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Spain dishes out £1.9bn in massive Christmas lottery

The tradition event, known as El Gordo, is held on December 22 each year.

Children from Madrid’s San Ildefonso school pick out lottery ticket numbers at Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house (AP)
Children from Madrid’s San Ildefonso school pick out lottery ticket numbers at Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house (AP)

By Joseph Wilson

The lucky holders of ticket number 26590 struck it rich in Spain when they won the top prize in the nation’s bumper Christmas lottery.

The top-prize winning number – known as El Gordo (The Fat One) and worth 400,000 euro (£335,000) – emerged from the enormous metallic shuffling machines during a live televised event.

The winners won 20,000 euro (£17,000) for each euro spent on a 20-euro ticket.

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A worker prepares the balls at Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house (AP)

The incredibly popular lottery dished out a total of 2.24 billion euro (£1.9 billion) in prizes this year, including lots of smaller prizes.

Other lotteries have bigger individual top prizes but Spain’s Christmas lottery, held each year on December 22, is ranked as the world’s richest for the total prize money involved.

The winning tickets were sold in the north-eastern provinces of Tarragona and Barcelona, in central Madrid and Salamanca, and in southern Alicante, Murcia and Seville.

Winners of the top prize will pay 76,000 euro (£65,000) in taxes. Prizes up to 20,000 euro (£17,000) are exempt from taxes.

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It’s party time for some winners in Barcelona (AP)

Children from Madrid’s San Ildefonso school called out the prizes on a nationally televised draw at Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house.

The tiny wooden balls corresponding to the prizes roll down chutes from the two huge bins and are sung out by young girls and boys during the three-hour gala event.

Families, friends and co-workers buy tickets together as part of a winter holiday tradition.

They then gather around their television sets, radios or mobile phones, hoping that fortune shines on them.

Jubilant scenes follow of winners celebrating with uncorked cava bottles, congratulated by neighbours and swarmed by local media.

Spain established its national lottery as a charity in 1763 during the reign of King Carlos III. Its objective later became to shore up state coffers. It also helps several charities.

PA

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