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El Gordo lottery drawing awards $2.42 billion in prizes

Dec 23, 2004, 9:04 am

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El Gordo

Winning El Gordo lottery ticket sold in a town called 'Luck'

A town called "Luck" lived up to its name on Wednesday, turning up the winning ticket in Spain's Christmas lottery, featuring one of the world's biggest prizes known as El Gordo (The Fat One).

The ticket, which scooped a prize of ¬390 million (US$521.9 million), was sold at a lottery office called "The Golden Witch" (La Bruixa D'Or) in the town of Sort, which in the Catalan language means "luck".

Beas de Segura, a village of 8,000 inhabitants in the poor region of Jaen, triumphed in the annual El Gordo lottery thanks to the local baker, who bought a half-share in the winning number and sold it on to friends, family and neighbours in smaller fractions.

The baker, Juan Antonio Herrera, had bought his share of the ticket from what has become Spain's most popular official lottery shop, "The Golden Witch" in the small north-western village of Sort, whose name means "luck" in Catalan.

The main square at Beas de Segura, whose inhabitants live off the olive groves that surround the village, filled up with joyous, dancing farmers as they celebrated their good fortune.

Those who have a share in the winning number each gained 10,000 times the money they originally paid.

"This has made the village rich," Mr Herrera told the Tele 5 television station yesterday. "The money has been spread out amongst many people."

The complex Gordo system chooses a winning number from the 66,000 on sale.

Each ticket number consists of 195 series, or individual tickets, each approximately the size of a sheet of paper.  Each ticket can be sold as one unit, or further divided into ten segments, each called a decima.  In this manner, it is possible for hundreds (up to 1,950) of people to share in the prize.  Sometimes entire villages take part through the purchase of all the available series bearing one ticket number.

In addition to the top El Gordo prize, more than 10,000 other prizes are awarded, ranging from a ¬187.2 million (US$250.5 million) second prize, to the lowest prize of ¬100,000 (US$133,800).  Each of these prizes are also divided into 195 series, and each series into 10 decimas, producing millions of winners overall.

Secondary prizes are awarded based on matching all or part of the ticket number of second, third, fourth, and fifth prize ticket numbers, or by matching one of the 1,531 additional bonus numbers drawn.

Because of the complexity of the prize awards, website El Gordo online (http://www.betslips.com) features an automatic  results checker, in which the player enters their ticket number, and the web page will indicate all prizes won by that ticket.

The town of Sort has sold many winning tickets over the years, including some of the top-prize tickets in last year's El Gordo.

El Gordo is the top prize in a lottery which gives out ¬1.8 billion (US$2.42 Billion) in prizes, or 70 percent of the value of tickets sold, and marks the start of Christmas.

In a tradition that dates back to 1812, schoolchildren picked small wooden balls out of two golden drums.

The lottery, broadcast nationally, had Spaniards across the country glued to radio and TV sets for some three hours in the hope some of the wealth would fall on them.

An estimated three-quarters of Spain's population of 42 million take part in the lottery.

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