26th Nov 2021 @ 11:38 am

El Gordo is the biggest and oldest lottery in the world, and you’re as welcome to take part as anyone.

How to take part in El Gordo

Like any lottery, you need to be in it to win it, but that’s a bit more of an investment when it comes to El Gordo, as every ticket costs €200. As a result, most people will buy a décimo (tenth share) for €20, entitling them to one tenth of the winnings. Décimos are popular gifts around the Christmas period, and are often bought and sold on by bars or in community associations, but you can also get them at official lottery shops and from ONCE sellers.

Watch the Draw

The draw takes place on the morning of the 22nd of December, and takes several hours. Throughout the morning, a parade of freshly-scrubbed boys and girls from the San Ildefonso school for orphans will pluck wooden balls from a huge, whirling spherical cage, then announce the numbers in a sing-song voice. Sometimes they burst into tears with the emotion of the spectacle. It’s absolutely weird, strangely hypnotic and utterly unique.

Collect your winnings

If El Gordo falls in your neighbourhood, then expect TV cameras to turn up soon. The streets will fill with people popping the corks on bottles of cava.

The winnings are tax free, and for several years certain Spanish politicians would seem to win with surprising frequency. In fact, this was usually a crude but effective way of money laundering, and for a while those in the know might contact their local corrupt official to see if they could get an even better price for their winning ticket.

Then all that’s left for you to do is tirar la casa por la ventana – throw the house out of the window. The phrase is associated with the earliest days of the lottery, when winners would throw all their old clothes and furniture into the street to be replaced, but nowadays it just means “celebrate wildly”.


Sodeto’s Story

Sodeto, a tiny village of 250 souls in Huesca, Northern Spain, shows how El Gordo can bring wealth to an entire community. In 2012, the big prize landed in the village, whose housing association had taken charge of several tickets with the winning numbers.

As a result, every adult in the village except one shared a €14 million jackpot. The story of a declining rural village that suddenly struck the big time went international, with features in the New York Times. However, a report a few years ago showed that the win hadn’t really changed the village. “Most people bought tractors” said one villager.

Mr Unlucky”

Sodeto’s €14 million win was shared by every adult in the village except one – Costis Mitsotakis, a Greek film maker who had arrived recently and didn’t even know what was going on. However, “the unluckiest man in Spain” won something that was just as important to him – a story. Mitsotakis picked up his camera and made a popular documentary film about his new home.

For regular updates, pictures and videos of Lanzarote be sure to like and follow our Facebook page “Gazette Life Lanzarote”.