El Gordo (The Fat One) – Spain’s Christmas lottery

Spain’s Christmas lottery, “El Gordo” is not only the biggest lottery in the world but also one of the oldest, having started in 1812. It works differently to most lotteries. This year the total prize pool amounts to £1.95 billion being distributed around the country. There is a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize, plus over a thousand small prizes to be won which is why the draw, held every 22nd December takes three and a half hours.

This year the draw is taking place in the Teatro Real Opera House in Madrid. Many people attend the live lottery draw wearing fancy-dress costumes (disfraces), armed with good-luck charms (amuletos), and holding placards (pancartas) with slogans on them. Find out how Spain’s Christmas lottery is drawn and how the winnings are divided here:

How “El Gordo” is drawn:

During the “Sorteo” (the draw) there are two huge rotating drums (bombos); one holds the wooden balls with the numbers on (bolas de números) and the other holds the balls with the prize amounts (bolas de premios). A child stands next to each drum and one draws out a prize amount and the other a corresponding play number. They then take the two balls over to the lottery officials who take note of the winning number and the prize amount.

How the winnings are divided:

The price of the tickets is much more expensive than normal, priced at 200€ each, but it is divided into tenths – 20€ each, each called “un décimo” (a tenth). You don’t have to pay for a full ticket however if you don’t buy a whole ticket, you don’t get the full winnings either! When you buy your ticket you can choose to buy either a whole ticket, a “décimo” (a tenth) or any fraction of the full ticket. So for example, if you buy five tenths – cinco décimos (half a ticket) and your ticket wins 1000€, you will win half; 500€.

A social event

Often people club together to buy a ticket; for example members of a family or work colleagues. It is somewhat of a social event in that people play together under the same ticket. Often you see bars with posters announcing their ticket number as a way of inviting you to join them in the lottery fun.

The main verb used with playing the lottery is tocar la lotería” (to win the lottery).
¡Que te toque la lotería! Hope you win the lottery!
¡Que me toque la lotería! Hope I win the lottery!

Read all about this year’s lottery draw (article in The Telegraph) here:

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