'Fat One' jackpot brings Christmas cheer

2013-12-22 19:33
Owners of a lottery office hold the number awarded with the first Christmas lottery prize, the Fat One, in Barcelona, Spain. (Emilio Morenatti, AP

Owners of a lottery office hold the number awarded with the first Christmas lottery prize, the Fat One, in Barcelona, Spain. (Emilio Morenatti, AP

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Madrid - Champagne corks popped across Spain on Sunday as the annual "Fat One" Christmas lottery, which has the world's biggest total pay-out, spread €2.24bn in prizes around the country, where one in four is out of work.

Millions of people were glued to TV sets as children from a Madrid school that used to be a home for orphans picked wooden balls bearing the winning numbers and prizes out of two giant golden tumblers and then sang them out in a live draw lasting over three hours.

Unlike other big lotteries that generate just a few big winners, Spain's Christmas lottery aims for a share-the-wealth system rather than a single jackpot, and thousands of numbers yield at least some kind of return. It is known as "El Gordo" in Spanish, or the "Fat One".

Prizes range from the face value of a €20 ticket - in other words you get your money back - to the top prize of €400 000which this year went to the number 62246.

A total of 1 600 tickets with that number were sold - just over half of them in Leganes, a working class suburb south of Madrid that is home to around 200,000 people.

"I was in bed and my heart started racing when I heard that the top prize fell in Leganes," Alfonso Martinez, 53, told reporters outside the state lottery office where he bought his winning ticket.

"I checked in various places and finally decided to come to the lottery office to make sure I had really won. I still can't believe it," added Martinez, who was been out of work for eight months.

Winners opened bottles of bubbly outside of the office and celebrated together in scenes of joy repeated across the country.

Before Spain's property-led economic boom collapsed in 2008, sending the jobless rate soaring to 26%, winners often talked of buying new cars or taking a luxury holiday.

Now they mostly speak about paying their mortgage and helping their families.

Read more on:    spain

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