December 20, 2008


With the increasing economic downturn here, lottery ticket sales for El Gordo (The Fat One) have bucked the trend among Spanish consumers who are having to cut back sharply. More Spaniards than ever are buying €20 tickets ahead of the big draw on Monday for one of the biggest lottery jackpots in the world - with €2.3 billion (£2.1billion) in prizes.

Spain is suffering the worst unemployment rate in Europe, at 12.8%, and one Madrid lottery office has said that some people were buying more than one ticket, risking all they had in the hope of winning a little money and solving all their problems. Just like Jesús.

Famously inveterate gamblers, Spaniards will take any chance to gamble. In every bar in the country, the fruit machine is a standard fixture and on each street corner there is a lottery booth. Figures for El Gordo tickets sold have not been released by the State Lottery and Betting organisation, but they have been rising steadily since Spain's troubles began after the crash of its construction sector last year.

Sales of the Euromillions lottery, for instance, rose by 16 % on 2007 and the Spring Gordo lottery sales increased by 9%. General weekly lottery sales rose 2.4 % until October, when people started concentrating on El Gordo.

The Christmas draw is the biggest of the year, attracting millions of Spaniards, as well as those - potentially - from around the world. In a sign though that Spain's economic gloom has even hit El Gordo, companies that traditionally gave tickets to employees as Christmas gifts have bought fewer this year. However, Professor Roberto Garcia, of the Carlos III University, Madrid, who has carried out a study of lotteries, believes El Gordo has been largely unaffected by the downturn because it brings society together and reinforces friendship and community spirit.

Not like Jesús then, having broken off his long-standing engagement with Dolores and staking his entire future on El Gordo - alone.

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