Spain’s Christmas lottery, a lucrative and much-loved annual tradition that often ends in the joyous detonation of cava corks and the hatching of big plans, took place on Wednesday amid soaring Covid infections and the first ever strike by ticket vendors.
After the country recorded a record 49,823 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday night, many Spaniards welcomed the chance to focus instead on El Gordo (the Fat One) and its €2.4bn in prizes.
As tradition dictates, the draw for the lottery, which dates back to 1812, was held at the Teatro Real opera house in Madrid, with children from the city’s San Ildefonso school calling out the winning numbers.
For the December draw, many Spaniards club together to buy tickets, or fractions of them. But as the celebrations began across Spain, dozens of lottery ticket vendors assembled outside the opera house to demand an increased share of the sales revenues.
The vendors, who had shut up shop for the day, say they deserve more than the 4% of the ticket price they currently get, arguing that 80 cents on a €20 ticket is not enough. They point out that their commission rate has been frozen for the past 17 years despite huge rises in living costs – not least Spain’s skyrocketing electricity prices.
“Prices go up, taxes go up and the commissions remain the same,” Natalia de la Fuente, the daughter of a lottery seller, told Reuters. “We have to pay our bills … This is impossible.”
Another protester, Álvaro de Miguel, said he and his fellow vendors would do “whatever it takes to get people to listen to us”.
This year’s winning number, 86148, paid out a €400,000 prize. A stall at Madrid’s Atocha train station reportedly sold tickets that won their buyers – who probably come from all round Spain – a total of €516m.
“I’m super excited,” said the stallholder, 56-year-old Javier Moñino. “Most of the people who bought them were people who passed by my window on their way through the station.”