In just under two weeks, Spain will come to a complete stand still for the draw of the El Gordo Christmas lottery, which will be called in Euros for the first time. The draw takes place on the morning of December 22 and by then, per capita in the Balearics, an average of 51 euros will have been spent on Christmas lottery tickets. However, the Balearics are not the biggest Christmas lottery gamblers. Spaniards are expected to spend £1.4 billion on tickets for the nation's 190th Christmas lottery, the world's biggest single gambling event and this year El Gordo could even become the richest lottery ever with everyone in Spain tempted by the prospect of winning a share of tax-free prizes totalling £980 million.

The biggest Christmas lottery spenders are the Madrileños who, on average, last year spent 84 euros per person on lottery tickets. On average, 60 euros is spent per person in Spain on the 11.807.546 tickets for the Christmas lottery. Six years ago, the El Gordo jackpot was won by Coll d'en Rebassa in Palma and since the, the Balearics has enjoyed its fare share of lottery luck. To dismiss El Gordo as a festive frenzy of greed is missing the point. The popularity lies in the fact that, rather than creating one or two millionaires, its winnings are so widely spread that almost half of the country goes home with something. The regions with less faith in winning are Andalucia, the Canary Islands and Galicia where between 36 and 45 euros is gambled per person on the Christmas lottery. The standard 200 euro unit of “decimos” is often bought and divided up in to tiny shares and the complicated share-the-wealth scheme means the top prize worth £1.14 million can be shared by up to 1'700 people although the odds of buying one of the 17'712 prize tickets are one in six. The Spanish lottery was begun by King Carlos III in 1763. The Christmas lottery followed in 1812. Today, the various state-operated lotteries have an annual turnover of £4bn and generate more than 1% of the government's income. Prizes account for 70% of the money created by El Gordo with the remaining £420m going into the state's coffers.