What Is Spread Betting?

4 min read

Justin Legg

2 Aug 2019


Spread betting involves wagering on an outcome where the final profit or loss is determined how accurate their bet is.

Spread betting can be split into two distinct categories - sports and financial.

Sports Spread Betting

Sports spread betting began in the UK in the 1980s, offering an alternative to fixed-risk betting - the traditional form of sports gambling. In spread betting, the stake is not fixed, meaning profits can be high but losses can be more than the initial stake.

In sports spread betting, the bookmaker offers a predicted outcome and the punter chooses a higher or lower value.

The closer the punter’s prediction is to it being correct, the bigger the profit will be. Conversely, the further away the backer’s prediction is, the bigger the loss will be. So you can see there is the potential for big wins, but also big losses.

The customer makes predictions by ‘buying’ and ‘selling’ values, depending on whether they believe that the outcome will be higher or lower than the bookies’ predictions.

It is possible to spread bet on groups of matches, and longer-term markets, including tournament outrights, such as the Champions League winner for example.

Spread betting example

A bookmaker forecasts that a football match will have three goals and offers a quote of 2.9 to 3.1 goals - this is known as “the spread”.

If you think there will be more goals, you would buy at 3.1. If you think there will be fewer goals, you can sell at 2.9.

The profit is the difference between the spread and the outcome (known as the “make-up”), multiplied by your stake.

If you bet £100 at 3.1, and there were five goals you would win £190 (1.9 x £100).

If there were two goals in the game (1.1 fewer than your bet), you would lose £110.

Spread Betting On Outright Markets

Spread betting is not restricted to betting on the events of a given match, there are a number of longer-term spread betting markets are available.

In the Premier League, for example, a bookmaker will offer a spread on the total points a team will achieve at the end of the season, allowing bettors to buy or sell if they think the prediction is correct or incorrect.

For outright markets in knockout competitions, such as the Champions League winner, a value is given to each stage of the competition. For example, 50 points for losing in the semi-finals, 75 for losing in the final and 100 points for winning the tournament.

Types Of Spread Betting

Just like with traditional bookmakers, spread betting firms offer thousands of different markets. Basically, anything that has a variety of outcomes, can be used for spread betting. Most spread betting firms also offer binary markets (financials), too.

Number of goals, number of corners, amount of bookings, time of first goal and shirt number of goalscorers are among the most popular spread betting markets in football.

Spread betting on corners gave the top spread bet of the 2018/2019 Premier League season at Spreadex, a well established spread betting and fixed odds company.

The spread for corners was set at 9,700 - 10,200 on a TV Specials market set up by Spreadex where you multiplied the total corners in each televised match by one another. The actual total came in at 24,192, meaning a total profit of 13,992 times your actual stake!

It isn’t just football that is popular for spread betting though. Horse racing, cricket, golf, rugby and tennis are also popular sports to spread bet on.

UK & US Differences

Spread betting exists in the UK and some US states but the term is used differently. In the US, the bookmaker offers a line that the punter can choose to go above or below, but the stake is fixed, as are the potential profits and loss.

Spread Betting In-Play

Many companies offer in-play options, allowing customers to make a profit during or cut a loss, during the event.

Sports Spread Betting Companies

Unlike traditional sports betting, there are only a few companies in the UK to offer spread betting services, with, SpreadEx, Sporting Index and SportsSpread the most prominent brands.

The increasing popularity of spread betting is evident in SpreadEx’s growth. Since 2010 the firm has more than tripled revenues from £15m to £50m.

Also read about lay bets

Financial Spread Betting

Sports spread betting stemmed from the popularity of spread betting on financial indexes such as stocks and shares.

Companies such as SpreadEx and Sporting Index offer both sports and financial spread betting. There are scores of companies - brokers - dedicated solely to financial spread betting.

Much like sports spread betting, financial spread betting is a way of betting on the movement of a financial instrument - whether it is share price, the value of gold, or house prices.

You can buy (or go long) if you think the numbers will increase, or sell (go short) if you think the values will decrease.

The difference between the buy and sell price is “the spread”.

Read also about matched betting UK

Updated: 24 Apr 2023


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