Spain's Christmas Gift to Its People: $3.4B Lottery

Annual 'El Gordo' holiday lottery rains cash on beleaguered Spaniards

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 23, 2013 8:33 AM CST

(Newser) – Spain, which has had not a lot to celebrate in the financial realm in recent memory, is basking in the glow of its annual exercise in literally throwing scads of cash to the wind: Yesterday's "El Gordo" lottery saw some $3.4 billion awarded to thousands of winners in a four-hour televised marathon that spreads holiday cheer and cold, hard cash to the masses. As Reuters reports, residents of working-class towns Mondragon and Leganes appeared to be the big winners, taking in some $738 million of the total haul.

"I'm on cloud nine!" says one ticket seller in the Basque town of Mondragon. "We've been in the press for so many unpleasant reasons"—among them, the recent layoff of 2,000 workers at the country's biggest appliance company, which is headquartered there—"and for something which brings such joy to happen here is a real support for the people." Residents of Madrid suburb Leganes will also likely see an economic uptick after residents there won about $490 million. But there is one nod to austerity this year, notes the AP: In a first, the government will collect a 20% tax on winnings greater than $3,400.

The owner of a lottery office Maria Luisa Ron holds a wine bottle as she celebrates with family and friends after selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” in Leganes, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.
The owner of a lottery office Maria Luisa Ron holds a wine bottle as she celebrates with family and friends after selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” in Leganes, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 22,...   (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)
Lottery office owner Maria Luisa Ron, left, hugs her employee Yolanda Pe?a, center, as she celebrates selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” in Leganes, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.
Lottery office owner Maria Luisa Ron, left, hugs her employee Yolanda Pe?a, center, as she celebrates selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” in Leganes, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)
Andoni Conde, a winner of the first prize in El Gordo, smiles as he talks on the phone in front of the number of the winning ticket, in the Basque town of Arrasate, Spain on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.
Andoni Conde, a winner of the first prize in "El Gordo," smiles as he talks on the phone in front of the number of the winning ticket, in the Basque town of Arrasate, Spain on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.   (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Jorge Sanchez, a first prize winner of the Spanish Christmas lottery El Gordo, kisses his winning ticket, in the Basque town of Arrasate, Spain on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.
Jorge Sanchez, a first prize winner of the Spanish Christmas lottery "El Gordo," kisses his winning ticket, in the Basque town of Arrasate, Spain on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.   (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
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