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Spain's annual Christmas lottery handing out $2.43 billion

MADRID - Spaniards are taking advantage of unseasonably warm weather and a "day of reflection" break in political campaigning ahead of a general election to buy tickets for the world's richest lottery.

Long lines formed Saturday as people hoped to buy a winning share in Spain's Christmas lottery, known as El Gordo (the Fat One), which will hand out 2.24 billion euros ($2.43 billion).

It's estimated that three-quarters of Spain's 46 million people will take part in Tuesday's lottery.

The Yuletide tradition dates to 1812. The drawing is broadcast nationally, gluing hope-filled Spaniards to radio and TV sets for hours as winning numbers are called out.

Unlike lotteries offering one large jackpot, El Gordo keeps the top prize at 400,000 euros ($435,000), enabling thousands of ticket-holders to be winners.

Last year, an upper middle-class neighborhood in Madrid was home to the winners. More than 100 of the top winning tickets for last year's 2.5 billion-euro ($3 billion) pot of cash were sold in the downtown neighborhood, though 20 were also purchased in the southern city of Cadiz and a handful were sold in other cities across the nation.

Juan Lopez holds his lottery ticket with the winning number of Spain's Christmas Lottery "El Gordo", in La Eliana near Valencia on Dec. 22, 2014. REUTERS/Heino Kalis
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