Is Matched Betting Gambling?

Boost My Budget uses affiliate links.

Matched betting, a crafty money-making strategy that’s been quietly gaining traction, has taken the world of wagering by storm. 

But despite the name, it’s not what you might think. 

Imagine making bets without the edge-of-your-seat anxiety that usually comes with gambling, and knowing for sure you will come out on top. That’s the magic of matched betting. 

When you first hear about matched betting, it’s common to wonder: is matched betting just another form of gambling? The short answer is no, matched betting is not gambling. It’s a precise strategy based on mathematical calculations. Done correctly, you should make money every time.

That said, matched betting is not totally without risk.

In this post, we’ll dive into the ins and outs of matched betting, take a look at the potential risks and shed light on the legal and ethical aspects, to understand how matched betting is different from traditional gambling.

So, buckle up as we demystify matched betting and separate fact from fiction.

My #1 recommended UK side hustle
  • Make up to £40 with a free trial
  • £250 earnings guaranteed!
  • Personally tried and tested
  • 150,000+ members 
  • 4.7 Trustpilot rating
Free trial
I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.

Understanding matched betting

In order to understand why matched betting is not gambling, we first need to understand how it works.

Matched betting is a strategy that flips the betting game on its head. Unlike traditional gambling, matched betting isn’t about taking a punt and hoping for the best. 

It’s a calculated method that exploits the promotions and offers thrown around by bookmakers.

Back bets and lay bets

Here’s the basic idea: matched betting revolves around two types of bets – back bets and lay bets

A back bet is like your standard wager – you’re betting for a particular outcome to occur (for example, for England to win the football). 

But, and here’s where it gets clever, with a lay bet, you’re betting against that outcome (England to lose, or draw). 

If you have placed both a back and lay bet on the same event (and used a special matched betting calculator to tell you exactly how much to bet on each), your two bets will cancel each other out and you will not lose any money.

Of course, you won’t win any money either – unless you used a free promotional bet to play with. 

In this case, the profit is all yours!

Matched betting works by balancing back and lay bets to remove the element of chance, and exploits free bet offers to extract profit.

It’s not gambling because you always cover all outcomes. Thanks to careful calculations, you always know in advance what your profit (or loss) will be.

Heads or tails?

A hand flipping a coin against a blue background, a simple form of gambling used to demonstrate matched betting

Here’s a simple example. Imagine we’re betting on a coin toss. 

Imagine you place two bets on the same coin toss. You bet £1 on heads, and £1 on tails. Whatever the outcome, you lost £1 and won £1. You came out even.

Now imagine I give you £1 free to play with. Again, you bet £1 on heads and £1 on tails. Again, you win one bet and lose one bet. 

But this time, you had a free £1 to start with. You’re £1 up!

That’s how matched betting works in a nutshell.

Here’s another way of looking at it, explained by Outplayed:

How to get help with matched betting

Now, if this all seems like a lot to take in, fear not. 

There are dedicated platforms and tools out there that hold your hand through the entire matched betting process. I personally recommend Outplayed – the platform I used myself to make thousands of pounds from matched betting.

Screenshot of no risk matched betting site Outplayed

Outplayed gives you step-by-step written and video tutorials to walk you through each bet, a giant list of offers to work through (updated daily), and of course a suite of calculators and tools to help you calculate the ideal bets, to ensure you’re walking away with maximum profit. 

What’s more, they have excellent customer support available 7 days a week, and a strong online community. So there is always someone to lean on for support.

Currently Outplayed are guaranteeing your earnings up to £250 when you take out a membership. 

The fact they are so confident that everyone who joins will make £250 shows that it is not gambling!

Can matched betting ever be gambling?

Although matched betting is not gambling, it’s important to acknowledge that for some people, it could potentially lead to a slippery slope towards gambling

The initial success and thrill of making money from all the free bet offers might inadvertently spark an interest in gambling activities. Some people get carried away and don’t bother with the lay bets, convinced they could make a higher profit without matching. 

That’s not matched betting, that’s gambling.

Plus, you spend all your time on bookmakers’ website, which are literally designed to be addictive and enticing. Casino offers in particular can be very addictive and there’s always the temptation to do ‘just one more spin’ after your free spins are done.

So, if you or someone you know has had problems with gambling or addiction before, I strongly recommend you avoid matched betting. 

Instead, get help from places like GamCare or the National Gambling Helpline at 0808 8020 133. They can give you advice about staying in control and making sure things are okay.

A person is using a smartphone at a desk to contact a gambling support hotline.

If matched betting isn’t gambling, is it risk-free?

Matched betting, when done correctly, is not gambling because you place you bets according to specific calculations. When all goes smoothly, you know the outcome of each in advance. 

The problem is, things don’t always go smoothly in this world. 

If you follow the matched betting rules and calculations exactly, the vast majority of people will make a profit every time. However, there are always some small risks that are outside of our control. 

For example:

  • Human error – you might enter the wrong numbers in the calculator or betting site
  • Odds can change between placing your back and lay bet, messing up your careful calculations
  • Games could be cancelled last minute
  • Bookmakers may cancel or withdraw special offers

For this reason, even though matched betting isn’t gambling, we can’t say that it’s 100% risk free.

Read more: Is Matched Betting Really Risk-Free?

A man doing matched betting at a desk with a laptop and a soccer ball.

Legal and ethical aspects of matched betting

Not unlike gambling, matched betting raises some questions of legality and ethics. Let’s take a look at them now:

Legal status of matched betting in the UK

In the UK, matched betting is 100% legal, it’s practiced, and it’s not seen as a punishable offense. 

You are not breaking any laws by using your strategic prowess to extract value from bookmakers’ promotions.

Read more: Is Matched Betting Legal?

Tax status of matched betting in the UK

What’s more, matched betting is 100% tax free! You do not have to declare your earnings to HMRC and you do not have to register as self employed or submit a self assessment tax return with regards to your matched betting activities.

This is because HMRC says that betting and gambling wins are not taxed because they are not considered trading income, even when you do it systematically. 

Of course, we know that matched betting is not gambling, but HMRC actually does not draw a distinction between matched betting income and any other income from betting activities.

Here’s what HMRC’s manual has to say:

‘The basic position is that betting and gambling, as such, do not constitute trading.’ (BIM22015)

‘The fact that a taxpayer has a system by which they place their bets, or that they are sufficiently successful to earn a living by gambling does not make their activities a trade.’ (BIM22017)

Ethical dilemmas in matched betting

Now, let’s chat ethics. Many people question whether matched betting is ethical. I can understand why it does sound dodgy to people who are just hearing about matched betting for the first time: exploiting bookies’ offers to make guaranteed profit? Is that allowed?

Some people think it’s not right to abuse bookmakers’ offers, since matched bettors are not using them in the spirit in which they are offered. Others argue that it’s a fair game since bookmakers willingly provide these offers to attract customers.

Some say that exploiting bookmakers’ offers might put stress on the industry, making it harder for bookmakers to sustain operations. 

Others raise concerns about bookmakers tightening their terms and conditions to discourage matched betting.

When it comes to ethical questions, we all need to make our own decisions that we feel comfortable with.

Personally, I’m not really concerned about the suggestions that matched betting isn’t fair on the bookmakers. 

Gambling is a multiple billion pound industry in the UK, and I would say that the gambling industry itself is highly unethical. 

They certainly don’t care about exploiting us, or the many people whose lives are ruined by gambling addiction – so why should we care about exploiting them? I actually think it’s great that matched betting lets us turn the tables on the bookmakers and claw back a tiny percentage of their massive profits for ourselves.

But that’s for you to decide.

FAQs on matched betting and gambling

Is matched betting gambling?

No, matched betting is not the same as gambling. It’s a strategy that uses smart moves and mathematical calculations to make money from bookmakers’ deals, without leaving things to chance. 

Is matched betting risk-free?

Matched betting tries to lower the chances of losing by making opposite bets that balance each other out. While it can’t eliminate all risks (like mistakes or unexpected changes to events and promotions), it’s designed to keep losses to a minimum and profits to a maximum.

Is matched betting considered a form of gambling legally?

Technically, matched betting is considered to come under the same umbrella as gambling. There is nothing in the law to make matched betting illegal in the UK. And HMRC considers it to be the same as gambling for tax purposes. However, matched betting is different from regular gambling because it uses bookmakers’ deals in a planned way, not just random chance.

Can anyone do matched betting?

You must be over 18 and resident of the UK or Ireland to do matched betting. Also, you should not have a tendency towards gambling or addiction. But aside from that, anyone willing to learn and follow directions can do matched betting. You don’t need to know a lot about sports and you don’t need betting experience. 

Is matched betting okay ethically?

Matched betting works with the promotions that bookmakers offer to attract people. While some might worry about fairness, both bettors and bookmakers benefit from this. People use the offers, and bookmakers get more customers. Each of us should decide what we are comfortable with ethically.

Are there downsides to matched betting?

Even though matched betting can make money, it’s important to be careful and stick to the plan. Mistakes can cost money. Also, keep in mind that matched betting is not sustainable as your main source of income.

Does matched betting take a lot of time?

How much time you spend on matched betting depends on you and the offers available. Some people spend a few hours each week, while others treat it like a part-time job. Special tools like those at can help make things faster and easier.

Matched betting and gambling: conclusion

Matched betting isn’t like regular gambling. It’s a smart strategy that’s more about planning and mathematics than luck. 

We’ve explored how it’s different from gambling, looked at the rules and ethics, and seen how it’s all about calculated risks for real gains.

Remember, matched betting isn’t just chance. It’s like a puzzle where you have to follow the rules to win. 

If you want to try matched betting, I highly recommend signing up to Outplayed to see how it all works.

My #1 recommended UK side hustle
  • Make up to £40 with a free trial
  • £250 earnings guaranteed!
  • Personally tried and tested
  • 150,000+ members 
  • 4.7 Trustpilot rating
Free trial
I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.

Related posts

Get more of your matched betting questions answered here:

Leave a comment

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.