How Can A Whole Community Win?
El Gordo de Navidad, the Spanish Christmas Lottery, is not like other lottery games. It has an enormous prize pot, worth billions of Euros, and thousands of prizes are guaranteed. The first prize, El Gordo, which translates as ‘the Fat One’, is worth €4 million per ticket.
As tickets, known as billetes, cost €200 each, standard procedure is for players to either buy a tenth of a ticket (known as a decimo), or join forces and share the cost. Each ticket comes with a five-digit raffle number, spanning from 00000 to 99999, and the same number is printed multiple times. Due to the way tickets are distributed to local retailers, all players within the same community will usually have the same number.
In Sodeto in 2011, for example, the number on everyone’s ticket was 58268. When this number was drawn as the first prize, it meant that the whole village could enjoy the success together. The amount that each individual won depended on how much of a share they had purchased, but even the least fortunate winner in Sodeto came away with around €100,000 and some players scooped far more.
Find out exactly how El Gordo works and why it drives Spanish lottery players into a frenzy.
How Did One Person Miss Out?
There are around 70 households in Sodeto. The Housewives Association, a group of women who host parties and activities in the town, go round selling El Gordo tickets each year and everyone generally participates.
When Maria-Carmen Lambea found out the winning number and started spreading the news, it seemed that everyone could celebrate. From Ana the bartender to Paco the farmer and Rosa the mayor, a joyous mood descended on the plaza as the townspeople gathered to enjoy the moment.
However, the Housewives Association had somehow missed out one man when they went knocking on doors. Costis Miksotaksis, a Greek national who had moved to the village after falling in love with a Spanish woman, was living in a barn he had been restoring about half a mile away.
Costis reacted to missing out on an El Gordo prize by saying: "I suppose if I had been planning on buying a ticket and didn't then I would be freaking out. But the Housewives' Association who sell the tickets didn't come this far out, so I didn't buy one. I'm not upset."
What About Now?
Costis may have been the only person in the village of Sodeto to miss out on a huge windfall that day in 2011, but he does not harbour any lingering regret or jealousy. “No, nothing,” he said in a recent interview. Costis may have split from his partner but he still lives in the village and feels he has benefited from what happened six years ago. As a filmmaker, he has been documenting how the town has changed and how residents have dealt with their wealth.
The Housewives Association, now officially called the Women’s Association, continue to choose a number each year and the residents of Sodeto still play, thinking they could be as lucky again this year as they were in 2011. With so many guaranteed prizes up for grabs again in this year’s draw on 22nd December, it is a distinct possibility. Fans across Spain are sure to be rushing out to buy tickets ahead of the game, while it is also possible to play online from anywhere in the world.