The Christmas lottery in Spain

The Christmas lottery in Spain

Updated 20 December: Just two days left, if you were thinking of buying a piece of the dream but didn’t have your ticket yet …

Original post 14 November: It’s that time again …

The Christmas lottery adverts are similar in Spain to the John Lewis and Sainsbury’s adverts (and this year, particularly, Waitrose!) in the UK! They’re usually real tear jerkers, like last year’s (below) about Justino, a night vigilante in a shop dummies factory, alone every night surrounded by the mannequins, which he starts to move around …

And this year’s advert has been released (above), the story of Carmina, a retired teacher who thinks she’s won the lottery but actually hasn’t, and who is allowed to carry on believing by her friends and family, her neighbours, the local townsfolk …

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 2.31 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). There will also be a Christmas Primitiva draw (last year’s prize was €12.8m with tickets costing €1.50), and there are also Bonoloto draws with prizes in the single millions for tickets costing €3 or so.

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

Last year’s video:

1 Comment

  1. The prizes in el gordo are per series, so if 4th prize is €200,000 and you have one decimo you win €20,000.

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