Sports Spread Betting
The UK made sports spread betting popular, but it has its origins in the US. Charles McNeil, a mathematics teacher from Connecticut is credited as the creator of the point spread that changed the way people gamble in sports. He created its own bookmaking operations in Chicago in the 1940s and the idea became popular in the United Kingdom in the 1980s expanding from sports to financial markets.
Many bookmakers were dedicated to sports spread betting almost exclusively but most disappeared or changed business direction. Although there are many fixed odds companies that offer some spread betting as an extra product, the number of companies worth mentioning that offer a decent range of spread markets can be counted on one hand.
The main providers for sports spreads are Spreadex, Sporting Index, Extrabet, Sports Spread, and Betfair to some extent. There are more but these are the main providers.
Spreadex started sports spread betting in 1999. It is based in Hertfordshire, UK, and offers both sports and financial spread betting. Spreadex has a wide market selection including football, cricket, horse racing, rugby, tennis, darts, motor sports, boxing, golf, and American football. You can bet not only on spreads, but also in fixed odds and binary markets. Football is the most complete sport offering many possibilities, with markets available on goals (total, 1st goal, 2nd goal, 1st half totals, 2nd half totals), score (correct score, halt-time, half-time/full-time), bookings, performance and supremacy indicators, corners, shirt numbers, and many other special markets. They are usually on the low side when pricing total goals and total points markets, so it is a good place when you want to buy. Spreadex offers live bets on major games allowing you to buy and sell your bets.
Sporting Index is based in London and is owned by a private equity firm. It employs 180 staff and is probably the largest company operating in sports spread betting. It is the most complete of all reviewed companies, offering bets in everything you find in others and on some extra markets as ice hockey, volleyball, entertainment, baseball, Australian rules, and some others. They specialise in sports and don’t offer any financial betting. Sporting Index doesn’t request you to have all the funds you can lose when betting by phone – half is sufficient. If you like to sell markets, they are often on the high side of total points and total goals markets.
Extrabet [Acquired by Spreadex on the 21st of June, 2001 - see our news story here is based in London, UK, and is a subsidiary company of the largest spread betting company – IG Group. This provider offers bets on football, horse racing, cricket, golf, rugby, tennis, motor sports, darts, greyhounds, the olympics, politics and some special markets. Bets inside each category are similar to what you can find in Spreadex. It is not as complete as Sporting Index but offers a great range of markets. There is also an offer of binaries and fixed odds.
Sports Spread is based in Ireland and is operating since 2000. The company offers both spread and fixed odds betting but there are no binaries. Sports Spreads also offers live betting but to a less extent than for the other reviewed companies. In turn, they offer betting in Gaelic football not found in most of the others. The portfolio of available bets is smaller than for the others but the company still has a wide offer.
Betfair is based in London, UK. While not offering sports spread betting in the strictest sense of the word, it does have a limited number of markets which are liquid at times. The company is different from all other reviewed since it is not exactly a bookmaker but rather a betting exchange. Punters bet against each other and commission is charged on winnings only. Prices tend to be much better than what is found at bookmakers. Betfair offers a wide selection of sports and markets but mainly for fixed odds. Spreads are also present but the offerring is very limited. For example, in football you can only find markets for bookings and match goals. We included Betfair only because it may sometimes offer tighter spreads. Unfortunately it often falls short when compared to the other options out there.
The reviewed companies are currently the best outfits in the sports spread betting arena. Each one has its own strengths. If you love sports and like to have a punt it is best is to try them all and see which fits best on your betting style – especially now when so many of the firms offer free bets to new customers who open new accounts.