Spaniards tune in for Gordo draw

Millions of Spaniards were glued to their televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery - the world's richest - distributed a bounty of 2.5 billion euro (£2.1 billion) in prize money.

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Workers of a petrol station celebrate after winning the second prize of the Christmas lottery El Gordo in Tenerife (AP)

Millions of Spaniards were glued to their televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery - the world's richest - distributed a bounty of 2.5 billion euro (£2.1 billion) in prize money.

The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million people watch at least part of the four-hour show live, desperately hoping that the schoolchildren singing out the winning numbers will call out their ticket.

Unlike lotteries that offer one large jackpot, Spain's yuletide draw sprinkles a variety of winnings on thousands of ticket holders.

The top prize - known as El Gordo (The Fat One) - gave lucky winners 400,000 euro (£335,000) per ticket, while the second-best number netted them 125,000 euro (£105,000).

However, this year for the first time, the tax man will claim 20% of winnings above 2,500 euro (£2,092), as the Spanish government strives to right an economy saddled with a sky-high unemployment rate of 26%.

Winning El Gordo tickets this year were sold in at least eight locations throughout the country, including Madrid, Barcelona and the northern industrial city of Modragon, where large electrical appliance manufacturer Fagor Electrodomesticos filed for bankruptcy in October.

El Gordo winner, Raul Clavero, 27, a mechanic living in the south-western Madrid suburb of Leganes said he had been watching the draw in bed when he realised he had won.

"We jumped out of bed and ran out," he said, adding that he would "pay the mortgage, that's the first thing, and then just enjoy the rest".

The entire lot of second-prize tickets - worth 1.3 million euro (£1.1 million) - was sold in the town of Granadilla de Abona on the Canary Island resort of Tenerife.

Among the audience watching the draw in person at Madrid's Teatro Real Opera House was Jesus Lorente, who said he bought his second-prize ticket at a petrol station in Granadilla de Abona.

The beaming 27-year-old caterer said he would use his winnings to "plug gaps" in his personal finances, holding a photograph he had taken of the ticket on his phone.

Before Spain's property-led economic boom imploded in 2008, ticket buyers often talked of spending their winnings on new cars or second homes by the beach or going on fancy holidays. Now many Spaniards are just hoping to avoid having their homes or cars repossessed.

"The ticket is stored in a safe place at home," Mr Lorente said.

AP