Two towns facing economic hardships in Spain will split the $875 million “El Gordo” lottery prize, fulfilling a 200-year tradition of the Spanish Christmas Lottery.
Residents in Mondragon won $246 million, bringing hope to a community hit hard by a recession that forced layoffs for 2,000 people this year, Reuters reported.
In the working-class town of Leganes, winners received $492 million.
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The centuries-old lottery born in 1812 was designed to give money to as many people as possible. Groups of people join together to buy the lottery tickets, and “El Gordo” is only part of the winnings that totaled slightly more than $3 billion. It’s the largest lottery payout in the world.
"I'm on cloud nine! I couldn't imagine something like this happening. We've been in the press for so many unpleasant reasons, and for something which brings such joy to happen here is a real support for the people," Jose Maria Garai, a Mondragon ticket seller, told Reuters.
The lottery fuels hope during the Christmas season in a country facing a staggering 25 percent unemployment rate, CBS News reported.
With the country in dire economic straits, austerity measures have changed one part of the lottery.
"One cautionary note though, as part of its austerity program, for the first time this year, the Spanish government is going to tax any winnings above about $3,000," CBS News' Mark Phillips said on "CBS This Morning.”
The country’s coffers will see 182 euros, or $257 million, from taxes on the lottery winnings and also 30 percent of ticket sales.
Still, the winners were thrilled with their windfalls. One woman who won told CBS she’s been living on welfare, and another said she was buying a house and helping her children, all of whom didn’t have jobs.
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