All That You Need To Know About Spread Betting – Spread betting is a derivative technique in which players don’t own the underlying asset, such as a stock or commodity, on which they bet. Instead, using the prices provided to them by a broker, spread bettors merely guess as to whether the asset’s price will increase or decrease.

For spread bets, two prices are given, much like in stock market trading: a price at which you may buy (bid price) and a price at which you can sell (ask price). The spread is the distinction between the buy price and the sale price. Contrary to the majority of securities deals, spread bets can be placed without paying fees because the spread-betting broker makes money from this spread.

Investors align with the bid price if they anticipate a market uptrend and go with the asking price if they anticipate a market downturn. Leverage, the opportunity to go long and short, the number of markets accessible, and tax advantages are some of the key features of spread betting.

Wondering what is spread betting?

Spread betting is the term for speculating on a financial market’s direction without actually owning the underlying security. It entails betting on the direction of a security’s price. Investors wager on whether the price of the underlying securities will be lower than the bid or higher than the ask after a spread betting operator offers two values, the bid and ask price.

Spread betting is speculating on the price movement of the underlying security, without really owning it.

Spread trading, which entails taking offsetting positions in two distinct assets and profits if the spread between the stocks increases or narrows over time, should not be confused with spread betting.

Origin of spread betting

You wouldn’t be far off if you thought that spread betting was something you might do at a sports bar. The spread-betting idea is generally ascribed to Charles K. McNeil, a math instructor who moved to Chicago in the 1940s and eventually worked as a securities analyst and bookmaker. But around 30 years later, on the other side of the Atlantic, it began to develop as a career for traders in the financial sector. In 1974, Stuart Wheeler, an investment banker from the City of London, established IG Index, a company that offered spread betting on gold. Spread betting offered a simpler approach to speculate on the gold market at a time when it was prohibitively difficult for many to engage in it.

Understand more about Spread Betting

Spread betting enables traders to make predictions about the price changes of several financial products, including stocks, foreign exchange, commodities, and fixed-income securities. In other words, when a bet is accepted, an investor places a wager based on their prediction of whether the market would increase or decrease. They can also decide how much they are willing to risk on their wager. It is advertised as a tax and commission-free activity that enables investors to make money in both bull and downturn markets.

Since spread betting is a leveraged commodity, investors only need to put up a tiny portion of the position’s worth. For instance, if a position is valued at $50,000 and the margin requirement is 10%, only a $5,000 deposit is needed. Due to the amplified gains and losses, investors run the risk of losing more money than they initially put up.

Worried about managing risk in spread betting?

Even with the danger associated with using large leverage, spread betting provides practical ways to help reduce losses:

  • Standard stop-loss orders: Stop-loss orders minimise risk by immediately terminating a losing transaction when the market crosses a predetermined price level. When a normal stop-loss is used, the order will close out your transaction at the best price when the predetermined stop value is achieved. Especially when the market is volatile, your trade will likely be closed out at a worse level than the stop trigger.
  • Guaranteed stop-loss orders: Regardless of the underlying market circumstances, this type of stop-loss order promises to close your trade at the precise value you have chosen. However, there is a cost associated with this type of insurance. Your broker often charges more for guaranteed stop-loss orders.

Using arbitrage, or betting in two different directions at once, is another technique to reduce risk.

Let’s have a look at an example of Spread Betting

Assume that an online spread betting firm is offering the bid/ask at $200 / $203 for investors to transact on ABC stock, which is currently trading at a price of $201.50. The investor hit the bid to sell at $200 because they are negative and think ABC will drop below $200. For each point the stock drops below its transaction price of $200, they opt to wager $20. The trader may exit their position with a profit of ($200 – $188) * $20 = $240 if ABC declines to where the bid/ask is $185/$188. They would lose ($200 – $215) * $20, or -$300, if they decided to stop their deal when the price reached $212 or $215.

The spread betting company wants a 20% margin, which implies the investor must deposit $800 into their account to cover the wager, or 20% of the position’s initial value, or ($200 * $20). By dividing the bet amount by the stock’s bid price ($20 x $200 = $4,000), the position value may be calculated.

What are the benefits of spread betting?

  • Long/Short

The possibility to wager on both growing and decreasing prices is available to investors. When trading physical shares, an investor must borrow the stock they want to short sell, which may be expensive and time-consuming. Short selling is as simple as purchasing using spread betting.

  • No Commissions

The spread that spread betting businesses provide is how they generate revenue. Since there is no additional commission fee, it is simpler for investors to keep track of trading expenses and determine the size of their positions.

  • Tax Benefits

Some tax countries see spread betting as gambling, therefore any profits made may be treated as wins rather than capital gains or income. Spread betting users should maintain track of their transactions and consult with an accountant before filing their taxes.

How does spread betting work?

Spread betting works by monitoring an item’s value so you may speculate on the underlying market price without really owning the asset. You should be familiar with the following spread betting fundamentals:

  1. Short and long trading
  2. Leverage
  3. Margin
  • Short and long trading

The phrase “going long” refers to betting that the market price will rise over a specific period of time. Making a wager that the market would drop is known as “shorting” or “going short” a market. The ability to speculate on both rising and falling markets is provided by spread betting. To go long or short on the market, you would either purchase or sell.

Let’s pretend you anticipated a decrease in the price of gold. Open a spread bet if you want to “sell” the underlying market. Depending on how accurate your forecast was, your position might lose or gain. You would win money on your spread bet if the market did fall. But your position would lose money if gold’s price rose instead.

  • Leverage

You may obtain complete market exposure through leverage for a small portion of the underlying market cost.

Imagine you wanted to buy shares on Facebook. That would entail paying the whole share price up front for the investor. However, if you spread bet on Facebook shares instead, you might just need to make a 20% deposit.

It’s crucial to remember that using leverage makes gains and losses appear larger since they are determined by the whole value of the position, not simply the original investment. You should develop an appropriate risk management plan and think about how much cash you can afford to put at risk in order to control your exposure.

  • Margin

To begin a position while spread betting, you must make a small initial investment, or “margin.” Due to this, trading on margin is another name for leveraged trading.

When spread betting, there are two sorts of margins to take into account:

  • Deposit margin: This is the upfront cash needed to open the position, and it’s often expressed as a percentage of all of your trades.
  • Maintenance margin: If your open position starts to experience losses that can’t be covered by the initial deposit, extra cash may be needed. This is referred to as the maintenance margin. A “margin call” will be sent to you, requesting you to add more money or risk having your position closed.

The spread betting market you choose will affect your margin rate. For instance, your margin maybe 20% of the deal amount when you spread bet on shares. As opposed to spreading betting on currency, where it may only represent 3.33% of the deal size.

Wondering what is a bet duration?

The amount of time left until your position expires is known as the bet duration. Every spread bet has a set timeframe that might be anything from a day to several months in the future. If the spread bet is available for trade, you may close them whenever you choose before the specified expiry time.

Spread bet time frames consist of

  • Daily funded bets: These bets have a default expiration date that is far in the future but can be extended as long as you like. Although they have the smallest spreads, they require overnight funding, therefore they are often only employed for short-term positions.
  • Quarterly bets: These futures bets have a quarterly expiration date, however, they can be carried over to the following quarter if you notify us in advance. They are appropriate for longer-term speculation since they have bigger spreads but lower funding costs that are included in the pricing.

What is Spread Betting Arbitrage?

When prices of similar financial instruments diverge between marketplaces or between organisations, arbitrage possibilities might result. As a result, the financial instrument can be simultaneously bought low and sold high. These market inefficiencies are exploited in an arbitrage transaction to generate risk-free gains.

Spread betting and other financial instruments have seen fewer prospects for arbitrage due to greater communication and universal access to information. Spread-betting arbitrage is still possible, though, if two businesses adopt different market views when determining their own spreads.

An arbitrageur makes bets on spreads from two distinct corporations at the cost of the market maker. The arbitrageur benefits from the difference in the spreads when one company’s top end is higher than another’s the bottom end. The trader, in plain English, buys low from one firm and sells high in another. The market’s growth or decline has no bearing on the rate of return.

It is possible to take advantage of disparities in interest rates, currencies, bonds, and stocks, among other instruments, through one of the many distinct kinds of arbitrage. Contrary to popular belief, there are hazards involved in the process of arbitrage, including counterparty, liquidity, and execution risks. Transactions that don’t go as planned might cost the arbitrageur a lot of money. Similar to counterparty risk, liquidity risk can originate from the markets or a business’s inability to complete a transaction.

Spread Betting vs CFDs

Contracts for difference (CFDs), a similar type of contract, are traded on many spread betting sites. CFDs are derivative contracts that allow traders to wager on swift price changes. With CFDs, there is no delivery of tangible goods or securities, but the contract itself is transferable while it is still in effect. As a result, the CFD is tradeable security that is formed between a customer and a broker. Here, the parties exchange the difference between the trade’s initial price and its value when it is unwound or reversed.

CFDs are not futures contracts in and of themselves, despite the fact that they let investors trade the price changes of futures. CFDs trade like conventional securities with buy-and-sell prices rather than having expiration dates with predetermined values.

Spread bets, however, do have set expiration dates at the time the wager is initially placed. Spread-betting firms do not charge fees or commissions, but CFD trading necessitates upfront payment to the source of commissions and transaction costs. The investor is either owed money or owes money to the trading business when the contract is closed and gains or losses are realised. The CFD trader will net the profit of the closing position, less the initial position and commissions if profits are obtained. Spread betting profits are calculated by multiplying the change in basis points by the agreed-upon stake amount.

Dividend distributions are possible for both CFDs and spread bets if the contract is for a long position. A supplier and a spread betting firm will pay dividends if the underlying asset does as well, despite the fact that there is no direct ownership of the asset. Spread betting earnings are often tax-free, however, when profits from CFD transactions are realised, the investor is liable to capital gains tax.

Final Words

With the introduction of electronic marketplaces, spread betting has effectively cut entry barriers and produced a huge and diverse alternative economy. Spread betting is continually becoming more sophisticated.

Particularly when two businesses provide different spreads on similar assets, arbitrage enables investors to profit from pricing differences between two marketplaces.

Spread betting continues to be plagued by the temptation and dangers of overleverage. Spread betting is an appealing prospect for speculators due to the minimum capital need, available risk control techniques, and tax advantages.


1. What Is Financial Spread Betting?

Spread betting is a means to place a wager on a security, index, or asset’s price fluctuation without actually owning the underlying asset.

2. Is Spread Betting Gambling?

Spread betting may be used to hedge current holdings or place well-informed directional bets in addition to being utilised to speculate with leverage. As a result, spread trading is a word that many participants favour. Since no actual stake is taken in the underlying instrument, from a legal and tax perspective, it may be regarded as gambling in some jurisdictions.

3. What does + and – mean in sports betting spread?

A wager on the margin of victory in a game is known as a point spread. Depending on how much of a skill difference there is between the two teams, the stronger team or player will be preferred by a particular amount of points. The team with a negative symbol (-) is the favoured. A plus symbol (+) denotes an underdog club.

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