BBC World Service

Big lottery results awaited in Spain

Guy Hedgecoe Dec 22, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: In Italy this morning, the Senate approved a $33 billion package of budget cuts and tax increases. In Spain, the new government is proposing spending cuts of $20 billion for the next year. But the big focus today for the people of Spain is the annual Christmas lottery, with a total prize value of $3.2 billion. It’s the biggest lottery in the world and thousands of winners are being announced today.

The BBC’s Guy Hedgecoe reports from Madrid.

Guy Hedgecoe: It’s a festive tradition in Spain to gather round the TV and watch children calling the winning numbers of the Christmas lottery. It’s known as “El Gordo” — which literally means “the fat one,” because the prize money is so huge.

And this year, despite being in the grip of the eurozone debt crisis, four out of every five Spaniards were estimated to have bought a ticket. In fact, lottery organizers have estimated that people spent even more this year on tickets than last year — an average of $91 per person.

But playing the lottery might not be just a sign of economic desperation. Roberto Garvia is a Spanish sociologist who has researched lottery behavior. He says playing “el Gordo” is also a social activity.

Roberto Garvia:People mostly play lottery to do something with their friends, to share something with their friends. In the same way that they go to the soccer game.

The winning number was reportedly sold in the area of Huesca in northwestern Spain. Today’s winners won’t have to work again, but for most Spaniards, times after “el Gordo” will still be tough.

In Madrid, I’m the BBC’s Guy Hedgecoe for Marketplace.

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