Entire Spanish village wins lottery, minus one unlucky resident

Eric Pfeiffer
February 1, 2012

Back in December, the tiny Spanish village of Sodeto collectively won a major stake in the annual $950 million Spanish national lottery. Today, the village of farmers and construction workers is enjoying a minimum payout of $130,000 per resident.

And yet for all of the new wealth making its way around Sodeto, one villager came away empty-handed. Costis Mitsotakis, a Greek filmmaker who moved to the village for a woman, is the only resident of Sodeto who did not purchase a ticket. Mitsotakis says he is no longer with the woman and now lives in a barn he is restoring just outside the village:

Mr. Mitsotakis said it would have been nice to win. But he has benefited nonetheless. He had been trying to sell some land without much success. The day after the lottery a neighbor called to say he would buy it. The next day another neighbor called. But Mr. Mitsotakis refused to get into a bidding war. "This is a small village," he said. "You don't want bad feelings."

Spain's national lottery, known as "El Gordo" (the fat one), was first established in 1812 and operates somewhat differently than most American lotteries. For example, this year there were 1,800 first-prize winning tickets, each with the same winning number of 58268. Each winning ticket was awarded a cash-prize equaling $520,000. But since each ticket costs $26, Spain allows them to be divided into as many as six "participations."

As for the other residents, they've found that with the newfound wealth comes distractions and fortune seekers. The village has reportedly been bombarded with sales representatives of all forms, each trying to cash in on the nearly $150 million infusion of wealth. More from the New York Times:

On a recent morning, the vendors just kept showing up: bankers in suits offering high interest rates, car salesmen talking up BMWs and furniture dealers going door to door.

Like many other local farmers, José Manuel Penella Cambra, who had recently invested in more efficient irrigation techniques, worried about how he would meet his payments. But his wife bought two tickets, worth $260,000, and his son found two more she had bought earlier and had forgotten about, bringing the total to $520,000.

"I kept saying: look for some more, look for some more," he joked in the village cafe, a shabby establishment with a few Formica tables and a ripped black leatherette sofa.

Of course, in a town where everyone is rich, who serves the wealthy? As Mayor Rosa Pons notes, "Some of the ladies talked about going to the hairdresser. But the hairdresser won, too. And she said, 'I'm not working today.' So that ended that."

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