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99% Invisible

El Gordo

In Spain, they do the lottery differently. First of all, it’s a country-wide obsession — about 75% of Spaniards buy a ticket. There’s more than one lottery in Spain, but the one that Spaniards are the most passionate about is “La Lotería de Navidad” (“The Christmas Lottery”). This lottery has taken place every year since 1812.
For better or worse, lotteries have long been considered by governments as useful ways to raise funds for public programs. But lotteries were, and still are, thought to be regressive taxes on the poor. Karl Marx called them a sinister instrument of the state, designed to dupe the poor into believing there was an easy way out of poverty. The church found lottery play to be blasphemous and superstitious.
In 1862, Spain responded to the criticisms as well: by re-designing their national lottery so that it wouldn’t take as much money from the poor. The government thought if the they set the price of tickets high, only rich people would buy them. But that’s not what happened. People began “syndicate” playing, or playing in groups. The lottery became more popular than ever.

El Gordo

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