You’ll never walk alone: this year has been a difficult one for the lottery community in England so far. However, the Spaniards had to take significantly more hard blows. For the first time ever, the entire lottery operation was simply shut down.
Of course, coronavirus had determined the timetable. Tickets in Spain are traditionally sold at kiosks and by street vendors. Interest has always been so great that long queues sometimes form. For this year, the authorities pulled the ripcord because of the risk of infection.
In March, with the curfew, the entire lottery operation, including online draws, was suspended. The administration of the state lottery company Loterías y Apuestas del Estado, which operates numerous lotteries, largely discontinued its activities. And playing in remote mode is nowhere near as common in Spain as it is in the UK.
But there was another phenomenon. Among the people standing in long queues in front of the sales outlets there were not only people who wanted to buy tickets. So when the first acceptance points reopened in mid-May, not only people willing to play again immediately arrived, but also all those who wanted to have their winnings from the spring paid out.
Side effect of the lottery stop: the sale of online tickets for foreign lotteries rose significantly. Local Spanish tickets are still being bought by hand. So now it was time to look forward again, and right at the front in Spanish life is “El Gordo Navidad”, the fat one.
Singing lucky charms
The name says it all: you can’t scoop a bigger prize than El Gordo.
This lottery is played in different variations throughout the year, but the “real fat one” is El Gordo Navidad, the largest lottery in the world.
Would it be able to take place if there were a new lockdown?
Recent experience shows that fears are arising that events would repeat themselves. But the largest and oldest lottery in the world is taking place.
Why is El Gordo Navidad so popular?
There are several reasons why this game of chance, founded in 1812, enjoys cult status even beyond Spain’s borders and not just because of the largest payout in the world.
The over three-hour event broadcast live from the Teatro Madrid on 22 December is the blockbuster par excellence in Spain: Around 90 per cent of the population is glued to the screen when it means all or nothing.
In the middle of the corona pandemic, it’s at least absolutely safe as long as player communities, which endure the tension together, isolate themselves.
And nobody will look away: 100,000 tickets, of which each number will be awarded 170 times. Also for 2020 the total prize money is estimated to reach 2,4 billion euros (yes!), so these are definitely high stakes not to be sneezed at.
And this is how it functions: 100,000 wooden balls bearing an individual number are placed in a huge drum. A second, much smaller drum, contains 1,807 balls printed with every single prize amount in the draw. During the draw, a ball drops out of each drum at the same time into a glass bowl.
The main prize, El Gordo Navidad, can turn up at any time during the draw. And, wonder oh wonder, there is singing. The ticket numbers and the associated prizes are not read out by a compère, but traditionally performed by pupils of the Madrid school “San Ildefonso”.
Christmas without El Gordo is unthinkable
El Gordo is inextricably linked to the Christmas season for the people in Spain; the draw on 22 December heralds the actual festive days.
These joyful events together are of course an unbeatable combination. For example, it is a tradition for one-tenth of a ticket to be given away to friends, family members, colleagues or people in need – of course before Christmas.
This year, Loterías y Apuestas del Estado shows more than ever what the principle of El Gordo Navidad is based on – the solidarity of a society. And this society, despite its own major economic restrictions, does not lose sight of the support for the really weak and needy. Because:
Around 27 per cent of the payout of El Gordo Navidad go to institutions and people in need.
“Even if we are not yet in the phase of the highest sales and see that the Covid-19 crisis is imposing economic restrictions not only on the lottery business, we can see how people’s hope grows as Christmas approaches” (Jesús Huerta, president of Loterías y Apuestas del Estado).
But, thank God, we are all aware of this insight.
El Gordo Navidad for Non-Spaniards
Can you join El Gordo Navidad for a little excitement just before Christmas, even if you are not Spanish or not in Spain? Yes, you certainly can. Check out our article on El Gordo Navidad for non-Spaniards.
If you decide to go for it – good luck! The chances of winning are not that bad, and the prize money is amazing.