El Gordo
Spaniards are queuing up for lottery tickets ahead of El Gordo draw on Thursday, 22/12/2011. Reuters

It seemed Spaniards are trying their luck like never before in the face of economic recession and spiraling jobless rates in the country. People are queuing up in the streets in a last minute attempt to buy tickets for the biggest lottery draw in the world which might turn some of them in to millionaires overnight on Thursday.

The first prize of "El Gordo" or the "Fat One" would be 4 million euros which is the highest amount ever and the second prize would be worth 1.25 million euros. There would be 180 €4 million prizes, 180 €1.25 million and about 350,000 prizes of €1000.

Apart from the big prizes, there would be thousands of small value prizes which are known as 'Pedrea' (showering of stones). On the total, the lottery would be giving out 2.5 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in prizes in Thursday's draw.

The average ticket purchase per person is said to be more than 60 euros. According to the national lottery operator Loterias y Apuestas del Estado (LAE), the ticket sales are expected to reach 3.6 billion euros this year, up from 2.7 billion euros last year.

"I am spending more than last year, 100 euros, and I am sharing the tickets with my friends and family," the AFP has quoted a 48-year-old office worker, Victoria, as saying. "Some of them are having a very tough time financially and I want us to win."

"El Gordo" is a tradition associated with the Christmas ritual in Spain and dates back to about two centuries. It is considered as the biggest national lottery in the world. The first lottery draw was held in 1812 and since then it has been part of the Spanish tradition.

Spaniards attach lot of interest in "El Gordo" and some superstitious buyers are even ready to stand in the queue for hours in the lottery ticket shops which have sold winning tickets in the previous draws.

The draw which would be held in the Palacio de Congresos de Madrid is open to the public and would be telecast on the national television also. El Gordo used to collect huge fortune in each year out of which 70 percent is shared as prizes.

"It makes the draw one of the world's most generous," the AFP has quoted Juan Antonio Gallardo, sales director of the national lottery, as saying. "The Christmas lottery is written into Spaniards' DNA. No other lottery in the world sells so much."

Spain is facing a bleak economic situation and it was feared that the country would go in the way of Greece and Ireland and may end up in EU bailout. The country's jobless rate presently stands at 21.5 percent and the incoming government has proposed 16.5 billion euros in budget cuts.

El Gordo is expected to bring in a profit of one billion euro to the treasury coffers.