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Spain's El Niño lottery spreads $663M in winnings

Jan 7, 2015, 1:46 pm

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A lottery on Tuesday spread €560 million (US$663 million) among jubilant ticket holders throughout Spain, which is struggling to emerge from a financial crisis that has left it saddled with high unemployment.

The "El Niño" (The Child) lottery is held each Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6, and the 400 top prize tickets, each worth €200,000 (US$236,700), were all sold in Leganes, a southwest Madrid working-class suburb.

"Horns are blowing, the phone doesn't stop ringing, it's crazy and a huge, huge joy because it has all been sold among neighbors in a very working class district," said lottery seller Gustavo Fernandez whose shop sold tickets amounting to 80 million euros ($95 million) in prize money.

Lesser prizes were widely dispersed, including in the provinces of Albacete, Almeria and Barcelona.

The lottery's name refers to the baby Jesus, who according to tradition was visited this day by three wise men bearing gifts.

Lottery tickets cost 20 euros (US$23.67) and the pot is divided among thousands of ticket-holders, limiting the jackpot size but spreading winnings more widely.

Spain's most lucrative lottery, "El Gordo" (The Fat One), is held Dec. 22 and distributed €2.5 billion (US$3 billion) in prize money last month.

Spain is recovering from two recessions, the last of which ended in late 2013 and quarterly unemployment surveys showed the jobless rate was 24 percent in the third quarter 2014.

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