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Spain basks in 'El Gordo' lottery joy

| Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, 9:30 p.m.

MADRID — Decked out in their school uniforms, young Spanish school children in Madrid's stately Teatro Real opera house sang out lottery numbers on live TV Tuesday for Spain's massively popular Christmas lottery that showered $2.4 billion across the country.

They finally sang out “El Gordo,” the biggest winner in the drawing: number 79,140. People who bought that number in a southern beach city were the luckiest ones this year.

But Spaniards all over the nation shared in the wealth because their lottery system doles out prizes much more broadly than lotteries with huge jackpots for just a few winners.

The No. 1 prize gives out a jackpot of just $438,100, but more than 1,000 tickets win the big one, and the lottery hands out 24 million prizes overall.

Though other lotteries make headlines with their larger top prizes, El Gordo (The Fat One) is ranked as the world's richest and makes its mark every year in Spain, uniting the country because almost everyone takes part.

With so many prizes, there are plenty of winnings for Spaniards who band together in office pools and groups of family members or friends to buy anywhere from one to dozens of the tickets costing $22 each.

People can't pick their own numbers, so if they want a certain one, they have to go online to find out if it exists and if so which agency or agencies are selling it.

Across the nation, people stay glued to the television as lower-level winning numbers are announced until El Gordo is sung out. Then a tradition kicks in, with people who purchased winning tickets on their own or in groups showing up outside the lottery agency that sold them the tickets for gleeful fiestas.

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