8m and tickets cost €1.50 (link to buy a ticket online). Bonoloto draws are on 23, 24, 25 and 27 December and the exact prize is to be announced, but will be up to €5m, with tickets costing €3 (link to buy a ticket online).

Whichever lottery you participate in, I hope your lucky number comes up! Mucha suerte a todos!

Last year’s video:

This article has 8 Comments

  1. I think there may be the word “million” missing from the bono lotto prize amount. If I am on holiday could I buy a ticket even if I’ll be back home when it is drawn?

  2. Thank you Janet. At last I understand. Are names on tickets or should we just have to check online.? How does one claim,particularly if not a resident?

  3. You just buy a number, and then have to check. If a non-resident, I’d be inclined to buy online (HERE, for example) which would make it easier to check and claim.

  4. Hi Janet,
    The prizes for ‘el gordo’ are for each series so if you had a décimo of the 4th prize, 200,000 euros, your cut would be 20,000 euros. There would be 1,600 other decimos winning the same prize. If, as often happens, many tickets of a single number are sold in a small community the result is quite a windfall.

  5. Most of the people who live in our local small community in Spain were lucky enough to have a winner number and each person received approx €25,000 last Christmas.

    The local village shop, not quite a supermarket, has a large certificate proudly displayed showing the win. Having missed out last year I ‘invested’ €20 for my ticket this year !

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