The Biggest Lottery in the World, Spain’s “El Gordo,” Pays Out $3.23 Billion in Prizes

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December 22, 2009 will be a day remembered by thousands of lottery players around the world, for it was the day that the El Gordo drawing took place in Spain. El Gordo, “The Fat One,” or The Christmas Lottery, the world’s richest lottery handed out about 2.32 billion Euros, or $3.23 billion, U.S. in prizes.

The top prize of the lottery went to holders of tickets bearing the number 32365 ” which appears on 1,950 tickets, each winning in U.S. dollars, $418,000 (Euros, 300,000). Thousands of others cashed in on runner-up prizes.

The top number was sung out at just after noon Monday by pupils of Madrid’s Saint Ildefonso School in a nationally televised draw held each Dec. 22.

What I like about El Gordo, and other similar lotteries is that rather than a single jackpot, the lottery aims for a share-out in which thousands of numbers yield at least some kind of return.

Imagine: 70 percent of all monies invested in El Gordo are returned to players in cash prizes, compared to only 45 percent or 50 percent paid out by lotteries like Powerball and Mega Millions.

Also, one out of every three tickets wins a prize. Only 100,000 ticket numbers are printed for each draw – and over 37,000 prizes are paid out! This gave players a 1 in 3 chance of winning a share of the huge cash payouts. These are the best odds for a big win in any lottery, anywhere.

All El Gordo prizes are paid out in a lump sum and are free of government taxes. No annuity here.

In the central town of Soria, Ricardo Jimenez’s bar sold all 1,950 of the third prize tickets, spreading some $135 million among customers, family and friends.

Television images showed him being showered with sparking wine by celebrating clients.

“I’m still shaking,” said Jimenez, who bought 15 tickets worth US $1 million (750,000 Euros) for himself. “But I’ll keep on working. I’ll share this with my three children.”

Since it began in 1812, the Christmas lottery has become a favorite holiday tradition. This year, it sold an estimated $3.90 billion (2.8 billion Euros) nationwide ” nearly three percent down on last year.

The 1,950 tickets with the top prize number were sold across seven of Spain’s 52 provinces.

Spain established its national lottery system as a charity in 1763, during the reign of King Carlos III, but its objective gradually shifted toward filling state coffers.

El Gordo has become so popular that tickets have been sold online to more than 140 countries and were purchased by four out of five Spanish residents.

With Spain on the edge of recession, ticket sales have been slightly down on last year. But most said that buying their annual ticket remains a tradition they are unwilling to break.

The notoriously complicated draw for El Gordo takes place over several hours on live television with 13,000 tax free cash prizes at stake.

For fans of International lotteries…there is another big Spainish lottery coming up on Jan. 6 to mark the Feast of the Epiphany. It is known as “El Nino” (The Child), in reference to the baby Jesus.

Don’t you think that a lottery like this would go over well in the U.S.? I do.

I’ve always thought it ridiculous that Powerball doesn’t spread the wealth down through the lower tiers. I like the El Gordo concept.

I’d like to hear what you think.

Meanwhile, Tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot is worth $22 million.
The Christmas Eve Powerball draw is for a $62 million jackpot.
And Euro Millions has a 26 million Euro jackpot in play on Friday.

Good luck, everyone.

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Married to a beautiful (and extremely intelligent--- smarter than I am) South African woman. One child (brilliant). I've written three books, only one now available. Editor in chief of magazines...former managing editor .... news reporter, magazine writer, joker, sometimes a fool, lottery expert, lover of old, classic movies, music fanatic, Science Fiction fan (Warhammer 40,000, Game of Thrones). Goal for next year: Walk the Camino de Santiago. Into metaphysics, Esther Hicks (Abraham), Louise Hay

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