MADRID: The winners of Spain’s El Nino lottery broke open champagne and wept out of joy yesterday, savouring their luck all the more at a time when the country faces its most severe economic crisis in decades, with unemployment at a record 25 percent.
“I feel great satisfaction, great joy, especially now when everyone is on such a limited budget. It’s really a relief,” one of the winners of the highest prize of ¤200,000 said on TVE public television.
“I have a son who is unemployed, and I will be able to help him with that and (pay for) my younger daughter’s studies,” another said.
El Nino, dubbed the “little sister” of the much bigger El Gordo Christmas jackpot, paid out ¤840m this year.
The second prize was ¤100,000. Each ticket cost ¤20.
But for the first time, winners will have to pay 20 percent tax on any sum exceeding ¤2,500 under Spain’s unprecedented austerity drive aimed at slashing the public deficit.
The tax took effect this year, so the top winners of ¤400,000 each in the El Gordo lottery, drawn on December 22, pocketed the full amount. El Gordo paid out a total of ¤2.466bn.
The two lotteries are among the world’s most generous, paying out 70 percent of their takings.
The El Nino draw on January 6 — Epiphany or the 12th day of Christmas — is a tradition that began at the beginning of the 20th century.
Millions of jobs have been destroyed in Spain since a property market crash and a global financial crisis rocked the economy in 2008.