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Spain lottery, 'El Nino,' gives away $1.1 billion

Spain lottery of $1.1 billion, called the 'El Nino' lottery, is held each Feast of the Epiphany in Spain. But there's a catch. Thanks to the country's new austerity measures, winners in the $1.1 billion Spain lottery have to pay 20 percent income tax on their winnings. 

A seller holds a pack of tickets for cash-strapped Spain's famed Christmas lottery in Madrid in this December 2012 file photo. Spain's smaller, $1.1 billion 'El Nino' lottery held drawings Sunday Jan. 6, 2013.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP/File

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A Spain lottery¬†showered ‚ā¨840 million ($1.1 billion) on ticket holders in five regions of¬†Spain¬†on Sunday, in the midst of a deep recession and high unemployment.

The "El Nino" (The Child)¬†lottery¬†is held each Feast of the Epiphany ‚ÄĒ Jan. 6 ‚ÄĒ and the top prize tickets were sold in Alicante, Leon, Madrid, Murcia and Tenerife. The¬†lottery's¬†name refers to the baby Jesus, who according to tradition was visited this day by three kings of Orient bearing gifts.

The¬†lottery¬†tickets cost ‚ā¨20 ($26), and the most one can win is ‚ā¨200,000 ($260,240). But there's a catch. Thanks to new austerity measures aimed at reviving¬†Spain's¬†ailing economy, anyone who wins above 2,500 euros ($3,250) in the¬†lottery¬†has to pay 20 percent income tax on their windfall.

On Sunday, a cheering crowd gathered outside one ticket office in the southwestern Madrid suburb of Alcorcon where 200 of the winning numbers were sold, totaling ‚ā¨40 million ($52 million) in prize money.

"I am very excited because I really needed this," said Josefina, one of three winners celebrating there. "Now that I've won, I just think I've been very lucky," said Josefina, who declined to give her surname.

Spain's¬†most lucrative¬†lottery, "El Gordo" (The Fat One), is held Dec. 22 and last year distributed ‚ā¨2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) in prize money.

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