It’s that time again …

The Christmas lottery adverts are similar in Spain to the John Lewis adverts in the UK, often real tear jerkers, like the one from 2017 (below) about Daniel, and his dream Danielle. As the video’s maker, oscar-winning film director Alejandro Amenábar, says, “the luckiest thing is not just to win the lottery, but to share it with someone”. The story is similar in a way to Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, where an extraterrestrial woman falls to earth and in love with the luckiest human. And this year’s advert has now been released (above), and also tells the story of Juan who always plays the Gordo lottery and gets fed up with winning until he understands that the point of the lottery is to share it!

I’m often asked about the Christmas lottery – El Gordo – which is drawn just before Christmas every year with much fanfare. The tickets have a number and each is divided into tenths – décimos – which cost €20. So what you are buying for €20 is one tenth of one ticket. But, tickets come in “series” of up to around 200, which means each number is sold that many times, and the total prize money for any number is divided between the series. Therefore when a number comes up, the prize it wins is divided between the series, and then further divided down the décimos. To win the whole prize for a number, one would need to buy not only the ten décimos that make up the whole ticket, but every ticket in a series. The ten décimos in a ticket means that a whole ticket costs €200, and for the whole series you’d be talking up to €40,000 just to take part!

The overall prize is enormous – we are talking 2.38 billion Euros this year! This is the biggest lottery of them all, hence its name – El Gordo – but this vast prize is the total prize pot. So, for example, you have a décimo of number 12345 and there’s a series of 160 for that number. Then suppose it is drawn in fourth place, and the prize for fourth place is €200,000. So, you’d need to divide the prize of €200,000 by 160 (number of tickets in the series), which would give each ticket €1,250. You have a tenth of that ticket, however, so you’d actually only win €125. Most people who win the really big prizes actually win around half a million euros … not so much the “fat” prize they might have been expecting!

El Gordo is marketed as tradition, and the whole thing is made magical with the draw taking hours and televised live with lots of gold decorations and huge ball drums with singing children drawing the numbers. But the chances aren’t great when you take into account that you have to match the number and then, if you have a décimo, win only a tenth of the ticket’s prize value. Really, what makes El Gordo the real “fat one” is that it’s a massive revenue-generating exercise for the government. And, of course, winnings are now taxed!

I wouldn’t wish to put anyone off buying a piece of a dream for Christmas, and El Gordo certainly has that fantasy feel about it, but I would say that the best bet is a Bonoloto ticket. These cost virtually nothing, have really comparatively quite decent prizes for winners – in the single millions for tickets costing €3 or so – and the money goes to charity! An alternative is the Primitiva, which is also cheaper to play and gives bigger individual prizes than the main draw! For those who want to take part in El Gordo, however, this year’s El Gordo is on 22 December and you can buy tickets online HERE. Whichever lottery you participate in, I hope your lucky number comes up! Mucha suerte a todos! Good luck everyone!

Last year’s video:



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