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Fat One Hands Out $3.3 Billion in Last Tax-Free Lottery

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Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Spain’s Christmas lottery, which has one of the world’s largest jackpots, handed out 2.5 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in prizes today in the country’s last tax-free draw.

Ticket sales fell 8 percent from a year earlier, according to Loterias y Apuestas del Estado. Still, 2.5 billion euros of tickets were sold, or more than 50 euros per citizen.

Spain’s government plans to introduce a 20 percent tax on lottery winnings next year as part of efforts to mend public finances battered by a five-year economic slump and 26 percent unemployment rate. Prizes have traditionally been tax-free in Spain, where the government runs the 250-year-old operator.

The top prize, known as El Gordo, or the Fat One, is worth 4 million euros, although people tend to split each ticket into 10 strips, which they buy for 20 euros each. The lottery is a traditional part of the build-up to Christmas, as office workers, friends and neighbors pool funds to share tickets.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emma Ross-Thomas in Madrid at erossthomas@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Fraher at jfraher@bloomberg.net

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