Christmas lottery breaks crisis woes
MADRID - Agence France-Presse
People celebrate after winning the first prize of ‘El Gordo.’ The jackpot went to number 76058, which is split into 1,800 tickets each paying 400,000 euros.Hundreds of fans of Spain’s annual Christmas lottery turned out to the draw on Saturday, some clad in wacky costumes and all hoping to win a piece of the pie and forget their economic woes.
Europe’s biggest lottery, the El Gordo or “The Fat One” will pay out a total of 2.47 billion euros in prize money this year, down from 2.68 billion in 2011.
With the draw beamed live on television, the country held its collective breath when two schoolchildren sung out the winning number: 76058.
“This year again, I didn’t win, but that’s okay. We’re there with friends to have fun and clown around. It’s kind of a way to counter the crisis,” said Enrique Vilches, an 80-year-old retiree decked out in a clown costume.
Like many others, Vilches spent more than he would have liked on the lottery, whose tradition holds that anyone who is gifted a ticket must return the favor.“I spent around 200 euros but if my wife knew that she’d kill me,” he said. The couple share a 900-euro a month pension, which they also use to help out their grandchildren whose parents are unemployed like many in a country whose jobless rate is around 25 percent.
Spain’s economy, the eurozone’s fourth largest, is also in dire straits, with the government under pressure from the European Union to introduce billions in savings amid speculation that it might need to be bailed out.
On Dec. 20, Spanish lawmakers passed 39 billion euros’ worth of austerity measures, prompting fresh protests by demonstrators angry at cuts to pay and public services. But while average spending on holiday festivities by Spanish households has dropped since the collapse of a housing boom in 2008, the lottery has suffered only fractionally from the crisis.