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what is liability in betting

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Liability in betting refers to the amount of money someone laying a bet stands to lose. That could either be a bookmaker, or a punter, laying a bet on a betting exchange. We’re going to fully explore the subject of what is a liability in betting, so you understand every aspect about it.

What Does Liability Mean in Betting?

If you place a bet with betting sites offering regular fixed odds, the liability most often lies with the bookie. All you have at risk is your stake, while the bookmaker has the liability of what they will owe you if the bet wins.

liability in betting

Recent years have seen advent of different methods of sports gambling, such as exchange betting, which is often used by punters that enjoy matched betting. With a betting exchange, you can act as a bookmaker and lay a bet. When you do that, you incur the liability. We’re going to take you through an example, that will show you what is liability in betting.

How is a Betting Liability Calculated?

Liability is essentially calculated by multiplying the stake of the bet, by the odds.

So if you place a £10 bet at odds of 2/1 (3.0), you could lose £10. The bookmaker’s liability is £10 x 2/1 = £20. That liability of £20, is what the bookmaker stands to lose if your bet is successful, which would also see your £10 stake returned to you.

A £10 bet at 3/1 (4.0), creates a liability of £30. That’s £10 x 3/1 = £30, which is what the bookmaker stands to lose.

Another way to consider liability, is that it’s the amount of money that the backer stands to win. The backer stands to win an amount, that is the liability of the layer.

To make working out liability betting calculations easier and faster, you may wish to use our free bet calculator. Sometimes the odds are simple enough to be able to work things out in your head, but when they’re a little more complex, it can make sense to use a calculator, just so you know exactly what the liability of the bookie is and what you stand to win.

What is Liability in Matched Betting?

Matched betting is a technique used to guarantee profits from betting offers. When you get a free bet offer at a bookmaker, you place that bet, while laying the opposite result at a betting exchange. If you get the staking right, you can guarantee a profit regardless of the result.

So your matched betting liability is the amount that you stand to lose from placing the lay bet at the betting exchange. As we said, get the staking spot on and you can generate a situation where you are guaranteed profit, so in reality, there is no real liability at all, as you will profit regardless of the result.

What is Liability in Lay Betting?

As we mentioned in the previous section, there is a liability when you lay a bet. At betting exchanges such as Betfair, every selection has a price that you can click on to back the bet and then another price at which the bet can be laid.

The betting exchange liability is the amount that you can lose when you lay the bet. So if you lay a bet for £10 at odds of 4/1 (5.0), your liability will be £40 (£10 x 4/1 = £40). That means that you will have to have at least £40 in your betting account, in order to lay the bet. We’re now going to explore what will happen if that bet wins, or loses.

What Happens if Your Lay Bet Loses?

When you lay a bet you are acting as the bookmaker. You have accepted a stake from someone backing the selection to win.

So if the backer wins and the layer loses, the backer gets their stake returned and gets the betting liability, which is their stake multiplied by the odds. You lose the liability, just as a bookmaker would have to pay out to you, if you placed a bet with them that won.

What About if Your Lay Bet is a Winner?

If your lay bet is a winner, you will get the stake from the backer. It doesn’t matter what the odds are, or how much the liability betting total was. Whatever the stake was, is what you will win.

It’s just like when you place a bet with a bookmaker. If you bet £10 and it’s a loser, you will lose that £10, which will be won by the bookie.

Combined Liability Explained

If you are trying to take advantage of several matched betting opportunities at the same time, it can be an expensive business in terms of your liability. If you’re place bets on different markets and then lay betting at a betting exchange, then you may need to have a large amount of money in your sportsbook account.

With combined liability you can reduce the amount of funds needed in your betting exchange account. By ensuring that your matched betting activity all takes place within one market, you can drastically reduce your liability.

So if you’re planning to make a few matched betting wagers, you back several selections from the same event. You then lay all of those selections at a betting exchange. The exchange will not need you to find the full liability for every pick, as only one selection can win. With your total lay stake much reduced, it is possible to fund a wider variety of matched betting opportunities.

Match Betting and Liability Strategies

Here are a few tips that will help you to achieve profitability in this area of betting.

Keep Odds Low

When you’re starting out with matched betting and building up your bankroll, it makes sense to keep the odds relatively low. If you back a bet at high odds, you are going to have to lay the same selection at a similar price. Should the odds be too big, then you will be subject to a correspondingly large liability. Start off with short priced picks, while you build up your bank and then you can enjoy more freedom.

Stake Carefully

Another thing to consider when you’re beginning your matched betting journey, is the lay stake. A £5 lay is going to be much cheaper for you in terms of liability, than a £20 lay at the same odds. This is something to consider when you are looking at free bet opportunities for the back part of the matched betting equation. Do you have the funds to cover the liability on a big matched bet?

Spread the Load

Earlier we explained the concept of shared liability. If you concentrate your matched betting efforts within one market, backing several selections from it, when you place your corresponding lay bets, you will greatly reduce your liability. It’s cheaper for you and allows you to fund a bold matched betting scheme, for relatively little expense.


We hope that you enjoyed our article. You should now fully understand what is liability in betting. It’s always important to know where the liability lies and for how much, whether that’s with a bookmaker, or yourself acting as one on a betting exchange.


What is a liability in betting?

Do I get my liability back?

Is commission on a betting exchange separate from paying liabilities?

What is the difference between liability and payout?

Dan Fitch
Dan Fitch
Dan Fitch

A writer and editor for some of the top names in the gambling industry for nearly 20 years, Dan also works as a freelance sports journalist for publications and websites such as ESPN, FourFourTwo and LiveScore.