Spain's "El Nino" lottery hands out $1.1 billion

Spain's second most important lottery Thursday dished out euro840 million ($1.1 billion) in new year joy across a country struggling to emerge from recession, with the top prize tickets being sold in a working class area of Madrid.

Dozens of people in the Ascao district took to the streets to dance, sing and drink sparkling wine after it became known that a lottery office in the area sold all the tickets with the top prize number 70013 in the draw known as "El Nino" (The Child).

"I am very happy to have sold this prize," Lottery office manager Jose Luis Nieto said as he drank in celebration. "To tell the truth it's very welcome because there is a lot of need."

Ticket holders with the winning number shared euro120 million ($158 million). How many people had the winning tickets was not immediately known but it was likely to run into the hundreds.

Fifty-year-old bar owner Antonio Santos had 10 tickets, earning him euro2 million ($2.6 million). A basic ticket cost euro20 ($26) but often people share them.

"I am going on holidays," he told reporters, adding that he hoped not to have to work again.

The rest of the lottery's money went to the thousands of winners of the draw's smaller prizes.

The lottery is held each Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, a national holiday in Spain. The lottery's name is a reference to the baby Jesus.

Spain's top lottery, "El Gordo" (The Fat One), is held Dec. 22 and recently dished out euro2.3 billion ($3.04 billion) in prize money.

Just starting to come out of nearly two years of recession, Spain has the eurozone's highest unemployment rate at nearly 20 percent.