A tale of two lotteries

How Catalonia’s ‘La Grossa’ lottery drawing is trying to undermine Spain’s ‘El Gordo’ hegemony during the Christmas holiday

Catalan lotto 'La Grossa' (by ACN)
Catalan lotto 'La Grossa' (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 30, 2017 11:02 AM

Spain’s ‘El Gordo’—Spanish for the Fat One, or the Fat Man—is the biggest lottery drawing in the place with the biggest lottery players in the world. In the drawing ceremony held on December 22, the sum total of cash prizes awarded was €2,380 million. In recent years, though, the Catalan government has attempted to undermine ‘El Gordo’s’ hegemony with a different lottery drawing: ‘La Grossa’—Catalan for the Fat Lady.

The drawing for La Grossa is held on New Year’s eve, just a few days after ‘El Gordo’. It was created in 2014 by Catalonia’s pro-independence government with the aim of using part of the funds to pay for social programs. According to Catalan Lotteries, ‘La Grossa’ players have 25% more chances to win a prize than those who play ‘El Gordo’. However, as the tension over Catalonia’s push for independence has risen in recent years, settling on one of the two lotteries may no longer be a politically neutral decision.

The most coveted number

Out of the 80,000 different lottery numbers available, the most coveted one remains the same year after year: 01714. It has the same chances of winning the prize than any other number but its symbolism in the pro-independence mindset is enormous.

On September 11, 1714, Catalonia lost the War of Spanish Succession to the troops of Philip V, the first Bourbon king of Spain. The new monarch took revenge by suppressing Catalonia as a political entity and asserting absolute power. September 11 came to be celebrated as Catalonia’s National Day —and, in recent years, the day when independence supporters have taken to the streets en masse.

Although La Grossa’s tickets can be ordered on its website, 01714 (and 02017) can only be acquired in person at an authorized vendor. According to Catalan Lotteries, this year it can be found in the Catalan towns of Vilanova i la Geltrú and Llinars del Vallès.

How does it work?

The game involves picking a lottery ticket with a series of five numbers. On the day of the lottery drawing, a winning series is selected from a set of balls, with each ball numbered from 0 to 9. The biggest prize goes to the person having a ticket with the exact same number. Nevertheless, there are other prizes—for instance, for tickets with the same numbers in the first three positions, or that match the same last number.

‘La Grossa’ lottery ticket sales up 25%

Sales of ‘La Grossa’ lottery tickets increased by 25% this year. More than 30 million tickets have been distributed throughout Catalonia. Although the exact number of tickets sold is not known until the last moment, figures show that online sales alone have gone up by 140%.

Spanish lottery sales fall in Catalonia

While sales of the Spanish lottery (‘El Gordo’) grew this year in Spain, they fell by 7.4% in Catalonia. Catalans spent €364,289,520 on Spanish lottery tickets, an average of €48.43. The fall is particularly marked in Girona (-10.26%), and Lleida (-13.48%), while the decline is smaller in Barcelona (-5.98%) and Tarragona (-6.20).

Yet, sales in Spain went up by 3.26% compared to last year. On average, Spanish people spent 59.27 on ‘El Gordo’ lottery.

What are the prizes?

La Grossa has five big prizes. The first one pays €20,000 for each euro played; that is, €100,000 for a lottery ticket worth €5. The second prize pays €6,500 per euro; the third, €3,000; the fourth prize will pay €1,000 per euro, and €500 for the fifth.