Christmas Lottery – El Gordo

El Gordo, the “big one”, is the most important prize in the Spanish Christmas Lottery — the largest lottery in the world. This year, there’s €2.3 billion in prizes (about 3 billion dollars). There’s a word for that: CRAZY.

Also: EXCITING. Roughly 18% of participants stand a chance at winning something, which ain’t bad odds. There are a limited amount of tickets; in 2006 there were 85,000 numbers. At €200, tickets are expensive, so they’re also sold in décimos at €20 apiece. If you hold a décimo of a winning number, you get 10%.

Each lottery outlet only sells one or two numbers, so it’s very common for a large number of people from the same community to win. Many Spaniards buy tickets from their favorite bar… and if you win, the joy is multiplied. The only thing better than being suddenly richer is for all of your friends and neighbors to be suddenly richer, as well.

I’ve read that 98% of Spaniards have some sort of stake in El Gordo, and the average amount invested is over €70. This helps explain the hugeness of the pot.

El Gordo is pretty famous outside of Spain, and naturally there are a lot of schemers looking to take advantage of bling-blinded foreigners. Here’s the ground rule: you should never pay more than €20 for a décimo… if someone charges you more than that, flatly turn it down. I just saw an advertisement in a British magazine décimos for €80 — four times what they’re worth. [UPDATE: €20 is the going price in Spain, but outside of the country, the official price for a décimo is €40. Thanks to the commenters!!]

It’s very common to give Gordo tickets as Christmas presents here in Spain. We’ll probably be buying ours later this week… Generally, I’m not a big lottery-fan (not that I eschew gambling), but I can’t deny that I’m extremely excited about El Gordo. The draw is on Dec. 22nd and best of all: winnings are tax-free.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Maybird

    You warn us, never to pay more than Euro 20 for a décimo. The official Spanish Lottery website (your like at the bottom of the article) offers them for Euro 40.
    ? Please explain ?

    Regards from Germany (we need money here too :))

  2. mpowell

    Hi Maybird… I guess I don’t see the same information you’re seeing. Here is the page where the décimos for El Gordo are offered, and they’re all the official price of €20.

    Perhaps there are different prices offered when someone is accessing the page from a different country?

  3. Bebinn

    says €40 for me in the US. I guess they charge extra for people out of the country.

  4. Ross

    Good Luck!

  5. J

    Surely you mean *100%* of participants stand a chance of winning something? And that 18% actually do win something – mostly just their money back as the final digit of their ticket coincided with that of the winning number.

  6. mpowell

    Thanks for notes about the price increase for people outside of Spain! I’ve updated the post with that information.

  7. ELG

    Yup, the official El Gordo site definitely charges €40 for those accessing from outside Spain. Still cheaper than a lot of the dodgy online ticket sellers!

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