Spain’s Christmas Lottery
Playing the lottery isn’t money saving, but Spain’s Christmas Lottery is more about tradition than the winnings.
The Christmas lottery is drawn every year on 22 December and it’s the most popular lottery 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 or other activities.
Sharing lottery tickets means that the prize money reaches many people, not only in Spain but worldwide too. In Spain each person spends around 60€ on tickets.
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. Children from San Ildefonso school make the draw and 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 you win?
70% of the money collected is allocated to prize money, in total more than 24 million “décimos” 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.
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: try buying online if you want a special number.
Every year some some “ugly” numbers remain unsold, such as very low numbers. But remember that every number has exactly the same chance!
Ignore rumours that lottery balls 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.
Don’t forget: You’ll have to pay tax!
In 2019 there’s no tax on prizes up to 20,000€. Over this threshold direct tax is 20%. From 2020 the tax-free threshold increases to 40,000€.
If you win El Gordo this year, you’ll pay tax on 380,000€ (the first 20,000€ is tax free) so your winnings will be 324,000€ net.