5th January 1941 was the date that the first prize of the El Niño Lottery was won. The winning number was 23,594, which received 500,000 pesetas (the old Spanish currency) by a ticket that was purchased in Sevilla. This draw now takes place on the 6th January, and players that did not win a prize on the Spanish Christmas lottery usually purchase tickets for the El Niño lottery in the hope of a better chance.
Nobody knows exactly how the El Niño lottery game started, although the Spanish lottery operator, Loterias y Apuestas del Estado, says that it started in 1941, thanks to General F.
Roldan, who was the director of LAE at that time. This draw had a big success among the Spanish people, and therefore it became an official special draw as from 1942. The El Niño lottery was celebrated on the 5th of every January until the date was changed to the 6th of January in 1999, the Epiphany day, when the Wise Men go to visit Baby Jesus according to the Christian tradition. This is why it is called “El Niño”, which means “The Child”.
The first written references to a draw called “El Niño” were found in documents dated from 1966 onwards. Before that year there are no official documents or lists of prizes that mention it, although the lottery operator says that it existed long before. For example, there is proof that some lucky players got the first prize of this draw in the town of Fermoselle (Zamora), in 1908.
If we dive into the story of El Niño, vague and full of inaccuracies, we find a curious fact, which is related to the name of the Duchess of Santoña, Maria del Carmen Hernandez y Espinosa de los Monteros. Researcher and investigator Gabriel Medina Vilchez made a study, traveling in a time machine until the late nineteenth century, and discovered how this aristocrat established a raffle for children, with the aim to raise funds for a children's hospital in Madrid.
The Duchess started the “El Niño” lottery with a very different format to the current system of multiple drums. She organized it as a simple raffle, with the active participation of the children who would benefit from the money that was raised.
This lady from Motril (Granada) called her proposal "Rifa Nacional del Niño' (Child National Raffle), and took the first step to create an event which today meets the expectations of so many lottery players in the month of January. Her solidarity and selflessness was so clear that her initiative quickly met the approval of King Alfonso XII, who approved the draw.
Since its official recognition, there have been many changes in the draw. In 1966 it began to work with the modern system, also known as the system of multiple drums, whereas before this date balls and prizes were drawn by the traditional system, which consisted of two drums that were turning at the same time, one containing the numbers and the other the prizes.
In 1941, the draw consisted of four series of 42,000 tickets each, with each ticket worth 150 pesetas, and was divided into tenths of 15 pesetas.
According to the information provided by LAE, 166,668 tickets were sold. The total of the sales was more than 25 million pesetas (25,230,000), which reported to the state treasury a profit of 7,700,300 pesetas.
The list of prizes included the largest one of half a million pesetas per series, another of 300,000 pesetas to the series, another of 150,000, the fourth of 75,000 and the last a value of 50,000 pesetas per series. In 1942, the draw varied and had three series of 56,000 tickets each with each ticket costing 250 pesetas, divided into 10 shares worth 25 pesetas. In 1946 the prizes for the last digits and the reintegro option were added.
Today, 60 million decimos are offered for sale. The total value of the tickets issued for the 2014 draw is €800 million, out of which €560 million (70% of the overall volume) is distributed as prizes. In total there are 40 series of 100,000 tickets each. In 2014 a total of 14,320,001 different prizes will be awarded.
The El Niño draw which was once a draw created to help children has become a hugely popular game amongst lottery players each year.