Tomas Arizta, a owner of a lottery office, celebrates with sparkling wine beside Asuncion Daguerrea and Edurne Gomez, left, after selling the first prize Christmas lottery ticket El Gordo, or The Fat One, with the number 03347, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Holders of the ticket number 03347 struck it rich Saturday when they won the top prize in Spain's bumper Christmas lottery. The lottery dished out 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in prize-money this year.(AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

El Gordo fever: Spain enthralled by annual Christmas lottery

December 22, 2018 - 5:42 am

MADRID (AP) — Those holding the ticket number 03347 struck it rich Saturday when they won the top prize in Spain's bumper Christmas lottery.

The lottery, known as El Gordo, or "The Fat One," dished out 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in prize money this year.

The top prize for a winning ticket is 400,000 euros ($455,000), but there are many smaller prizes. Multiple people picked the winning number in various points across Spain.

Other lotteries have bigger individual top prizes but El Gordo, held each Dec. 22, is ranked as the world's biggest in terms of total prize money.

Individuals or groups of friends or colleagues buy the El Gordo lottery tickets, which cost 20 euros ($23) each, months in advance.

Following the lottery draw has become a winter holiday tradition in Spain, with people glued to television sets, radios or the internet, where newspaper websites give a running commentary.

Children from Madrid's San Ildefonso school called out the lottery prizes Saturday on a nationally televised draw at Madrid's Teatro Real opera house.

The tiny balls corresponding to the top prize rolled down chutes from two huge round cages and were called out by young girls three hours into the gala.

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.

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