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A Guide To ‘El Gordo’ - Spain’s Christmas Lottery Draw Spain News

Spain’s Christmas lottery draw or ‘El Gordo’ as it is commonly known, takes place once again on the 22nd of December this year and remains to be one of the world’s oldest lottery draws.

El Gordo or ‘The Fat One’ is somewhat of a Spanish institution and dates back to 1812 when the draw first took place. It’s considered to be the biggest yearly lottery draw with the 2018 prize fund an estimated 2.38 Billion Euros. Yes you heard it right, that’s 2,380 Million Euros!

But what’s all the fuss about, and why do people buy on average around €70 worth of tickets and spend hours queuing in the hope of becoming rich?

Let’s find out!

How does El Gordo work and how much can I win?

With El Gordo, you have tickets or ‘Billetes’ which range in number from #00000 to #99999. Because this will only result in 100,000 tickets, each ticket can be printed many times creating a series or ‘serie’ of tickets.

In theory, you could have hundreds of series of tickets. As an example, in 2015, there were 180 series of tickets, giving a total of 18 Million tickets at €200 each. This produced a prize fund of €3.6 billion with €2.52 billion being spent on prizes.

Around 70% of the total ticket sales are paid out in prizes.

The prizes are broken down between a number of larger prizes and then lots of smaller ones. In 2017, each ‘serie’ of prizes were made up of:-

  • 1 x €4 Million (El Gordo)
  • 1 x €1.25 Million (Second prize)
  • 1 x €500,000 (Third prize)
  • 2 x €200,000 (Fourth prize)
  • 8 x €60,000 (Fifth prize)
  • 1,794 x €1,000 (La Pedrea)

There are many more smaller prizes for each series of tickets. See the chart at Elgordo.com for further details of the 2017 prices. https://www.elgordo.com/results/histloten.asp?y=2017

How much is a ticket?

Each ticket is €200. “What!!! I need to fork out €200 to have a chance of winning?”, I hear you scream!

Fortunately, not. Each ticket is split into 10 individual tickets or ‘décimos’ which means you can have a part share in any winning ticket or if you are feeling flush just by the whole ticket for €200. In fact, this way of splitting the tickets works well for syndicates and means you don’t need to pay out so much to have a chance of winning.

This means that if you were fortunate enough to have the ticket for one of the €4 million top prizes, but only had a 1/10th share or ‘decimo’ ticket, you would win €400,000 (less tax, yes I know! See below)

Where can I get a ticket?

You can purchase a ticket for El Gordo from any one of the many lottery outlets and retailers around the country. You can also purchase online, but this can sometimes be more expensive.

You can still play the El Gordo lottery if you are not a Spanish resident, but will need to purchase a ticket online.

When does the draw take place?

The El Gordo lottery draw takes place in Madrid on the 22nd of December each year from 9:00 AM and is usually televised throughout the day.

The draw is a traditional affair, with young children drawing the numbers manually from two machines called ‘bombos’. Once machine holds the balls with draw numbers inscribed with the other machine holding the balls with prize values. Due to draw method, it can take a few hours to complete.

Are the prizes tax free?

Yes and no is the answer to that one.

In 2018, the threshold for tax purposes was increased from €2,500 to €10,000 meaning that only those who win a prize greater than €10,000 will be taxed on it.

Fortunately, you won’t have to fill out any forms or pay a visit to your local tax office. The taxed amount will be deducted automatically and make its way into the government coffers in the blink of an eye.

So if you are lucky enough to win a tenth of one of the big €400,000 prizes, you would only receive €322,000. The tax man will see the other €78,000! Bummer!

If you were to win one tenth of one of the second prizes (€1.25 Million), you would only see €122,000, losing €23,000 in tax.

Are there any other big lottery draws?

Yes, there are a number of larger draws throughout the year including ‘El Niño’, which takes places on the 6th of January with a total prize fund of around €700 Million.

There you go! A brief guide to the yearly Spanish Christmas lottery draw.

Get in quick and make sure you are in the El Gordo draw before the end of Friday 21st of December 2018.