Ah, the Spanish national lottery. Now that December 22 has come and gone, the Christmas season has officially rolled out in Spain. Turns out the Day of the Immaculate Conception was a total fake out in terms of the the yuletide red carpet. Just because there are men in fancy pajamas playing the guitar to the statue of the virgin at 3 am does not actually mean that Christmas has arrived (see: TUNA). No, here it is unofficially officially dependent on the lottery.
Thanks to Gerry & his group for a great explanation of the mysterious Spanish lottery – most of my facts are from his page, in addition to some info from my coworkers and Spanish friends. You can check out Gerry’s page here: http://www.spanish-fiestas.com/spanish-festivals/lottery.htm
So the biggest, baddest, most awesome lottery in this country is El Gordo, the Fat One. As per Gerry, the Spaniards have been doing this lottery business since sometime in the 1800’s. One of the businessmen I tutor informs me that there are national lottery drawings once a week, sponsored by ONCE (Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles / National Organization of Blind Spaniards) – in addition to this mad Christmas lottery.
If you’re walking down a street and you see a stand of paper tickets and a bored looking Spaniard smoking a cigarette – that’s probably the Christmas lottery. If you are approached in a restaurant by a man holding the same paper tickets while you’re enjoying your cafe con leche, he is also selling lottery tickets.
There are so many interesting / weird / random / Spanish facts about this lottery – I will just name a few.
1. Per Gerry: “It was estimated last year that 98% of all Spanish adults participated in El Gordo, which meant that the total amount of the prize pool was an incredible €2.25 billion, which equates to 70% of the sales of tickets. The probability of picking up some sort of prize is about 15%, which makes it quite a worthwhile gamble, in the scheme of things.”
2. The tickets are 200 euros each. EACH. You can buy in with coworkers, friends, family or strangers for a decimo (tenth) – 20 euros a pop. I think that 20 euros is the smallest prize, so at any rate you stand a chance of getting your investment back. At school everyone played the same number, and the same at our local coffee shop and the neighborhood bar. My favorite story about this (also from Gerry) is that five years ago in a town north of Barcelona – their number hit and they shared 500 million euros throughout the pueblo. Hello!
3. The announcement of said lottery happens on December 22. There is so much fanfare and hullabaloo it makes you raise an eyebrow, or two. Particularly the part where it takes approximately four to five hours to read the numbers. Because so many damn people play, and the tickets only have 5 digit numbers, there can be a high number of winning tickets.
3a. This announcement takes over the airwaves – radio and television. I’m serious, it’s on every channel. It starts at 8 am and they sing the numbers. “They” are little orphan boys from an orphanage in Madrid – one sings the prize amount and the other sings the ticket number. It was on the radio in our teacher’s lounge. And in the car on the way to school. “Tres ciento mil euuuuroooos.” Believe it. The kicker? Because they are using little ball rolling machines like we do in the US – there is no telling when the real prize (El Gordo) will come up. Could be 8 am on your drive to work (don’t crash your car). Could be 10 am on your way to a coffee break (if you go out to smoke make sure there’s a radio nearby). Could be NOON – four hours after you first starting listening. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Yes, there is a website where you can check your number .. but wouldn’t you rather have someone sing it to you?
According to the Associated Press – Spain “sprinkled $3 billion in holiday cheer across the country on Wednesday.” Somos en crisis? I don’t know about that.