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The Lotteries of Spain

Published on: 28/10/2013

Compared to other countries Spain has always been more relaxed in its gambling laws. Their government realized early on that criminalizing various betting practices merely drove them underground – far better to have them out in the open, where they can be regulated and taxed. Up until the 1970’s it was the country’s many lotteries which made up the majority of betting activities. Skill based gambling was legalized in the 70’s, soon followed in 1981 by games of chance. Such were the popularity of the numerous legal games on offer that the government felt the need for some kind of centralized organization. In 2008 the entire country was divided into 17 regions, with each one having autonomy over the gambling practices and licences.

The lottery still reigns supreme in the hearts of the Spanish people. On almost every day of the week there is a different drawing by one of the regional lotteries. In addition to these local lotteries, Spain is of course a participant in Europe’s EuroMillions. If you are a passionate gambler in Spain barely a day goes past when you haven’t the chance of becoming a millionaire – and if you lose there will almost certainly be another lottery tomorrow in which you are certain to win!

Perhaps the two most popular lotteries in Spain are La Primitiva and Bonolotto. Their adherence to the old fashioned 6/49 format is maybe what makes them so loved, a traditional feature that for many is the only way a lottery should be structured. La Primitiva has its drawings every Sunday and Thursday, while Bonolotto has four weekly drawings, Monday through to Wednesday, and Friday also.

There is also a popular charity lottery to fill the days of Friday and Sunday, lest the population be annoyed that a weekday passes without some lottery fun. All proceeds from this lottery, known as Cupón de la ONCE, are passed onto the Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles, which is the national association for the blind. Operating the lottery are approximately 23,000 individuals who are registered as disabled. Though the prizes for this charitable lottery are not as grand as the two main lotteries, a grand jackpot of €300,000 still ensures its popularity.

Football is hugely popular throughout Spain, and in accordance with this interest is something called La Quiniela. This is a game based on predicting the country’s football results, and as such can be seen as an analogue of the U.K.’s football pools. Tickets for this are readily available at any of the official lottery vendors, called Loterias y Apuestas del Estado, which are easily identified by their distinctive signage and blue colour.

There are two lottery drawings of prime importance to the Spanish population. Taking place annually, the El Niño drawing features in conjunction with Los Reyes, the annual festival held on January 6th. The other special drawing is El Gordo de Navidad, an ancient festival day inaugurated by King Carlos III in 1763, and an important feature of the Christmas celebrations, taking place on the 22nd of December. The numbers for these two lotteries are drawn by students from Madrid, studying at the San Ildefonso primary school.

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance and popularity of these two festival days. El Gordo espically is hugely popular. Its annual prize fund is a staggering €3 billion. Of course with potential payouts like these the lottery draws in even more players. A recent survey calculated that up to 90 percent of the Spanish population participates in El Gordo, spending annually about €75.

Published on: 28/10/2013 © Bet Bind