‘Tis the season to enjoy the Gordo

The chances of winning are remote, but the tradition is to sit in front of the television on a December evening watching the balls fall that give the numbers for the Gordo, the fat Christmas lottery.

Then the tradition is to crumble up the lottery tickets and have another beer.

Statisticians will do belly laughs when they figure the chances of winning and the payback from the Gordo. Sure, four or more persons next Dec. 14 will win 1.4 billion colons. That’s about $2.6 million and  the Internal Revenue Service may never know. Lottery winnings are not taxed in Costa Rica.

The catch is that to win the big money, a lottery player has to buy a full sheet or entero of 40 ticket pieces. That’s 70,000 colons this year. Most Costa Ricans have a handful of pieces, each worth 1,750 colons,  bearing various numbers when the drawing is held. Sometimes communities share in the winnings. Many have their special number. The tickets went on sale Wednesday.

The Junta de Proteción Social, which puts on the lottery, takes a large chunk off the top for various social programs. So a gambler has better odds at the local casino or with the illegal lotteries that can be found in many areas of the country. The winner of the Gordo has to have five numbers correctly distributed as a three-digit serial and two additional digits.

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