Spain hands out $3B in planet's biggest lottery

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Spanish Lottery Gives Out $3B Just in Time for Christmas

MADRID (AP) - Spaniards who bought lottery tickets in an upper middle class Madrid neighborhood hit the jackpot on Monday, getting 400,000-euro ($490,000) payoffs from a 2.5 billion-euro ($3 billion) pot of cash that will be divided among thousands of ticketholders.

More than 100 of the top winning tickets were sold in the downtown neighborhood, though 20 were also purchased in the southern city of Cadiz and a handful were sold in other cities across the nation.

Unlike lotteries that offer one large jackpot or just a few big winning tickets, Spain's Christmas season "El Gordo" (The Fat One) lottery distributes prizes to thousands of people, with other winning tickets shelling out tens of thousands or hundreds of euros.

It's the world's richest lottery and Spaniards were glued to televisions as awards were announced in a drawing program that lasted four hours.

Before Spain's economic implosion in 2008, winners often splurged on new cars, beach homes or vacations. Now many use winnings to pay off debt.

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Spain hands out $3B in planet's biggest lottery
Winners of a Spain lottery celebrate the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in La Eliana, near Valencia, eastern Spain, Spain, Monday Dec. 22, 2014. The drawing is underway in Spain for the world's biggest lottery payoff, a euro2.5 billion ($3 billion) pot of cash that will be divided among thousands of ticketholders. The top prize for this year's "El Gordo" (The Fat One) drawing are tickets that will win euro400,000 ($490,000). Many more people who bought 20-euro ($24) tickets will take home smaller amounts.(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
Carol Jimenez, right, and Eva Galdeano, owners of a lottery office celebrate with sparkling wine after selling the second Christmas lottery prize ''El Gordo'', in Pamplona northern Spain, Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. The drawing is underway in Spain for the world's biggest lottery payoff, a euro 2.5 billion ($3 billion) pot of cash that will be divided among thousands of ticketholders. The top prize for this year's "El Gordo" (The Fat One) drawing are tickets that will win euro 400,000 ($490,000). Many more people who bought 20-euro ($24) tickets will take home smaller amounts. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Owners of a lottery office celebrate after selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in La Eliana, near Valencia, eastern Spain, Spain, Monday Dec. 22, 2014. The drawing is underway in Spain for the world's biggest lottery payoff, a euro2.5 billion ($3 billion) pot of cash that will be divided among thousands of ticketholders. The top prize for this year's "El Gordo" (The Fat One) drawing are tickets that will win euro400,000 ($490,000). Many more people who bought 20-euro ($24) tickets will take home smaller amounts.(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
Owners of a lottery office celebrate after selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in La Eliana, near Valencia, eastern Spain, Spain, Monday Dec. 22, 2014. The drawing is underway in Spain for the world's biggest lottery payoff, a euro2.5 billion ($3 billion) pot of cash that will be divided among thousands of ticketholders. The top prize for this year's "El Gordo" (The Fat One) drawing are tickets that will win euro400,000 ($490,000). Many more people who bought 20-euro ($24) tickets will take home smaller amounts.(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
Owners of a lottery office celebrate with family and friends after selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Manises, Valencia, eastern Spain, Spain, Sunday Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
Gas station workers celebrate after winning the second prize of the Christmas lottery “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, Sunday Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Andres Gutierrez)
Gas station worker, Yazmina Suarez, left, reacts with a friend after winning the second prize of the Christmas lottery “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Andres Gutierrez)
Workers of a gas station celebrate with friends and clients after winning the second prize of the Christmas lottery “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, Sunday Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Andres Gutierrez)
Carmen, right hugs her daughter Azahara after winning part of the main Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Alcala de Henares, just outside of Madrid, Saturday Dec. 22, 2012. Lucky winners of Spain’s cherished Christmas lottery, the world’s richest, celebrated hitting “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) Saturday in more than a dozen locations across the country where winning tickets had been sold. Initial reports said there are winners of the maximum prize of euro 400,000 ($529,840) in 15 towns or cities including Madrid and Barcelona. Unlike lotteries that generate a few big winners, Spain’s version, now celebrating its 200th anniversary, has always shared the wealth more evenly instead of concentrating on vast jackpots, so thousands of tickets yield some kind of return. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Jose Luis Serrano, center, and Maite Serrano, left, owners of a lottery office, celebrate with family and friends after winning the second Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Aranda de Duero, near Burgos, Spain on Saturday Dec. 22, 2012. Winners of Spain's cherished Christmas lottery — the world's richest — celebrated Saturday in more than a dozen locations where the top lucky tickets were sold, a moment of uplift for a country enduring another brutal year of economic hardship. The lottery sprinkled a treasure chest of 2.5 billion Euros (3.3 billion US Dollars ) in prize money around the country. Champagne corks popped and festive cheer broke out in 15 towns or cities where tickets yielding the maximum prize of 400,000 Euros (530,000 US Dollar), known as "El Gordo" ("The Fat One,)" had been bought. (AP Photo/Israel l.Murillo)
Maria Isabel Ruiz Farray, center, shows her lottery tickets after winning the second price of the Christmas lottery “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, Sunday Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Andres Gutierrez)
School children sing out the numbers for the top prize of Spain's Christmas lottery known as 'El Gordo' or 'The Fat One', as they hold lottery balls, in Madrid, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to television as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. Unlike lotteries that offer one large jackpot, Spain's yuletide draw sprinkles winnings of values lower than El Gordo on thousands of ticket holders. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Natalia del Sastre, holds a lottery ticket for the second Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Aranda de Duero, near Burgos, Spain on Saturday Dec. 22, 2012. Winners of Spain's cherished Christmas lottery — the world's richest — celebrated Saturday in more than a dozen locations where the top lucky tickets were sold, a moment of uplift for a country enduring another brutal year of economic hardship. The lottery sprinkled a treasure chest of 2.5 billion Euros (3.3 billion US Dollars ) in prize money around the country. Champagne corks popped and festive cheer broke out in 15 towns or cities where tickets yielding the maximum prize of 400,000 Euros (530,000 US Dollar), known as "El Gordo" ("The Fat One,)" had been bought. (AP Photo/Israel l.Murillo)
Member of Chilindron Club celebrate with family and friends after winning part of the second Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Aranda de Duero, near Burgos, Spain on Saturday Dec. 22, 2012. Winners of Spain's cherished Christmas lottery — the world's richest — celebrated Saturday in more than a dozen locations where the top lucky tickets were sold, a moment of uplift for a country enduring another brutal year of economic hardship. The lottery sprinkled a treasure chest of euro 2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) in prize money around the country. Champagne corks popped and festive cheer broke out in 15 towns or cities where tickets yielding the maximum prize of euro 400,000 ($530,000), known as "El Gordo" ("The Fat One,)" had been bought. (AP Photo/Israel l.Murillo)
Carmen, centre hugs her daughter Azahara, right, and an unidentified cousin after winning the main Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Alcala de Henares, just outside of Madrid, Saturday Dec. 22, 2012. Lucky winners of Spain’s cherished Christmas lottery, the world’s richest, celebrated Saturday, as initial indicators show more than a dozen locations where lucky tickets were sold, each picking up the maximum prize of euro 400,000 (US dlrs 529,840), and some thousands of tickets yielding smaller prizes. (AP Photo/Paul White)
People dressed in costumes arrive to watch the Spain's Christmas lottery draw known as "El Gordo" or "The Fat One" in Madrid, Saturday Dec. 22, 2012. Lucky winners of Spain’s cherished Christmas lottery, the world’s richest, celebrated Saturday, as initial indicators show more than a dozen locations where lucky tickets were sold, each picking up the maximum prize of euro 400,000 (US dlrs 529,840), and some thousands of tickets yielding smaller prizes. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Laura Leon, 30, right, and Pili Medina, 48, who sold one of the winning lottery tickets with the numbers, 76058, of the top prize of Spain's Christmas lottery known as "El Gordo" or "The Fat One" number, celebrates this, in her lottery shop, in the small town of Tudela, northern Spain on Saturday Dec. 22, 2012, around 300 kilometers from Madrid. After a brutal year of economic hardship that deepened with unemployment hitting 25 percent, Spaniards across the country Saturday were hoping for relief from payouts by the nation’s famed Christmas lottery, the world’s richest, with euro 2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) in tax-free awards. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Employees of a lottery outlet celebrate after selling a ticket of the number 76058 corresponding to the Jackpot worth euro 4 million or euro 400,000 for each tenth of the ticket, during the Spanish National Lottery draw, in Manises, Valencia, eastern Spain, Saturday Dec. 22, 2012. After a brutal year of economic hardship that deepened with unemployment hitting 25 percent, Spaniards across the country Saturday were hoping for relief from payouts by the nation’s famed Christmas lottery, the world’s richest, with euro 2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) in tax-free awards. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
Workers and friends of a lottery office celebrate. after selling a ticket with the number 76058 corresponding to the Jackpot worth euro 4 million or euro 400,000 for each tenth of the ticket, during the Spanish National Lottery draw, in Manises, Valencia, eastern Spain, Saturday Dec. 22, 2012 After a brutal year of economic hardship that deepened with unemployment hitting 25 percent, Spaniards across the country Saturday were hoping for relief from payouts by the nation’s famed Christmas lottery _ the world’s richest, with €2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) in tax-free awards. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
People celebrates winning a share in the top prize of Spain's Christmas lottery known as "El Gordo" or "The Fat One" with the number 58268 in the small town of Granen, northern Spain, Thursday Dec. 22, 2011, around 300 kilometers from Madrid. Economic gloom is taking a back seat in Spain as the lottery billed as the world's richest dishes out some euro 2.52 billion ($3.29 billion) to winners across the nation. The top prize of euro 720 million, dubbed "El Gordo" was split Thursday among the holders of tickets bearing the number 58268. The number appeared on 1,800 tickets. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
People celebrate after winning a portion the main prize of Spain's Christmas lottery with the number 79250 in Palleja, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. Spain's beloved Christmas lottery known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One) spread euro2.3 billion ($3 billion) in holiday cheer Wednesday in a country facing 20 percent unemployment. This year, the top prize known, like the lottery itself, as El Gordo went to the number 79250. Tickets bearing that number were sold in the Madrid area, Barcelona, Alicante in the east and other cities ranging from the Basque region in the north to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
A man celebrates after winning a portion the main prize of Spain's Christmas lottery with the number 79250 in Palleja, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010. Spain's beloved Christmas lottery known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One) spread euro2.3 billion ($3 billion) in holiday cheer Wednesday in a country facing 20 percent unemployment. This year, the top prize known, like the lottery itself, as El Gordo went to the number 79250. Tickets bearing that number were sold in the Madrid area, Barcelona, Alicante in the east and other cities ranging from the Basque region in the north to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Fortunato Oriol, 60, center, who sold the winning number, 58268, of the top prize of Spain's Christmas lottery known as "El Gordo" or "The Fat One" number, celebrates this in front of his lottery shop, in the small town of Granen, northern Spain, Thursday Dec. 22, 2011. Economic gloom is taking a back seat in Spain as the lottery billed as the world's richest dishes out some euro 2.52 billion ($3.29 billion) to winners across the nation. The top prize of euro 720 million, dubbed "El Gordo" was split Thursday among the holders of tickets bearing the number 58268. The number appeared on 1,800 tickets. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Gas station workers and clients celebrate after winning the second prize of the Christmas lottery “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, Sunday Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Andres Gutierrez)
The owner of a lottery office Maria Luisa Ron, left, hugs her employee Yolanda Peña, center, as she celebrates with family and friends after selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Leganes, Spain, Sunday Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)
Jorge Sanchez, a first prize winner of the Spanish Christmas lottery ''El Gordo'', (The Fat One), kisses his winning ticket, in the Basque town of Arrasate, northern Spain on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Gas station worker Maria Gonzalez Jimenez reacts as she celebrates with Jose Gonzalez, left, after winning the second prize of the Christmas lottery “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, Sunday Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Andres Gutierrez)
The owner of a lottery office Maria Luisa Ron, center, holds a wine bottle as she celebrates with family and friends after selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in Leganes, Spain, Sunday Dec. 22, 2013. Millions of Spaniards are glued to televisions as the country's cherished Christmas lottery, the world's richest, distributes a bounty of 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in prize money to winning ticket owners. The draw is so popular that most of Spain's 46 million inhabitants traditionally watch some part of it live in the hope that the school children singing out winning numbers will call out their ticket. The top prize, known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One), gives lucky winners 400,000 euros per ticket Sunday, while the second-best number nets 125,000 euros. (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)
The owners of a lottery office celebrates after selling the first Christmas lottery prize “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) in La Eliana, near Valencia, eastern Spain, Spain, Monday Dec. 22, 2014. The drawing is underway in Spain for the world's biggest lottery payoff, a euro2.5 billion ($3 billion) pot of cash that will be divided among thousands of ticketholders. The top prize for this year's "El Gordo" (The Fat One) drawing are tickets that will win euro400,000 ($490,000). Many more people who bought 20-euro ($24) tickets will take home smaller amounts.(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
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