Spain’s Christmas Lottery

You may be wondering why we want to write about the lottery, as it’s not exactly money saving. However Spain’s Christmas Lottery is more about tradition than the money – it isn’t the highest payer by a long shot. 

Spain’s Christmas lottery is drawn every year on 22 December and is the most popular of all lotteries in Spain. Tickets go on sale months beforehand and traditionally people share their numbers with friends and family.

Offices, bars, schools, clubs and associations also sell participations in their tickets. Don’t be surprised if someone calls at your door asking if you want to buy one: schools often get kids to sell participations with a surcharge that goes towards an end-of-term trip.

Sharing lottery tickets means that the prize money reaches many people, not only in Spain but worldwide too. The average spend per person in Spain is around 60 euros.

How Does It Work?

There are 100,000 numbers (from 00000 to 99999). Each ticket is split into ten – that’s why you’ll hear the Spanish talking about buying a “décimo” (literally a tenth), each décimo costs 20€.

There are 165 serial numbers per ticket. An an example, ticket number 00000 will be issued with serial numbers from 001 to 165 with the same split applied to each ticket number.

The Christmas lottery is drawn by putting all 100,000 numbered balls into one vessel and 1807 balls with the prizes in another. The draw is made by children from the San Ildefonso school, who sing the numbers and associated prizes until all 1807 prize balls have been allocated. The event takes around three and a half hours from start to finish.

What Could I Win?

70% of the money collected is allocated to prize money, in total more than 24 million “décimos” will receive a prize. The prizes PER DECIMO are:

  • El Gordo (“the fat one” ) first prize: 400,000€
  • One 2nd prize: 125,000€
  • One 3rd prize: 50,000€
  • Two 4th prizes: 20,000€ each
  • Eight 5th prizes: 6,000€ each
  • 1794 “consolation” prizes: 100€ each

There are also special prizes for the numbers before and after each of the first three prizes and for tickets which partially coincide (beginning / ending numbers). Altogether there are over 15,000 prizes.

Winners can claim their prizes from 18:00 h on the day of the draw.

Many people get confused when they read that the first prize is 4 million euros, but remember that each décimo is only a tenth of the cost of a ticket and, therefore, of the prize too.

Unfortunately many unscrupulous websites and companies try to sell Spain’s Christmas lottery by saying that there’s a 4 million euro prize without explaining how the ticket system works.

El Gordo Superstitions

Every year “special” numbers are sought after and are often sold out weeks before the draw. These numbers can coincide with a special date or event such as significant historical dates or birthdays and anniversaries.

People queue for hours if they are really interested in buying a specific number, however with the electronic system you can request a specific number at any lottery dealer.

A few numbers are viewed as “ugly”, every year some of these ugly numbers remain unsold on the last day and are returned. Very low numbers are often seen as undesirable, and yet every number has exactly the same chance of being drawn.

Ignore rumours that lottery balls that have numbers with more paint (for example number 8 uses more paint than number 1) stay at the bottom and never get picked. As all lottery ball numbers are laser printed this simply isn’t true.

Winnings are Taxed!

The tax rule changed this year in July. For the rest of 2018 all prizes up to 10,000€ are not taxed. Higher winnings over this tax-free threshold have a direct 20% tax rate applied.

If you win El Gordo this year, you’ll pay tax on 390,000€ (remember that the first 10,000€ is tax free) and take home “only” 322,000€.

From 2019 the tax-free threshold will be raised to 20,000€ and in 2020 to 40,000€. Full info, in Spanish, on the Tax Office official website.


Spain's Christmas Lottery