At first sight, the vast array of lottery types and tickets on sale in the average betting shop can be daunting, to say the least. With games costing anything from 50 cents to 200 euros, scam emails coming through the cyber-post and no obvious way of telling who’s won and who hasn’t, even the chance of winning multi-million prizes doesn’t seem worth the hassle.
Here we try to take the mystery out of winning millions, and show you how to make sure you don’t fall into tricksters’ traps…
This festive favourite translates literally as ‘the fat one’, and its winnings certainly are. In the week before Christmas, the betting shops are packed with people hoping to end the year as multi-millionaires, and when the winning tickets are drawn, most of Spain is glued to the TV to find out if they will be able to chuck in their jobs and book a world cruise.
El Gordo tickets are sold in ten parts, known as décimos, each of which currently costs 20 euros – thus, a full ticket costs 200 euros. Although this raises the stakes, the price is usually beyond the reach of the average person’s pocket, meaning friends, families and co-workers tend to buy them as part of a syndicate.
But the ‘fat one’ is not just limited to dishing out expensive Christmas gifts to the lucky few: a smaller version with lower winnings – known as El Gordo de la Primitiva, is drawn every Sunday. These tickets currently cost 1.50 euros and, unlike the Christmas version where the numbers are already stamped on the coupon, the buyer chooses six of their own.
These are either filled in by marking the ticket with a pen, or are computer-generated.
To increase your chances, you can play as part of a peña – a club – offering 133 combinations for 5.95 euros. This is mainly available on the internet and a combination of numbers is provided, which you are at liberty to change if you prefer.
Far from primitive winnings are offered with this weekly lottery, which is either drawn on Thursdays, Saturdays, or both days. You choose six numbers per ticket, which costs 1.17 euros if drawn on just one day, or for the numbers to be drawn on both days, the cost rises to 2.35 euros for a six-number ticket.
Generally regarded as Spain’s favourite lottery – and now in its 25th year – jackpots can reach as much as 66 million euros apiece.
Again, La Primitiva can be played as part of a peña, or club, offering 182 combinations for 5.95 euros.
The National Lottery
Spain’s Lotería Nacional, also drawn on Thursdays and Saturdays, is State-run, meaning winnings are tax-exempt.
But if you do win a prize, the money must remain on Spanish territory – if you leave the country with it, you will be taxed.
Of course, this does not apply to spending money on your dream holiday funded by those multi-millions, but if you decide to buy a villa in the Caribbean or purchase a house in the UK for your kids with it, be prepared for a bill from Hacienda for the privilege.
If you do not hit the jackpot, but the last two numbers on your ticket match those of the winner, you will still receive a prize, albeit a smaller one. If the last number on your ticket is the same as the jackpot-winner, the cost of your ticket will be refunded to you.
In the same manner as the El Gordo Christmas lottery, tickets are sold in tenths, or décimos, each of which costs 20 euros, and there is no limit to how many of these you can purchase.
And like the ‘fat one’, numbers are automatically printed on the ticket rather than being chosen by the buyer.
One of the cheapest ways of trying your luck is with the Bonoloto, which costs 59 cents a ticket.
It is drawn on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and you can either choose the day you would like your numbers to be drawn or opt for the same ticket to be pulled out of the hat on each day, at a cost of 2.37 euros in total.
Like the Primitiva, you pick six numbers per ticket, and there is no limit to the number of tickets you can buy.
Winnings are roughly the same as for the Primitiva, but as it is drawn more often, in theory there is more chance of your numbers coming up.
That said, given that the tickets cost less, it is likely there will be more players on each occasion.
A good tip is to pick the number 5 – this is the digit that has come up most often on winning coupons.
This daily lottery is in aid of the National Organisation for Blind Spaniards (Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles, or ONCE). Unlike the other lotteries, where tickets are purchased on the internet or in betting shops, these are sold every day by street sellers (who are mainly, but not exclusively, disabled) or in dedicated kiosks. Coupons bought from Monday to Thursday or on Saturday are currently 1.50 euros, and Friday and Sunday tickets are two euros owing to the larger first prize on offer.
Additionally, the first Friday and Sunday of each month offers an even bigger jackpot, with a special ticket for it costing 2.50 euros.
The number system is a little more complex, but it is worth studying, since this is the only Spanish lottery uniquely organised for charity, meaning your money goes further than simply offering you a chance of future wealth.
Each day features five ready-printed numbers, and three in a series. If the last number of the five only matches the winner, the prize is just 2.50 euros, but if they all match, and the three in the series, too, the prize is 300,000 euros. Matches in between earn lower cash rewards.
A big win has to be collected from the Bank of Spain – unlike other lotteries, where large prizes are collected via a notary – but small winnings can be picked up from ONCE kiosks.
How do I know if I’ve won?
For all bar the ONCE, the quickest way to find out is simply to pop back to a betting shop – not necessarily the one you purchased the ticket from – and present the original coupon. Otherwise, local newspapers usually feature the winning numbers each day.
For ONCE tickets, ask street sellers or at the dedicated stands, or find out via the TV. Results are broadcast after the evening news programme on terrestrial channel three, Antena 3.
Playing it safe: What’s your best bet?
Lottery tickets are purchased from betting shops that form part of an official chain, called Loterías y Apuestas del Estado. They are on high streets in most towns and also in hypermarkets and department stores.
ONCE tickets are bought from green street stands bearing the name, or from sellers who walk around the streets.
If you choose to place your bets on the internet rather than buying a ticket at a shop, make sure you select a safe website. The only official site is www.loteriasyapuestas.es, and further information about how to play is available on www.onlae.es . Another secure and widely-used – even if not official – website is www.ventura24.es.
If you receive an email, letter or telephone call inviting you to play or claiming you have won a prize, do not even consider it: no lottery in Spain notifies winners in writing, nor sends them messages asking them to join syndicates or buy tickets. However, such letters are fairly common, both in Spain and worldwide, since lottery scams are rife.
How do I detect a scam?
Firstly, most fraudulent lottery-based communications ask the recipient to call a number to arrange to collect their prize. These are nearly always mobile telephone numbers (starting with a 6) or premium-rate lines.
Telephone numbers beginning 800 or 900 are free of charge, and 901 or 904 numbers mean the caller and the receiver share the cost. A 902 number, whether local or provincial, costs up to 10 cents a minute from a landline telephone, depending upon the time of day.
If the letter includes any other telephone number beginning with 80 or 90, it is a premium-rate line and will cost you in excess of a euro per minute.
To find out if a number is legitimate, check on http://nomasnumeros900.com.
Secondly, any official written communication will provide the company’s CIF (fiscal) number. All registered companies in Spain are obliged to have one of these.
Thirdly, you will never be asked for any kind of fee or administration cost in order to claim your prize. If a letter or email requests this, it is fraudulent.
Scams such as these should be reported to the Guardia Civil, taking a copy of the email or the letter with you.