Spain’s ‘El Gordo’ Christmas lottery doles out big prizes

December 22, 2020 GMT
A ball bearing a ticket number falls from a giant drum at Madrid's Teatro Real opera house during Spain's bumper Christmas lottery draw known as El Gordo, or The Fat One, in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
A ball bearing a ticket number falls from a giant drum at Madrid's Teatro Real opera house during Spain's bumper Christmas lottery draw known as El Gordo, or The Fat One, in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
A ball bearing a ticket number falls from a giant drum at Madrid's Teatro Real opera house during Spain's bumper Christmas lottery draw known as El Gordo, or The Fat One, in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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A ball bearing a ticket number falls from a giant drum at Madrid's Teatro Real opera house during Spain's bumper Christmas lottery draw known as El Gordo, or The Fat One, in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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A ball bearing a ticket number falls from a giant drum at Madrid's Teatro Real opera house during Spain's bumper Christmas lottery draw known as El Gordo, or The Fat One, in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

MADRID (AP) — Fortune shined Tuesday on the lucky holders of tickets with the number 72897 that took top prize in the Spain’s huge Christmas lottery, known as “El Gordo” (The Fat One).

The prize shelled out 400,000 euros ($489,000), or some 325,000 euros after tax, to holders of 20-euro tickets bearing the number. The lucky tickets were sold in more than 20 towns across Spain.

In keeping with tradition, the number was called out by children from Madrid’s San Ildefonso school in a nationally televised draw at Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house, although this year the event was held under tight restrictions owing to the coronavirus.

The incredibly popular lottery will dish out a total of 2.4 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in prizes, much of it in hundreds of smaller prizes.

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Families, friends and co-workers traditionally buy the 20-euro tickets — or “decimos (tenths)” — together as part of a winter holiday tradition. They then wait in hope that fortune may come their way.

Normally, jubilant street and bar scenes follow of winners laughing, dancing and singing with uncorked bottles of sparkling wine. But this year, the celebrations seemed tamer with everyone wearing masks after authorities had urged much caution because of the virus.

Other lotteries have bigger individual top prizes but Spain’s Christmas lottery, held each year on Dec. 22, is ranked as the world’s richest for the total prize money involved.

The lottery was held without an audience this year. Organizers and participants on the theater’s stage donned masks and took PCR tests beforehand. The children were allowed to remove the masks briefly as they sang out the numbers and prizes.

Spain established its national lottery as a charity in 1763 during the reign of King Carlos III. Its objective later became to shore up state coffers. It also helps several charities.