Spanish Christmas Lottery: A Guide to El Gordo
We love the festive season here at Newsdle and we recently brought you our blog on how Christmas is celebrated in Spain. A big part of Christmas in Spain is the Spanish Christmas Lottery, or El Gordo (the fat one). The Christmas Lottery heralds the start of the festive period in Spain as people get ready to finish work and celebrate. It’s a huge deal in Spain and always draws widespread international attention.
The draw is made live on TV and schoolchildren sing the numbers out, to the joy of the millions watching. The singing children are always chosen from the 'Colegio de San Ildefonso' in Segovia, which was originally an orphanage.
With 70% of ticket sales being paid out as prizes, it’s one of the most ‘generous’ lotteries in the world. It’s structured so that as many people as possible win a prize. The draw is always made on 22nd December, in the morning (at 9am in Spain), from Teatro Real de Madrid.
Read on if you’d like to learn how to enter the Spanish Christmas Lottery from abroad but be sure to watch out for scammers!
The Christmas Lottery in Spain, in Numbers
- Last year over 2.5 billion euros were paid out as prizes
- A full ticket costs 200 euros, so kiosks split the tickets into smaller denominations to make the Lottery affordable to more people
- The top prize last year was 4 million euros
- The first Christmas Lottery draw was in 1812, making El Gordo the second-longest continuously running lottery in the world (behind the state-run Staatsloterij in the Netherlands)
- The draw is based on tickets numbered from 000000 to 999999
- Each denomination is a décimo (one-tenth), costing 20 euros. Each décimo is entitled to 1/10 of any prize from the winning ticket
- Workplaces, charities and other organisation often participate in which you can expect to receive a participación (a share)
- The jackpot is called El Gordo, a nickname that also extends to the overall Lottery itself
- Smaller prizes are called la Pedrea, ‘the pebble-avalanche’
- It’s estimated that between 75-90% of eligible people in Spain purchase a ticket or share of a ticket for El Gordo
The balls of the Christmas Lottery in Spain are now made with a laser to ensure there is no weight discrepancy between the balls which would give an unfair advantage to certain ticket holders.
The numbering system of the Spanish Christmas Lottery
There are 100,000 numbers in the Spanish Christmas lottery. The lottery machine contains balls which range in number from 00000 to 99999. Since the system only produces 100,000 unique numbers, each number is divided into a series (with 195 series per number). Each series is then further divided into ten shares (décimos).
A whole ticket costs 200 euros and a décimo costs 20 euros.
When the draw is made, the race is on to find the winner with the correct winning number and series who scoops the jackpot! Often the jackpot is shared among those who purchase décimos, workplace, or family syndicates.
Where to play the Spanish Christmas Lottery in Spain
In Spain, you can buy tickets for El Gordo at lottery markets. These can be found in supermarkets, highstreets and in tobacco shops called estancos. Lots of punters choose to flock to vendors that have sold winning tickets in the past for an extra slice of luck. Although, they do say lightening doesn’t strike in the same place twice…
How can foreigners play the Spanish Christmas Lottery?
In recent years, there have been reports of scamming related to El Gordo, particularly to non-residents of Spain who do not understand how the Christmas Lottery works. So, if you are planning on entering the Lottery from abroad, please take care to avoid fraud. If a short festive trip to Spain isn’t on the cards, be sure to only purchase from officially licensed websites.
Another option would be to join an online syndicate that buys tickets for lottery draws around the world. Although you’d be splitting the prize a lot more ways, it’s a sure fire way to ensure you don’t miss out on the once-a-year excitement and action.
Are lottery winnings in Spain taxed?
It’s also important to note that lottery winnings in Spain are taxable, whether or not they are taken out of the country. However, the first 2,500 euros are tax-free.
30% of the winnings (over 2,500 euros) go to the government as tax, with the remaining 70% being paid as winnings.
Sticking with the festivities? Find out how new year is celebrated in Spain.