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el gordo gameEl Gordo is the national lottery of Spain, also known as the Spanish Christmas Lottery. The Loteria de Navida (Christmas Lottery) is one of the oldest existing lotteries in the world and has been run every year since its inception in 1812. The national lottery is organized and run by the Spanish Public Administration which is now known as Loterias y Apuestas Del Estado. The name Sorteo de Navidad first appeared in use in 1892.

El Gordo, meaning “The Big One”, is the second longest continuous national lottery in the world and even continued to run during the Spanish Civil War. The only change during this time was where the lottery draw was held, the venue had been moved from its usual Madrid location to Valencia. Eventually the Republican government was overthrown and the national lottery still continued without pause under the new Franco regime.

Relevant Markets

The El Gordo lottery is also considered to be the single biggest lottery in the world which is measured by the total prize pool, based on ticket sales and total prize payout (jackpot). In 2015, the El Gordo lottery printed out a total of eighteen million tickets, each valued at €200. This made the maximum or combined total value of all prize levels an incredible €2.52 billion which amounted to 70% of ticket sales. The actual main jackpot prize or the “El Gordo” was valued at €720 million.

In 2011 The Spanish Christmas Lottery adopted a new ticket system known as billetes. These billetes feature a five digit number range which starts at #00000 and goes all the way up to the end sequence of #99999. The interesting fact about this system is that it only 100,000 unique ticket numbers and each unique ticket number sequence is printed several times. This then becomes a series or “serie” in Spanish. Each series is then given an identifying number which is called the series number. This system allows the Spanish Christmas Lottery to much more than the 100,000 tickets annually. The tickets are numbered in their unique series along with their identifying string, for example:el gordo market

  • Series start: Series 001 Ticket 00000
  • Series end: Series xxx Ticket 99999
  • “XXX” represents the total number of series printed in a given year

For the tickets or billete sales in 2015, a total of 180 series of 100,000 tickets each was printed. This then totaled 18,000,000 tickets with each ticket sold at €200. Assuming all tickets were sold for a total of €3.6 billion, the total in prize pool would work out to €2.52 billion which represents 70% of ticket sales, allocated for the prize pool.

One of the smartest aspects of the Spanish Christmas Lottery is that the organizers take into account that not everyone can afford the fixed ticket price of €200. To increase affordability as well as their scope of sales, each pre-printed €200 is divided into smaller, perforated tear-off mini cards which are identical to each other. These smaller sub-divided mini tickets are known as decimos meaning ten as there are ten per sheet. Each one of these costs just €20 (a tenth of the full ticket price) and are valued at 10% of any prize that the ticket wins. Each of the decimos contains the same number string as the original ticket and enters the same draw.

It is also possible to further sub-divide a Spanish Christmas Lottery ticket by writing the ticket number along with the amount paid and the signature of the person buying the ticket. These are known as ‘participations’ and are enormously popular throughout Spain, even by people that do not usually gamble in any form. Traditionally, participations are often exchanged as gifts between friends and family members and the holder is entitled to a portion of the winning ticket to the value of their purchase plus prize percentage.

Number of Players

As lottery outlets in Spain generally only sell tickets for one or two number series, it is quite common for most winners to come from the same neighborhood, town or city. For example, in 2010, around €414 million derived from the first prize (El Gordo), was sold in Barcelona while the remaining €585 million was sold mainly in Tenerife, Palencia, Zaragoza, Guipuzcoa and Madrid.

Average Prize Pool

For the tickets or billete sales in 2015, a total of 180 series of 100,000 tickets each was printed. This then totaled 18,000,000 tickets with each ticket sold at €200. Assuming all tickets were sold for a total of €3.6 billion, the total in prize pool would work out to €2.52 billion which represents 70% of ticket sales, allocated for the prize pool.

How to Play El Gordo lottery

el gordo how to playEl Gordo has been played in the same way since 1812 and the tradition seldom wavers from the original procedures. This makes the Spanish Christmas Lottery one of the most unique lottery events in the world. For the majority of its existence, up until 2009, the drawing ceremony took place in the Lotería Nacional hall of Madrid. However, in 2010 the venue was changed to Palacio Municipal de Congresos de Madrid and was held there again in 2011. In 2012 a new venue, the Teatro Real in Madrid was used.

Traditionally, children of the San Ildefonso School draw the numbers along with the relevant prize and announce these results in a song, delivered to the public.

The drawing uses two spherical containers, one containing 100,000 small wooden numbered balls while the other vessel contains 1807 wooden balls which are stamped with Euro prizes. The drawing order is as follows:

  • 1 ball for the first prize, this is the El Gordo prize.
  • 1 ball for the second prize.
  • 1 ball for the third prize.
  • 2 balls for the fourth prizes.
  • 8 balls for the fifth prizes.

Another draw is called la Pedrea or “pebble avalanche” as 1794 balls are used for small prizes.

Drawing the numbers and the corresponding prizes from the two revolving containers is a two person task, with one child singing out the number and the other child singing out the corresponding prize for that winning number. This simultaneous process is repeated until all number balls are connected to a corresponding prize balls. As there are so many number balls to call out, the entire event occurs over several hours and the children doing the calling out actually have to complete the process in shifts.

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