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In-play or in-running betting

This is an HTML version of this content. You can also view or download our in-play betting position paper (PDF) originally published in September 2016.

In-play betting, also known as in-running or live betting, is betting while the event is actually taking place. For example, placing a bet on a horserace while the race is being run, or on a football match whilst it is being played.

This form of betting takes place most often on sporting events.

In-play betting is mainly an online activity. Bets are made using a betting exchange or a traditional bookmaker’s website or app. However, it can also take place in betting shops or over the phone.

Risks of offering in-play betting

Offering in-play betting, particularly online, raises a number of issues that have the potential to impact on the licensing objectives.

These issues are in two main areas:

  • the integrity of the betting and the subject of the betting
  • the fairness and openness of the betting.

Integrity of the sport

There is greater potential for individuals to exploit in-play betting illicitly for their own benefit. Therefore it is part of our ongoing work to maintain integrity in sports betting.

All licensed betting operators must have policies and procedures designed to manage the regulatory risks within in-play betting. These should be monitored and reviewed for effectiveness.

Fairness and openness of in-play betting

In-play betting is fast paced. The prices available for betting are amended continuously according to the information and liabilities held by licensed betting companies.

Accurate and timely information is vital to both operators and customers, so as not to be at a competitive disadvantage. For example, operators will use real-time sports data companies to supply them with instantaneous information from an event.

Companies use this data to:

  • revise their prices
  • suspend markets, and
  • settle bets accurately.

Customers will also want to access real-time data and use other technological advantages. These include access to ‘live’ pictures and using computer software and fast online connectivity to place bets.

Access to real-time data and live pictures

People who attend a sporting event have the most accurate and timely information on the event.

Others may watch events in other ways, such as in a betting shop, on television or through online streams that hold official broadcast rights.

The time it takes for something that happens in real-time to display on the broadcast (known as latency) varies. For example, fans at a stadium seeing a live goal before fans watching the same match online at home. The delay for those not watching in real-time creates a potential inequality between the parties concerned in an in-play bet.

Courtsiding at live events

The term 'courtsiding' is used to describe the act of using or transmitting information from a live sporting event for the purpose of gambling. Courtsiding involves a spectator at a sporting event taking advantage of the delay between the live action and TV or other feeds.

The spectator can use (or pass on to a third party) the real-time information to place bets on in-play markets before a betting operator, or other betting exchange user, receives the information and adjusts their odds accordingly to reflect the state of play. This results in the bettor being able to obtain more favourable odds.

We do not consider courtsiding an offence of cheating under section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in new tab). However, it may breach the entry terms and conditions of a tournament or event.

See our Remote Technical Standards: RTS 15 – In-play betting for more information on mandatory requirements for operators.

Computer software programs and online connectivity speeds

Technological advantages can be achieved by computer software programmes and online connectivity speeds. These can both impact the speed in which a bettor can place a bet. This advantage is seen most often on betting exchanges.

The use of 'bots'

Computer software known as ‘bots’ is used to monitor betting markets and place bets at a much higher rate than is possible for a person. Bots are most commonly used within in-play betting to automatically detect and place bets on stale prices, and to detect arbitrage opportunities which offer the bettor a guaranteed profit.

Stale prices occur when the market has moved, but an old price that does not reflect the most recent information has been left available by a betting operator or exchange user who has not yet reacted to the new information. A bot will automatically detect this and place a bet at the favourable odds left available.

Arbitrage betting is where a gambler takes advantage of a variation in odds offered by different betting operators, in order to make a profit regardless of the outcome of an event. Bots can be programmed to recognise such market opportunities and place bets to make a guaranteed profit.

See our Remote Technical Standards: RTS 16 – Use of third party software for more information. This includes mandatory requirements for operators to inform bettors of their policies on the use of bots.

Connectivity and network speeds

Online connectivity speeds can depend on a range of factors such as the type of connection.

For example:

  • broadband or wireless speed
  • processing speeds of the computer and router or modem
  • whether you are sharing a connection
  • the level of software the computer or device is running in the background.

See our Remote Technical Standards: RTS 4 – Time-critical events for more information. This includes mandatory requirements for operators to inform bettors they may be disadvantaged because of technical characteristics, such as slower network speeds or slower end user device performance.

Time delays in bet processing

Betting operators set time delays so that when a bettor places a bet in-play there is a number of seconds between pressing the ‘place bet’ button and receiving confirmation that the bet has been made. This ensures that the odds on offer accurately reflect the progress of the event.

Sportsbooks and betting exchanges differ, as sportsbooks put in a delay to ensure their own prices are correct, whilst betting exchanges put a delay in place to protect its bettors.

The length of delay varies from betting operator to betting operator depending on their own trading strategy, from event to event depending on how frequently and significantly the price could be affected and subject to the potential latency of the data source used.

Cash out

Bettors opting to use a ‘cash out’ facility also experience a delay between pressing the cash out button and receiving confirmation that the transaction has been processed.

Cash out allows bettors to get money back on an event before it is over. Cash out offers that are subject to live betting markets can be volatile during a sporting event, increasingly so in the final stages. As the chances of winning change, an offer for cash out will increase, decrease or be removed altogether.

We require betting operators offering cash out facilities do so under clear and accessible terms and conditions. For example, the terms and conditions should cover the availability, acceptance and settlement of any bets.

Risk of harm from in-play

Customer interaction

Through our Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice, under social responsibility code provision 3.4 - Customer interaction, we require licensees to do the following.

Licensees must have policies in place that:

  • identify the types of behaviour that may trigger a problem gambling interaction
  • have provision to identify at risk bettors who may not be displaying obvious signs of, or overt behaviour associated with problem gambling. For example, by reference to indicators such as time or money spent
  • provide for the licensee to interact with any bettor who they suspect may be at risk of harm from gambling.

Responsible gambling

Licensees must make information available to bettors on how to gamble responsibly and how to find help for problem gambling. See social responsibility code provision 3.3.1.

We expect licensees who offer in-play betting to be aware that their policies and procedures must be able to identify risks of harm from gambling to those participating in this activity. For example, where betting frequency may be exaggerated compared to other forms of gambling.

Licensees must have procedures in place to ensure they can capture information about individual’s patterns of play, for example, changes in the frequency of a bettor’s gambling, or time or money spent, and use this information to identify those who may be at risk of harm, and interact with them appropriately. These procedures must properly capture information that might indicate a bettor is at risk of harm for those taking part in in-play betting as well as other forms of gambling.


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