Posted: Monday, Jan 06,2020 | Time: 06:48 am | Edited by: The Lottery Lab Staff
Does winning a lottery jackpot sound good to you? How about winning with all of your friends and neighbors?
Sodeto is farming village perched atop a dusty outcropping in northeastern Spain. The population is only 240 people and it is barely a dot on the map. Identical stone houses at barns sit in rows and mud-caked automobiles line the grassy town square.
Why is this village so special? Because the world’s biggest lottery jackpot made everyone (except one person) in this small, debt-ridden farming village wealthy overnight!
Spain operates lotteries differently than those in the United States. The game that changed the fate of Sodeto is called "La Lotería de Navidad," or "El Gordo”. This game has been in operation since 1892. It holds a single annual drawing on December 22. There are two factors which make “El Gordo” unusual.
First, the drawing uses a “two-vessel” system consisting of a large vessel and a small vessel. The large vessel holds 100,000 wooden balls marked with unique 5-digit numbers. The small vessel holds 1787 balls marked with prizes. Most of the prizes are small, but there are a few very large prizes. Under this “two-vessel” system, lottery officials have children draw one ball from the large vessel and one ball from the small vessel. The player holding the ticket that matches the 5-digit number wins the prize. This process continues until all 1787 balls have been drawn and can take up to 3 hours.
The second unique aspect of "La Lotería de Navidad," derives from the limited number of balls in the large vessel. While US games like Powerball and Mega Millions have hundreds of millions of possible combinations, “El Gordo” only has 100,000 possible combinations. This means that the probability that a single ticket wins is much higher and, thus, the value of a ticket is much higher. A single ticket can sell for hundreds of euros. Since buying a ticket can be prohibitively expensive for most people, local organizations purchase tickets and divide them into less expensive shares.
These two factors had brought the whole town of Sodeto together on December 22, 2011. The Housewives’ Association had sold about 1,200 shares to the Sodeto village and hopeful winners gathered in the town’s only drinking establishment, a bar named Cañamoto. That night, tears and champagne flowed when the winning numbers for the largest prize of the lottery were announced on the TV. Everyone in the bar started screaming and embracing in disbelief as realization set in that every single person in Sodeto had won a share of the largest amount of money. Every one of the 1,200 shares was worth 100,000 Euros.
Exactly who won how much remains a secret, but the village won a total of 720 million Euros in the lottery. It means every single family in Sodeto village had at least one winning share. Some had bought enough shares to become millionaires.
Not long after the big win, the press arrived, bankers began hawking various investments. Salesmen flooded residents with offers of diamonds, sports cars, and exotic vacations. Garbage bins, that rarely needed emptying suddenly overflowed with flyers.
The people of Sodeto are happier than ever today. Although there are no overt signs of wealth, if you peek closely, you’ll see enormous flat-screen TVs and sleek marble countertops freshly installed.
According to Herminia Gayán, an elderly resident of the village, “The people didn't go crazy. They didn't buy and spend." she said, “in fact, in the months after the win, there was no change.”
But by April of 2012, the streets were filled with trucks and construction companies performing renovations on virtually every house in town. Beyond that, it's hard to identify any major change in the sleepy village. Perhaps most remarkable is the fact that nobody has stopped working—as farmers, truck drivers, and housewives.
The familial sense of this village is remarkable. The sense of togetherness shared by the people is stronger than ever. When reporters were interviewing the winners, they asked then the same question, “Why didn’t you take the money and leave?” and they all answered the same, “Where would I go? I won with all these people.”
Bonus read: 5 Most Heartwarming Newsworthy Lottery Moments