Money Monday: How to vie for giant jackpots at home and abroad

In Spain, the Christmas season has become synonymous with "El Gordo." Spanish for "The Fat One," it's a national lottery dating back all the way back to 1812.

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But it's not the length of its run that makes headlines these days. It's the jackpot, which runs into the billions, that lays claim to the title of world's biggest lottery.

This year's jackpot, set to be drawn on Dec. 22, is estimated at 2.5 billion euros. That's roughly 3.3 billion Canadian dollars!

Quite a jackpot, and enough to have Canadians pining for our own big bucks payday.

In October, a winning Lotto 649 ticket worth $64 million was sold in Mississaugua, Ont., setting a new record for the largest single Canadian lottery prize just the month after the previous record was set when a $60 million Lotto Max ticket was purchased in nearby Brampton.

While the latest record-setting jackpot has yet to be claimed, the $60M prize was divided among a group of 12 people.

And there's the rub -- splitting the pot. If you go in on a group lottery purchase, you might increase your chances at a winning ticket, but if you do hit the jackpot, it'll be time to divide the winnings among all those friends.

In another winning scenario, you could wind up splitting the jackpot when some stranger has her own ticket with the same lucky combination of numbers as you.

Turns out both are possible in Spain's annual Christmas lottery too, with another twist: the headline-grabbing jackpot isn't just one big bonanza prize.

It's divided into smaller jackpots, meaning more chances to win. In fact, the lottery claims the odds of ticketholders winning some sort of prize can be as high as 1 in 7.

Those odds entice more than 98 per cent of adult Spaniards to get involved, and the nation tunes in to the hours-long draw that's broadcast live on television.

If you're wondering whether Canadians can buy tickets for overseas lotteries, from the United States to Europe, the answer is... yes.

Skeptical? Oregon Lottery officials were too, when an Iraqi-Kurd, whose name has been kept secret, living in Baghdad turned up earlier this month, to claim a US$6.4 million Megabucks jackpot.

It took a bit of convincing, but he was eventually awarded the prize, despite not being a resident of Oregon, or having personally purchased his ticket there.

His winning Megabucks ticket was purchased through thelotter.com, a privately-operated website that has local agents who go to lottery kiosks and buy "official tickets for all the world's lotteries" on your behalf.

And it boasts of "commission-free prizes," too, as customers pay an upfront transaction fee when purchasing tickets through the website.

It's too late to get in on Spain's "El Gordo" draw, as the last tickets are already sold out on the website. And it's likely too late for you to fly to Spain to buy a ticket for yourself before sales close at 4 p.m. GMT Monday.

There's time to dream about winning America's Powerball lottery, though, with its jackpot that's now estimated at US$287 million and growing.

Or, lottery players can keep it local this holiday season, with $60 million and $12 million in prizes up for grabs in Lotto Max and Lotto 649 respectively this week.



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