Mention “the fat one” in the United States in December, and someone might think you were referring cheekily to Santa Claus. But say it in Spain, and it’s a reference to the world’s richest lottery prize.
Spanish schoolchildren drew this year’s numbers for the Spanish Christmas Lottery on Friday, for a prize worth a total of $2.8 billion.
But not all the bounty goes to one winner. Multiple buyers can choose the same numbers, meaning the prize is divided among its multiple winners. Smaller prizes are also available in the lottery, which dates back to 1812. In all, thousands of prizes are awarded.
Holders of this year’s lucky number, 71198, are still coming forward. One town, the Costa del Sol capital of Malaga, has been reported to have racked up a total of nearly $152 million in prize money among 32 tickets.
At 200 euros each full lottery tickets are not cheap — but they can be subdivided into tenths, known as decimos, which sell for a more affordable 20 euros each. That makes playing the lottery a group activity.
After weeks of ticket sales, the winning numbers are read out by schoolchildren in a nationally televised broadcast from Madrid's Teatro Real opera house. Watching the broadcast with family and friends is a Spanish holiday tradition.
Spain began a national lottery in 1763 as a fundraiser for charity, but the Spanish Christmas Lottery that continues today began in 1812 and benefits the Spanish government and the merchants who sell the tickets, who make a 4 percent commission on each ticket sold.
Luckily for the losers, the Spanish Christmas Lottery is not the only one of the year. Those who failed to make their fortune in the Dec. 22 contest have another chance coming up: the El Nino drawing, held before the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6.