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"El Gordo" - The Big One
Photo with acknowledgements to the official lottery website.
Thank goodness the doomsayers were wrong and the world continues. Had the world actually ended yesterday, we would have missed out on the spectacular start to a Spanish Christmas - El Gordo, the world's biggest lottery, and also with the highest percentage payout. A ticket for the Christmas draw costs 200€, but most people buy a 'decimo' or tenth part at 20€. Thereafter it gets a little complicated; the majority of people will buy more than one decimo. On the other hand, if 20€ is too much to stretch to, then friends or family members will club together to buy a decimo between them. In addition, local clubs, sports teams, churches, etc will buy a number of whole tickets and then sell them on at 23€ per decimo in order to raise funds.One way or another more or less every Spaniard has a financial interest in what happens in Madrid on the 22nd December each year. RTVE's Channel 1 gives over most of the day to broadcasting the draw live. Children from a Madrid school take it in turns to come forward in pairs. They take up their station in front of two large, gilded mesh globes, one containing a ball for each ticket number, the other with balls indicating the values of the prize. Simultaneously, a ball drops into two bowls by the hands of the children. Child 1 takes their ball and sings the number to the assembled audience, immediately followed by the second child singing out the prize value. Both balls are then placed on a pair of rods under the gaze of an adult adjudicator. As each pair of rods is filled, the adjudicator swings them down into the horizontal and locks them in position. When all the pairs of rods have been filled, the frame itself is locked and replaced by a new frame. This is also the cue for the two children to withdraw and be replaced by two more.
Of course, everyone is waiting impatiently for El Gordo, the ball announcing the first prize, to appear. Today, unusually, it dropped only about half an hour after the start of the draw. In case that sounds like quite a long time, they will still be drawing prizes five hours or more after the start. Anyway, today the number 76058 and its accompanying 'first prize' ball dropped early, delivering 4 million euros to brighten someone's Christmas. Or more probably, ten people will have won 400,000€. Except that it's more complicated than that. Remember that I said that this is the world's largest lottery. The first prize this year is 4m€ per series. In other words, even splitting tickets into tenths for sales purposes, there are not enough numbers to satisfy the demand for tickets. So each number is printed many times over in series. My own ticket is part of series 163. Let's say - and I don't know the actual number - that there are 200 series in all, then this morning, within half an hour of the start two thousand people were 400,000€ better off; a jackpot total of 800m€ - El Gordo, indeed. Similar generosity applies to the numbers of people involved for every number drawn. The final total this year will apparently be 2.8 BILLION euros.
Time to get back to the TV, ticket in hand!