Ticket to happiness: why Spaniards participate in the National Lottery every year

Everyone has dreamed of winning big in the lottery at least once in their lives. Lotteries are popular in many countries, but in Spain there is a special attitude towards the Christmas draw

Around the world correspondent found out why the hope of luck makes the Spaniards buy lottery tickets contrary to common sense.

Ticket to happiness: why Spaniards participate in the National Lottery every year

On the streets of Madrid, you rarely see a queue of more than five people. The longest ones I've seen were to the migration office and to lottery kiosk no. 67 on calle del Carmen. In the kiosk, people stood under umbrellas – October turned out to be rainy. Strong gusts of wind ruffled the hair of various stripes.

A guest of the capital with a suitcase risked being late for the flight. The mother of many children did not have time to pick up the child from the extension. A retired couple skipped five o'clock coffee. Nearby, several resellers offered tickets from a kiosk with an extra charge of only two euros. But none of those standing even turned their heads in their direction and did not complain about the wait. Happiness does not tolerate fuss and whining.

Everyone stood in line for a lucky ticket for various reasons. A guest of the capital & nbsp; – because “in Madrid, winning tickets come across more often.” Mother & nbsp; – because “if not a lottery, then we will never get out of debt.” A couple of pensioners & nbsp; – because “from childhood, they bought with their grandparents.” And one guy, who was clearly in no hurry, assured: “In Spain, there are more chances to win the lottery than to find a job.”

The guy probably knows better, but the chance to win the main prize of the Spanish National Christmas Lottery — one in a hundred thousand. However, the number of winning tickets is 15.3%. And this is already a lot, even if two-thirds of the prizes are only a refund.

Therefore, about 75% of citizens, that is, almost the entire adult and able-bodied population of the country, once a year succumb to collective madness, buying up the entire multimillion-dollar circulation of the National Lottery on Christmas Day. In the last two (until 2020. — Note by Vokrugsveta.ru) 170 series of 100,000 tickets worth 200 euros were issued, but each ticket is a sheet divided by perforation into ten coupons for 20 euros. It is these tenths of the ticket, called décimo, that people mostly buy. On average, Spaniards spend 60-70 euros on the Christmas lottery (and in some areas almost 200).

The people in the queue, meanwhile, were seriously worried when they saw that I went to the window, bypassing the standing ones. The manager, who came out on time to meet me, saved me from the righteous wrath of the crowd.

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The pursuit of luck

– And it's only October! – Borja, the manager of the lottery kiosk No. 67, pretends to complain. – In December, people stand for three or four hours. We don't even close for lunch…

Why is there lunch, even if during the civil war (1936-1939) the draws did not stop. In 1938, in a country divided into two camps – ideologically and geographically, two “national” lotteries were held at once: one in the camp of the Francoists, the other on the territory of the Republicans.

Not all of the six hundred official lottery outlets in Madrid are as wildly popular as item number 67, unofficially called “Doña Manolita”. The founder of the lottery kiosk, Manuela de Pablo, in 1904 acquired a license and almost immediately “winning” fame.

– In these hundred-odd years, we have sold the most lucky tickets. Here are their numbers on the wall,” Borja proudly points to an impressive column of almost 80 numbers. Last grand prize, El Gordo (which can be translated as “fatty jackpot”), fell on a ticket sold here in 2017.

It is difficult to say how much luck is in this glory. Dona Manolita was an extremely enterprising woman for her time and was the first to send tickets by mail. Borja, her great-nephew, is not far behind: he develops sales of the lottery on the Internet, which in recent years have reached impressive volumes. Which exactly, Borja supposedly does not know. In general, when it comes to numbers, he gets nervous, although it is known that Doña Manolita sells almost half of the tickets of the Christmas draw.

– It's not about the numbers, it's luck, – avoids Borja's answer . Behind him, a great-aunt smiles slyly from a huge poster.

Everyone has their own ways to “speak” luck: for example, buy a number from numbers that coincide with a birthday or end in 5, 7 or 13. But Borja, like most Doña Manolita customers, does not want to see the number until the day of the draw. During the year, he periodically tries his luck in the grandmother's happy kiosk, but he has never won anything larger than the cost of a ticket.

– It doesn't matter, – Borja assures. – If you buy a ticket in advance, you can always before the draw, dream what you will do if you are lucky. Isn't it nice?

The organizer of the game – the State Administration of Lotteries and Gambling – made sure that the time of pleasant illusions was long enough. Tickets for the Christmas draw go on sale in mid-July – mainly for the convenience of vacationers. Recently, more and more foreigners are buying the Spanish lottery at local resorts – a very tempting souvenir. In July and August, an airplane flies over the country's crowded beaches with the advertising slogan of the Christmas lottery: “What if?” And really, what the hell is not joking?

Ticket for happiness: why the Spaniards participate in the National Lottery every yeardécimo I'm still sorry. And I'm not alone, so the Spaniards often play clubbing.


World Lottery

The word “lottery” presumably goes back to the Italian lotto – “share”. The first lottery in the world is the Chinese game Baige Piao, known already in the 1st century BC. e. (its modern international version is called “keno”). According to legend, the proceeds from ticket sales helped build the Great Wall of China. Lotteries were also known in ancient Rome.

The official history of lotteries in Europe dates back to the beginning of the 15th century. In 1530, was established in FlorenceLa Lotto di Firenze  is the first large-scale lottery where winnings were paid in cash. In 1539, a similar lottery was established in France by King Francis I, and in 1567 by Queen Elizabeth I. England. In Russia, the first information about lotteries dates back to the era of Peter I.

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Preemptive maneuver

Of the 25% of weirdos who don't buy the Christmas lottery, only 6% say they can't afford it. In Spain, it is not at all necessary to pay the full price of even a “tithe” of a ticket in order to play. You can buy décimo in half with your brother, for three with colleagues or for a group of friends. Or even go to a nearby bar that has bought a whole series of rooms, and the bartender will sell you a “piece” of a bar ticket, say, for three euros. If anything, the winnings will be paid to everyone in proportion to participation.

The lottery “octopus” spread its tentacles everywhere: firms buy tickets for employees, pharmacies and market traders for regular customers, even churches – for not very well-to-do parishioners. There is no self-interest in the actions of these voluntary distributors – only the desire to become closer to each other.

1/3It's dragging on. My Spanish mother-in-law, since she had pocket money, that is, for sixty years now, has been buying herself a single personal Christmas lottery ticket, but she ends up with three, four, or even five by the draw.

< p>She is friends with the priest, the greengrocer and the baker. With the padre, the mother-in-law enters into a share for pious reasons, it is simply inconvenient not to take a quarter of the “tithe” from the greengrocer for five euros, and the baker always buys décimo at Christmasfor two & nbsp; – myself and her. Out of respect for many years of friendship, the mother-in-law does the same. The baker closed his bakery a long time ago and went to live in his native village near Madrid. Before Christmas, he comes to exchange photocopies of tickets. Just in case.

Playing together is a risky business. The lottery administration recently published a special regulation regarding the purchase of pooled tickets using mobile applications. Well, for example, you created a group in the messenger, bought a ticket for everyone and suddenly lost your phone. And the ticket turned out to be a winning one… Therefore, many Spaniards prefer to make a photocopy of the common ticket for each member of the group in the old fashioned way and seal the participation with personal signatures – even with relatives, away from sin.

The Spaniards themselves call the tradition of trying their luck together tenderly – “sharing the hope.” Sociologists cynically diagnose this as “preventive envy.” The mother-in-law, of course, is not recognized, but most Spaniards do not hide the fact that they buy a ticket together with colleagues, relatives and friends, so that it would not be a shame if they suddenly win inadvertently. The organizers of the lottery cleverly use this property of the Spanish soul, releasing touching commercials with the slogan: “The best win is the total”.

It is likely that this very goal – to present gambling as a good deed for the glory of the Fatherland – was also pursued by the Spanish king Charles III, who brought the lottery from Italy, held the first draw in 1763, and in 1771 attracted children to the business – orphans from the royal orphanage of Saint Ildefons. Their thin necks and voices perfectly masked the desire of the sovereign to replenish the treasury depleted by wars without raising taxes. The ingenious marketing ploy works to this day.


Divide by ten

According to some reports, the gaming sector accounts for up to 3% of Spain's GDP. Christmas draw tickets account for almost half of all tickets sold in the country. If in 1959 eight series of 100,000 tickets were issued, then in 2019 – 170.

The tickets of each series are numbered from 00000 to 99999. Each ticket is divided into 10 coupons with the same number. In Spanish, they are called décimo, “tenth”, and can be sold individually. Decimo is 10 times cheaper than a whole ticket, but the amount won is 10 times less.

Ticket for happiness: why Spaniards participate in the National Lottery every year

In total, in recent years, tickets have been issued for 3.4 billion euros, of which 70% (2.38 billion) go to pay out winnings. The largest is 4 million euros per ticket (that is, 400 thousand per décimo). The second prize – 1.25 million, the third – 500 thousand. Two fourth prizes – 200,000 each, eight fifths – 60,000 each. 1,794 prizes of one thousand euros per number are also drawn. There are also many prizes of different value if the first or last digits of the numbers coincide with the winning ones. For 9999 tickets, the numbers of which end in the same digit as the number that received the first prize, compensation is paid for their value.

A lottery ticket is considered a government security, and its forgery is a criminal case. Foreigners can purchase tickets without restrictions, but they must appear in person to collect the winnings.

Lottery children

The Spanish National Lottery draw has been held since 1812. On December 22, on the day of this “extraordinary” draw, the New Year's mood comes to every house along with the touching voices of the “Children of St. Ildefons” pouring from TVs and radios. their respective gains. For three and a half hours, “lottery children” become the center of attention of the whole country. The rest of the time they live in an old building in the center of Madrid, leaving it only for the weekend, when they are taken apart by poor parents.

Ticket to happiness: why Spaniards participate in the National Lottery every year

The boarding school of St. Ildefons, opened almost five centuries ago, smells not of a miracle, but of canteen food. After classes, pupils who have reached a certain height and age gather in the assembly hall for an hour-long rehearsal. Their task is to sing well the numbers from zero to 99,999 to the simple melody of a psalm.

“One thousand nine hundred and fifty eighty,” sings 11-year-old Carla. “A thousand e-euro-o-o,” nine-year-old Aya answers her. Last year, Carla had the greatest happiness that “lottery children” are waiting for – to sing the number of the main prize. She was so emotional that she burst into tears right on the stage, but the situation obligated and, swallowing her tears, Karla continued, sobbing: “Three thousand three hundred and forty se-e-e-e-em.” -o-o”, – answered Aya.

Morrocan Aya wants to be a singer and has already become famous for her special manner of pulling “a thousand e-e-euro-o-o”. “The introduction of the euro made the task more difficult for the kids, the word “peseta” was sung much better,” explains Jorge, the educator responsible for the musical training of the children.

He has to correct the pronunciation of many: among the sixty pupils there are representatives of ten nationalities. The parents of these children are much more likely to queue at the migration service than for the lottery.

Charo Rodriguez, the director of the boarding school, takes this ambiguous mission philosophically: “We are a state institution, for 250 years there has been an agreement with the lottery administration on participation of pupils in raffles. For our children this is both a motivation to study, and an opportunity to participate in a common cause outside the walls of the boarding school, and just have fun.

The children of San Ildefonso are dearly loved in Spain because they are the heralds of happiness. On the day of the draw, the bus with the guys leaves for the venue at seven in the morning, a crowd of people waving their hands awaits them in the square. src=”/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/biletik-na-schaste-pochemu-ispancy-ezhegodno-uchastvujut-v-nacionalnoj-loteree-351d418.jpg” alt=”Ticket to happiness: why Spaniards participate in National Lottery” />

Pupils are not far to go – the Royal Theater is within easy reach. In the temple of arts, the draw has been organized since 2012 due to the influx of people who want to attend the procedure in person. Opera and ballet in the capital are canceled on this day. Red velvet armchairs occupy -at no cost –the first two thousand lucky crowds in front of the doors.

The noble stage, meanwhile, takes on two spherical lottery drums. One contains one hundred thousand boxwood balls weighing three grams and 18.8 mm in diameter with ticket numbers. In the other, there are 1807 of the same balls, on which the winning amount is burned by a laser. The largest, “fat jackpot”, – 4 million euros.

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Fatty jackpot

Four million wins a whole ticket, consisting of ten of those same coupons. Accordingly, each winning “tithe” receives 400,000 euros. At the same time, the number wins in all 170 series, that is, 1,700 people across the country can become the owners of a prize of 400 thousand.

Due to the fact that tickets are often bought collectively, luck often falls in heaps: whole families, companies win , bars, even small villages. Someone runs to celebrate it at the kiosk where they got the ticket, but most prefer not to spread – you never know.

Ticket to Luck: why Spaniards participate in the National Lottery every year

Of course, the real value of winnings has changed a lot in the 200 years of the lottery's existence. At the beginning of the 20th century, a whole building could be bought for a “fat sum”. The ultimate dream of today's lucky people is to pay off a mortgage, buy a car, pay off debts.

In addition, in 2013, for the first time in the history of the lottery, the state introduced a tax of 20% on winnings exceeding 2,500 euros. In 2018, however, the barrier was raised to 10,000 euros. The number of players in the meantime is only growing.

From July to December, year after year, the Spaniards all over the country first hunt for tickets and “pieces” of tickets for the Christmas lottery, then listen with moistened eyes to how lottery children sing the winnings to someone else's number. They sigh, say another “well, nothing, next year will definitely be lucky” and go on with enlightened faces, because Christmas has begun and someone has been lucky.

The chance to catch her is small, but just in case, know: most often in the Spanish Christmas lottery numbers ending in 5 were won – as many as 31 times!

Ticket to Luck: why the Spaniards participate in the National Lottery every year

Madrid, Spain

Madrid Square 604.45 km²
Population 3.22 million people
Population density 5327 people/km²

Area of ​​Spain 505,992 km² (51st in the world)
Population ~ 47.16 million people (31st place)
Population density 94 people/km²

ATTRACTIONSPrado Museum, Royal Palace, Royal Theatre, Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, Buen Retiro Park.
TRADITIONAL DISHES battered squid ring sandwich; callos – appetizer of beef giblets; cocido in Madrid (cocido madrileño) – a stew made from chickpeas, vegetables and several types of meat.
TRADITIONAL DRINK draft vermouth with soda.
SOUVENIRS Christmas lottery ticket, Infanta Margherita figurines from Velazquez's Las Meninas, Real Madrid attributes.

DISTANCE from Moscow ~ 3440 km (from 5 hours to flight)
TIME is 2 hours behind Moscow in winter, one hour in summer
VISA Schengen


Material published in Vokrug Sveta No. 1, January 2020, partially updated in December 2022

Anna Papchenko


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