Spread Betting Betting Term Meaning

Spread betting has totally different meanings in the UK and US. The most common form is the US type of spread betting that was invented by Charles McNeil in the 1940s.

McNeil came up with a method of handicapping the favourite of a match to produce an even match result betting market. This meant bettors could still win by backing the underdog even if that team lost, as long as the points deficit remained within the spread.

Spread betting took off in the UK in the 1980s as an exciting alternative to the traditional fixed-odds wagers. This is not the same as US spread betting, which we will explain further down this page.

How does spread betting work?

The idea behind spread betting is very simple. The majority of matches, whether it is baseball, basketball, American football, soccer or rugby will have a betting favourite and an underdog. 

This is an example of a match from the English Premier League with a heavy betting favourite. Even at 38.0, most punters would still avoid this bet which is bad news for the bookmaker as they want a balanced amount of bets to lock in a profit regardless of the outcome.

Match Result MarketOdds 
Manchester City 1.05
Cardiff City 38.00

Spread betting solves this issue by handicapping Man City. Modern sportsbooks offer a plethora of different spread to choose from but for this example, we’ve chosen the -2.5, +2.5 spread. 

You can now bet on Man City -2.5 at odds of 1.52 or Cardiff +2.5 at odds of 2.50. This is considerably more interesting than the standard match result market.

Manchester City (-2,5) 1.52
Cardiff City (+2.5) 2.50

This basically means the match is starting: Manchester City 0 Cardiff City 2.5. In order for a bet on Man City to be a winner, they need to win the match by three clear goals or more. 

US spread betting vs UK spread betting

There is a considerable difference between the definition of “spread betting” on either side of the Atlantic. The US version, as shown in the examples above, you’re betting on how two teams will perform against each other. 

You’ll be able to see the fixed odds for “win” or “lose” before you place your bet, regardless of the size of the spread.

In the UK however, you bet on whether a particular metric will be above or below a certain “spread” set by the bookmaker. In addition to that, your profit or loss is determined by how much the outcome is above or below the spread.

For example; let’s assume a bookmaker sets a cricket team’s spread at 340 - 350 runs. 

  • You can “buy” at 350, which means you think they’ll score more than 350 runs.
  • If the team scores 400 runs, you’ll win your initial stake multiplied by 50 (400 - 350) unit points.
  • If the team scores 300 runs, you’ll lose your initial stake multiplied by 50 (350 - 300) unit points.

  • You can also “sell” at 340, if you think the team will score less than 340.
  • If the team scores 300 runs, you’ll win your initial stake multiplied by 40 (340 - 300) unit points.
  • If the team scores 400 runs, you’ll lose your initial stake multiplied by 60 (400 - 340) unit points.

Due to the multiplication aspect of UK spread betting, a relatively small wager can lead to a huge win. In that respect, it is similar to accumulator betting, but the main difference is that you won’t know the odds before you place your bet. 

Your knowledge of the two competing teams is key here, even more so than in normal fixed-odds betting.

Spread Betting FAQ

What is Spread Betting?

Spread betting is a common form of betting in the United States. It is basically the same as handicap or line betting.