For Spaniards, it's a cherished tradition: Two days before Christmas, "El Gordo" is played, the main prize in the Christmas lottery. The whole country gathers in front of the TV and listens to the students singing the winning numbers.
The annual drawing of the lucky numbers in the famous Spanish Christmas lottery "El Gordo" started at 9:00 am sharp. In the venerable Teatro Real opera house in Madrid, students from the San Ildefonso boarding school will once again sing the results. A total of 2.52 billion euros are waiting for winners on Thursday. Most tickets are sold in Spain, but more and more foreigners are participating online.
The ceremony lasts up to four hours, as many smaller prizes are also drawn. The main prize, called "El Gordo" (the fat one), is four million euros for a whole ticket. It is paid out 180 times as each of the 100,000 ticket numbers is sold the same number of times.
Established in Cádiz in 1812, the lottery is considered the oldest in the world and also the largest due to the total amount played. However, the individual winnings are not as dizzyingly high as in some other lotteries, but there are a lot of winners.
In Spain, the Christmas lottery is a huge event: Even people who are not otherwise interested in gambling often buy a ticket for the Christmas lottery, a so-called décimo, a tenth ticket, for 20 euros from July. An audience of millions follows the drawing live in front of the television.
There are two lottery drums. In the first, larger drum there are 100,000 wooden balls with the ticket numbers, in the second smaller 1807 wooden balls with the winnings. During the draw, two balls from both drums fall into a glass bowl at the same time.
The tradition of singing the numbers began in the 19th century. The children from what was then the orphanage had already made a name for themselves by singing the results of lotteries on the streets or singing at funerals for a few coins. Girls have only been allowed to participate since 1984. For the little ones, training for the big day always begins in summer.
For a tenth ticket for 20 euros, winners of the "Gordo" are entitled to 400,000 euros. Before that, however, the state takes action and deducts 20 percent tax from all profits of 40,000 euros or more. Of the 400,000 euros, 328,000 euros would then be paid out. The main winner of the lottery, in which around 2.5 billion euros in prizes are distributed, is therefore already certain: it is the Treasury.