Spread Betting: What are the risks & how can an addiction be treated?

In the UK, the concept of “sports spread betting” rose to prominence in the late 1980s as an alternative to traditional fixed odds betting. The main difference to fixed odds betting is that gamblers bet on whether a specified outcome in a sports event will end up being above or below a “spread”. Profits or losses are then measured by the extent to which the final outcome finished above or below the spread.


What are the risks of spread betting?


In September 2007, The Times newspaper published an article titled “The perils of spread betting”. In the article, the risks associated with this form of gambling were outlined, namely the “potential of unlimited losses”. 


“For example, a spread betting company makes a quote that shares in Northern Rock will be sold at £2 by a given period,” writes The Times journalist Martin Waller. “You think they will go for less. You make a bet ‘selling’ at £10 per point, or penny. So for every penny the eventual price is below £2, you make £10. The shares are sold at £1 – you make £1,000.

“Conversely, they go for £3. You lose £10 per point, or £1,000. Your potential losses are unlimited, because there is no ceiling on how much the shares can be sold at. And bets are often at much more than £10 a point.”

A UK study on gambling found that serious problems were 15 times more likely to develop in spread betters than any other form of gambling. In many cases, this could lead to a wide range of problems affecting everything from jobs and relationships to social life and financial security.

How can an addiction to spread betting be treated?


The process of tackling a gambling addiction, whether focused on fixed odds or spreading betting, can be challenging. While some may be able to overcome the addiction by themselves, most will require extra support in some form to ensure recovery is successful long term.


One of the most effective ways of overcoming a gambling addiction is through psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is an approach to dealing with mental disorders based on psychological treatment rather than medical means.


Within the field of psychotherapy is a popular treatment process known as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). CBT is effective because it helps people overcome their addiction by facing it head on, understanding it and encouraging clients to aspire towards a future free from the addiction. CBT also develops skills for relapse prevention, teaching clients how to control their mind and manage high-risk cases. Efficacy of the technique in some cases is immediate.


A fundamental part of psychotherapeutic treatment for gambling is that it focuses on the underlying causes of the addiction, specifically what compels people to continue gambling despite the negative consequences. Getting to grips with the motives behind gambling can help clients focus on healthier and more constructive ways of coping with their problems without resorting to gambling.



Philippe Jacquet & Associates is a psychotherapy practice based in Harley Street, London. Backed by decades of experience in the field, we are well equipped to deal with gambling addictions, including an addiction to spread betting. We apply a range of effective psychotherapeutic approaches to help our clients overcome gambling addictions, including cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). 


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