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How many people win El Gordo?

El Gordo, which translates to “the fat one” in English, is the name given to Spain’s biggest national lottery. It is held each year on December 22nd, right before Christmas. El Gordo has a top prize that is much larger than most other lotteries around the world, making it highly sought-after by people in Spain and even other countries. But with such a large grand prize up for grabs, how many people actually win and share in these riches?

What is El Gordo?

El Gordo is Spain’s biggest national lottery, held each year on December 22nd. The lottery’s name, which means “the fat one” in Spanish, refers to its top prize, which is much larger than most other lotteries. The El Gordo draw takes place in Madrid and is a huge cultural event broadcast live on TV and radio. People across the country eagerly await the results to see if their numbers will come up.

Tickets for El Gordo are sold in Series, which contain multiple tickets all with the same numbers. Each Series is assigned a unique number from 00000 to 99999. Within each Series, there are many tickets which each have an identifying number from 00000 to 99999 as well. When a Series wins a prize, that prize is shared equally among all of the tickets in that Series. So for the top El Gordo prize, hundreds of people around Spain could suddenly find themselves winners if they hold tickets from the winning Series.

What are the prizes?

The top prize for El Gordo is €4 million per Series. So if you hold a ticket that matches the first prize Series number, you would win about €400,000 as that prize is divided amongst all tickets in the Series. There are also many smaller prizes and runner-up categories too:

  • Second prize is €1.25 million per Series
  • Third prize is €500,000 per Series
  • Two fourth prizes of €200,000 per Series
  • Eight fifth prizes of €60,000 per Series
  • 1,794 prizes of €1,000 per Series
  • Approximately 15,000 smaller prizes of €200 – €500

In total, there are over 15,800 prizes across all the prize categories. The total prize money available is over €2.2 billion, so El Gordo lives up to its “fat” name with the amount of cash up for grabs!

How many tickets are sold?

Around 160 million tickets are sold for El Gordo each year. With multiple tickets in each Series, this means there are many winners across all the different prizes. Here is a breakdown of approximately how many tickets are sold for El Gordo:

Ticket Type Number Sold
Full €200 tickets 70 million
Tenth shares at €20 each 50 million
Series numbers only 3.5 million

As you can see, the vast majority are full €200 tickets. These tickets have a 5-digit number between 00000 and 99999. There are also smaller tenth shares available at just €20 each, allowing more people access to a portion of the prizes. Finally, people can just buy a Series number on its own too.

How many people win prizes?

With so many tickets sold across the 160 million or so, there are thousands of winners in El Gordo every year. Here is a breakdown of approximately how many people win the different prize categories:

Prize Winners
First Prize 720
Second Prize 1,080
Third Prize 1,600
Two Fourth Prizes 2,640
Eight Fifth Prizes 9,600
Approx. 15,000 smaller prizes 15,000
Total Winners 30,640

As you can see, over 30,000 people will generally win a prize in El Gordo each year. The vast majority of these are those smaller prizes in the hundreds or low thousands of euros. Still, with 720 people winning around €400,000 each for the top prize, thousands can have their lives changed in an instant with El Gordo.

Where do winners live?

El Gordo tickets are sold throughout Spain, with a concentration in bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona. However, even small towns all around the country participate. This means winners can pop up anywhere there were tickets sold!

That said, there are some key areas that see a disproportionate amount of ticket sales, meaning more winners too. Here are some of the provinces with historically more El Gordo winners:

  • Madrid
  • Barcelona
  • Valencia
  • Seville
  • Bilbao
  • Alicante
  • Murcia
  • Cordoba

In these major cities and provinces, it’s more common to see office pools, clubs, or friend groups band together to buy Series tickets. This means when one of their numbers hits, there are many more winners within that social circle or geographic area.

Do non-Spaniards win?

El Gordo tickets can be purchased outside of Spain as well. There are lottery ticket resale sites that legally offer tickets abroad. Some tickets are also sold in Gibraltar and Andorra. That means people in other European countries or beyond do sometimes win El Gordo prizes.

However, relative to the total tickets sold, the percentage bought by non-Spaniards is very small. Over 95% of all tickets are still purchased within Spain. So while it’s possible for foreigners to randomly win, the odds are extremely low compared to locals playing the lottery.

Biggest groups of winners

The largest groups of winners tend to come from organizations, companies, or regional groups where many people played together on the same Series number. Here are some of the biggest groups we’ve seen share top prizes:

  • A business office pool in Madrid with 180 employees chipped in €20 each to buy a Series, winning them €7.5 million total when their number hit the top prize.
  • A neighborhood club in Barcelona had bought the same Series number for 45 years straight as a tradition, finally winning a first prize of €12 million split between 240 members.
  • A small town of 700 people in rural Alicante managed to sell all their €20 tenth tickets in one Series to locals, awarding all residents €25,000 each when it won fifth prize.

These kinds of stories are common each year, making El Gordo especially exciting for pools, companies and tight-knit communities playing together. When entire towns or organizations win, it can transform many more lives than a single person winning alone.

Who buys the most tickets?

On average, who buys the most El Gordo tickets in Spain? While people of all backgrounds play, there are a few demographic groups more likely to buy tickets in volume:

  • The elderly – Senior citizens have the time and focus to invest in playing the lottery consistently. Their social circles also tend to organize group syndicates.
  • Middle class – Those with some disposable income are in the best position to buy multiple tickets or shares each year.
  • Social clubs – Civic and social organizations, sports teams, work offices and other formal groups often buy tickets in bulk.
  • Certain professions – Coincidence or superstition leads some jobs like bankers, lawyers and civil servants to buy more tickets.

Of course, El Gordo is so huge in Spanish culture that all types play. But these groups tend to represent a disproportionate amount of overall ticket sales.

Unluckiest people

With millions of tickets in play, inevitably there are also some very unlucky cases each year. Here are some of the worst situations we’ve seen:

  • A man missed a €700,000 fourth prize win by one digit – his ticket was off by a single number.
  • One woman lost her purse containing a €20,000 fifth prize ticket hours before the drawing.
  • A group missed out on a €250,000 smaller prize after forgetting to check their numbers for weeks.
  • One couple divorced shortly before winning €400,000, forcing them to split the money.

While El Gordo creates many winners, it leaves some others tantalizingly close to life-changing prizes just out of reach. But this is part of the drama and excitement that makes the Spanish Christmas lottery so popular!

Government tax revenue

The Spanish government also wins big from El Gordo. Taxes represent about 20% of total sales revenue from the lottery. So with €2.2 billion in prizes awarded, approximately €500 million flows to government coffers each year. These funds go to support a range of public services and programs.

Additionally, El Gordo is run and organized by Spain’s state lottery organization Loterías y Apuestas del Estado. All operating income and overhead costs are retained by the government. In total, it’s estimated El Gordo contributes around €1 billion annually in tax revenue and profits to the government budget.

Charity winners

While most people play El Gordo for themselves or their organizations, some winners opt to donate their prizes to charity. With anonymous lottery winners every year, there are surely many more charitable givers than get publicized. But we do know of some recent big charity winners:

  • In 2021, an anonymous winner in Catalonia donated their entire €200,000 fifth prize to a local hospital.
  • In 2020, a Madrid winner gave €150,000 of their €350,000 prize to a homeless assistance program.
  • In 2019, a small town’s soccer club donated 10% of their €500,000 in winnings to youth sports.

For most, playing El Gordo is about personal gain or helping friends and family. But some winners have paid the luck forward to support meaningful causes too.

Families with multiple wins

With so many players each year, some Spanish families have managed to win El Gordo multiple times over the years and even generations. Here are some of the luckiest multi-generational winners we know of:

  • One Catalonian family has won big prizes three times across 30 years – in 1987, 2011 and 2021.
  • A husband, wife and three children in Valencia have each won smaller prizes both together and separately over 20 years.
  • One Basque family had the same numbers held by the grandmother, mother and daughter each win prizes in 1992, 2008 and 2020.

For these fortunate dynasties, El Gordo seems to run in the family! Their repeated good luck defies the odds to become part of their family histories.

Social impact of wins

Beyond just the financial impact, El Gordo also has a major positive social effect in Spanish communities when friends, neighbors or organizations win big together. Some of the beneficial community outcomes we’ve seen include:

  • Tight knit villages becoming even closer, organizing big celebrations.
  • Winners supporting local businesses by spending locally.
  • Improved aging care as people look after older relatives.
  • Increased participation and support for local clubs and groups.
  • Youth career mentoring when winners are business owners.

The social benefits of a group El Gordo win often match the monetary gains. Communities rally around to uplift winners and share in the good fortune.

Should you play El Gordo?

Is participating in Spain’s El Gordo lottery a smart move or a reckless gamble? Here are some key factors to consider if you’re thinking about playing:

  • Odds of winning – While El Gordo has better odds than other giant lotteries like Powerball, your chances are still miniscule at around 1 in 100,000.
  • Budget responsibly – Only spend disposable income, not rent or food money. The odds are stacked against you.
  • Small shares – The €20 shares lower the barriers to participate without overspending.
  • Millions of winners – Some people do actually win, it’s not impossible!
  • More than money – Playing with friends or community can bring joy and excitement beyond just potential prizes.

In moderation, participating in El Gordo represents a fun end of year tradition more than a retirement investment strategy. But dreams of riches will continue driving millions to play.


El Gordo’s millions in prizes captivate Spain annually, with thousands winning cash each year. While the biggest winners take home €400,000 or more, even smaller €1,000 prizes change lives. Top prizes frequently get shared across organizations, companies and towns when groups play together on the same numbers.

The Spanish government also benefits greatly through taxes and operating proceeds from El Gordo. But the social impacts may be just as important, bringing communities together in hope and celebration around the winter holidays.

While your odds as an individual player may be low, someone has to win. And with so many tickets sold, winners turn up in all parts of Spanish society. Playing El Gordo represents a holiday tradition more than a sound financial plan. But for many Spaniards, the excitement and dreams tied up in the country’s biggest lottery makes playing an annual must.