Spain, as a country, is pretty poor.
Yes, there are countries much poorer, but if you compare Spain to other modern European countries like Britain, France, Holland, Italy or Germany, Spain is definitely in a different league. The average national income here, last year, seems to have been under 14,000 € (make that £ 9,000, or $ 18,000). Not a lot, really, unless you live in Burma, or Myanmar, now Burma again, or else in Cuba.
Relative poverty is one of the reasons why lotteries are so popular in Spain. One of the most popular lotteries in Spain is the ONCE lottery. ONCE was not set up to be a lottery company. ONCE is the Spanish organization for the blind people. This organization was founded almost 70 years ago in 1938, in the midst of the mean struggles of the Spanish Civil War.
There seem to be a lot of blind people around in Spain, as well as other ill or handicapped folks. Perhaps one finds a similar percentage of disabled people in other countries as well, but it seems, that one see mores of them on the streets here in Spain. Maybe they are in hiding, elsewhere. Or, joking apart, there are perhaps better medical facilities available elsewhere that Spain can not financially afford to offer.
ONCE has managed somehow to become a rather large and influential institution over the years. Apart from setting up a national lottery scheme, they have also wisely invested their money in some key industries such as the media, radio stations, TV, and magazine press. In all, they rank amongst the top fifty enterprises in Spain, in volume of turnover. You might compare them to Oxfam perhaps, except that ONCE seems to be more economically minded in how they manage their money and make it grow successfully.
The way the lottery works nowadays, is this: any day, from Monday to Thursday, you can buy a décimo from one of the green kioscos that can be found in Spanish towns and villages, anywhere. Or from one of the many impaired street vendors like the one shown in the photo above. One cupón will cost you 1,50 €, and with that small outlay you stand an – albeit small – chance to win 30,000 €. A good enough reason for plenty of Spaniards to buy their coupon regularly. On Fridays, the cupón sells for 2,50 €, and prize money increases to 600,000 € per décimo. Again, a very tempting amount for a lot of people to chase that special dream. Including yours truly. I bought a tenth of a Friday ticket, yesterday. My number did not come up, sadly…
On Saturdays, there did not used to be an ONCE lottery draw. Very recently though, they have introduced a scheme called Combo, that I have not quite managed to work out, yet. On Sundays, the ONCE lottery ticket sells for 2 €. First prize on Sundays is the sum of 100,000 €, paid annually every year for 25 years. Tax-free. Wow.
Apart from the ONCE lottery coupons, there are other Spanish lottery schemes galore. The most famous of them all is probably the Lotería Nacional, playing twice every week, and every so often, putting on a special draw. You may have heard of El Gordo which is Lotería Nacional’s Christmas lottery, on sale from now. Coupons cost 20 €, and the main winnings are quite phenomenal, as a total of 2,201,500,000 € will be paid out in prize money. Spain goes crazy on the morning of December 22nd every year, when the winners are announced on television, the numbers being sung by children from an orphanage.
There is a special Lotería Nacional draw today, October 6th, with a ticket price of 12 €. The big win per ticket today will be 5,000,000 €.
Perhaps you might have a go yourself, when you next come to Spain.