Spain ‘El Gordo’ lottery provides break from crisis woes



People celebrate after winning the first prize of Spain’s Christmas lottery named “El Gordo” (Fat One) in Granen, in Manises, near Valencia, on December 22, 2012. TOPSHOTS AFP / JOSE JORDAN

MADRID—Hundreds of fans of Spain’s annual Christmas lottery turned out to the draw on Saturday, some clad in wacky costumes and all hoping to win a piece of the pie and forget their economic woes.

Europe’s biggest lottery, the El Gordo or “The Fat One” will pay out a total of 2.47 billion euros ($3.25 billion) in prize money this year, down from 2.68 billion in 2011.

With the draw beamed live on television, the country held its collective breath when two schoolchildren sung out the winning number: 76058.

“This year again, I didn’t win, but that’s okay. We’re there with friends to have fun and clown around. It’s kind of a way to counter the crisis,” said Enrique Vilches, an 80-year-old retiree decked out in a clown costume.

Like many others, Vilches spent more than he would have liked on the lottery, whose tradition holds that anyone who is gifted a ticket must return the favour.

“I spent around 200 euros ($260) but if my wife knew that she’d kill me,” he said.

The couple share a 900-euro a month pension, which they also use to help out their grandchildren whose parents are unemployed like many in a country whose jobless rate is around 25 percent.

Spain’s economy—the eurozone’s fourth largest—is also in dire straits, with the government under pressure from the European Union to introduce billions in savings amid speculation that it might need to be bailed out.

On Thursday, Spanish lawmakers passed 39 billion euros’ worth of austerity measures, prompting fresh protests by demonstrators angry at cuts to pay and public services.

But while average spending on holiday festivities by Spanish households has dropped since the collapse of a housing boom in 2008, the lottery has suffered only fractionally from the crisis.

Its commercial director Juan Antonio Gallardo said ticket sales have fallen 3.5 percent since 2008 and this year “are similar or slightly lower” than in 2011.

“It is a tradition in Spain. It is in Spaniards’ DNA,” he said.

The draw, which is always on December 22, has been held since 1812 and is considered the kickoff to the Christmas season.

Instead of a single jackpot, the lottery is designed so that as many people as possible across Spain get a windfall in time for the holidays.

While residents spent eight percent less on the draw this year, they still dished out an average of 52 euros per person, down from 57 euros last year on tickets that cost 20 euros each.

“Now in a time of crisis is when the lottery is especially important. We play even more and hope to win something,” said 31-year-old Oscar Binon.

“People aren’t doing well in the crisis. But we haven’t lost hope,” said Rufino Huertas, a 55-year-old metro employee.

Clad in an outfit covered in “hand-made” pesetas—Spain’s currency before the euro took over in 2002—Huertas said: “Why the pesetas? Because life was better with the peseta.”

The government says the latest tough cuts are needed to fix public finances, but economists and non-governmental groups have warned the austere budget would undermine the recovery and worsen life for millions in Spain.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • cute79

    sa mga ofw na kababayan natin sa spain dapat umpisahan nyo na mag ipon dahil sa grabeng crisis sa spain.mas mbauti ang manigurado may ipon kesa uuwi kang butas ang bulsa.Sa ibang bansa sa europa member sa Eu at eurozone ay pinapauwi na ang mga nagstay ng iligal at yong mga refugees.
    may aksyon sila agad sa blema sa kanilang bansa.di man ganun kabilis umaksyon ang spain govt pero mas mabuti ng handa ang lahat kasi di natin alam maimpluwensyahan sila ng ibang member ng eurozone dahil damay nman sila sa pagbaba ng euro.25percent ang populasyon sa spain ang nwalan ng trbaho,mraming wala ng tirahan ,kapag patuloy at lumala pa ito for sure di na papayag pa ang mga tao may ibang lahing nagstay ilegaly sa kanilang bansa.kaya mag-isip mga kababayan mas mabuting may handang armas bago ang giyera.God bless mga OFW tulad ko!

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos