Matched Betting

What is matched betting? 

Matched betting is a technique that guarantees sure profits for bettors. Although technically a form of betting, the practice, if carried out correctly, is essentially risk-free. We say essentially as a bettor can’t guarantee that a bookmaker will honor the bet in question, and human error can result in bets being placed incorrectly. 

Using a betting exchange, such as Betfair and Smarkets, bettors can place bets on two outcomes where they will make money regardless of the outcome. Matched bettors make the majority of their profits, however, by exploiting free bets provided by the growing number of online sportsbooks.  

Most matched bettors use exchange sites to help them with matched betting and purchase a software subscription package since looking for perfect matched betting opportunities can be time-consuming.  

Matched betting can be considered controversial or entirely illegal based on how the practice is carried out. However, even the technique’s simpler iterations go against operators’ terms and conditions, so it is typically deemed fraudulent. Since this proves detrimental for sportsbooks, it is in their best interest to do everything to stop it. 

As previously noted, bettors use free bets to carry out matched betting, which theoretically violates the terms and conditions of accepting free bets. As a matter of fact, experienced matched bettors often involve themselves in bonus hunting to look for more opportunities. Free bet opportunities are the holy grail to matched bettors as this typically is where the money can be made. 

Matched betting is a great threat to operators’ financial sustainability. That is because constant abuse can lead to significant amounts of money being illegally acquired by each matched bettor. 

How does matched betting work? 

Matched betting used to be a hidden secret. In some ways, it still is, but betting operators are becoming wise to the practice due to its increasing popularity. Naturally, those who enjoyed gambling beforehand would be curious about matching betting and would therefore be the most likely people to pursue this practice. Still, a wave of new people who have never placed a bet in their life now do matched betting and view it as a side income. 

These individuals seek to make easy, tax-free cash. Matched bettors can range from students to retired individuals to those in full-time employment. In short, the technique brings the type of bettors you do not want to see at your online sportsbook since they are not placing bets in the same way your average bettor would. 

First, by using an exchange site, bettors can bet on an outcome to occur at the sportsbook and against the outcome to occur at a betting exchange site. The first bet is described as a qualifying bet designed to trigger the free bet. The aim is to break even with the first bet and profit from the free bets. By using software matched bettors will know what stakes to bet in order to return the most money possible. 

Below we will describe what a back and lay bet is. 

Back bet 

A back bet is the traditional bet, which involves betting for a specific outcome to occur. For example, betting on England to win their next game would be considered a back bet.  

If the outcome occurs, the bettor wins back their stake and profit. On the other hand, the bettor loses their stake if England loses or if the game results in a draw. For matched betting purposes, the result doesn’t matter either way. 

Lay bet 

A lay bet can only be placed at a betting exchange. With this type of bet matched bettors will be betting against an outcome to occur.  

Based on the previous example, in this case, a lay bet would mean that a bettor is betting that England will not win their next game. Consequently, if England loses or if the game ends up in a draw, the bettor wins their stake and its winnings. Therefore if the odds are aligned,, the matched bettor will receive money regardless of the final result. 

Suppose this was a qualifying bet and the odds of England winning were 3/1. In this case a £10 bet on the sportsbook and a £10 lay bet with a liability of £20 on the exchange site would mean that regardless of the result the matched bettor will break even. This will then trigger the free bet where if they did the same bet they would be in profit. 

Below is how a matched bettor carries out matched betting at an online sportsbook: 

  1. The bettor finds a free bet offer, for instance, a welcome bonus, at an online sportsbook 
  1. They sign up with the platform and fulfill the criteria (placing another bet first) to obtain the free bet offer. This bet is known as the qualifying bet 
  1. They take the free bet with the sportsbook, for example, placing a back bet on England to win their next game 
  1. After that, they find the opposite (lay) bet on a betting exchange, e.g., England not winning the game. They then place the lay bet on the exchange 
  1. They then wait for the sporting event to be over to see if the profit will land in their sportsbook or exchange account 

The majority of matched bettors view the practise as a loophole despite the things it involves being forbidden by the majority of bookmakers. 

Further matched betting opportunities for matched bettors 

From a matched bettors” point of view,, when they have signed up for every sportsbook offering free bets, they might seek new ways of making money from matched betting. Some of these methods are illegal such as creating accounts not in their name to taking advantages of other promotions offered by online casinos in the UK. 

Matched betting with multiple accounts 

Matched betting using multiple accounts, otherwise professionally known as gnoming, involves opening multiple accounts with one bookmaker. Matched bettors can do this by doing the following. 

  • The bettor creates multiple fake accounts, usually with the permission of friends or family members 
  • The bettor creates accounts for non-existent individuals or uses stolen credentials, which is one of the clearest examples of fraud in our industry 

All the new multiple accounts are created to claim welcome bonuses, which are then used for the purpose of matched betting. In theory, matched bettors can repeat this process as many times they are able to. Here is perhaps the most extreme case of matched betting abuse we have ever seen. 

Matched betting without free bets 

While matched betting usually involves exploiting free bets to earn money, bettors also carry out matched bets without them. For such bets to work successfully, bettors use other sportsbook promotions, including: 

  • Odds boosts
  • Deposit bonuses
  • Refund offers
  • Matched betting extra places (for horse racing betting)
  • 2UP matched betting
  • Casino promotions  

Bettors also often combine matched betting with arbing to benefit from the highest available odds at online sportsbooks. Arbitrage Sports betting is also frowned upon but is usually handled by operators on a case-by-case basis. 

Is matched betting the same as bonus abuse? 

Matched betting is a form of bonus abuse as it involves a bettor taking unfair advantage of a promotion. Nonetheless, not all types of bonus abuse count as matched betting. The abuse of no-deposit bonuses at online casinos, free games of bingo, and free spins on slot games also exist.  

Even though free bonuses have rollover requirements and other terms, well-practiced matched bettors have found to play these games where they have expected value. In other words, the odds suggest they will money in the long run.

Read more about bonus abuse in our ‘Exploring bonus abuse in online gambling’ blog.

Legal and ethical considerations of matched betting 

With betting being so widely popular in the UK, it is no surprise that matched betting has gained traction in the region. While it was once popular among professional bettors, it is now popular among all bettors, newbies or seasoned. 

While matched betting is not theoretically illegal, the practice does violate the terms and conditions of an online betting operator. Those caught attempting matched betting can face repercussions, such as being restricted from cashing out or being suspected of fraud.  

While matched betting may not be mentioned within an operator’s Terms and Conditions, the methods used, such as using stolen credentials, bonus abuse, and multi-accounting, will almost certainly be.  

Matched betting is a problem for betting operators because it skews the odds in favor of the bettor, which is not strictly illegal but unethical and of course bad for the casinos bottom line.  

How to detect matched betting as a gaming operator/bookie? 

Gaming operators have long acknowledged the urgency to curb matched betting to protect their operating profits and ensure their offered promotions attract only legitimate bettors willing to adhere to strict rules. There are many ways operators and bookies can effectively detect matched betting attempts. 

Gaming operators can carry out deposit and withdrawal checks for matched betting prevention and control. They must thoroughly verify documents such as utility bills when users deposit or withdraw large sums of money to comply with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations. 

Another way to detect matched betting scams is by monitoring customer betting patterns. For instance, customers who frequently bet on obscure events with low liquidity should be considered suspicious.  

Furthermore, online gaming operators and sportsbooks should look for suspicious activity, such as large deposits or withdrawals from accounts associated with the same customer. They should also monitor for players that attempt to withdraw funds shortly after depositing. 

How to crack down hard on matched betting and other shady practices

iGaming companies have much to gain from stopping matched betting and other unethical practices. AML compliance procedures like deposit and withdrawal checks can effectively track down those attempting matched betting scams at betting platforms. Learn more on our gaming industry page.


Let's talk!