What Is Live Betting?

Live betting, also known as “in-play betting,” refers to gambling that occurs after a game has started. It allows viewers to place bets throughout the game rather than only before its start, causing the odds to change in response to what’s happening during the game. 

Live betting has become increasingly popular. Sporting event cancellations due to COVID-19 have reduced the opportunities to bet over the past year or two. They have also shifted much of betting onto the Internet, and online betting is expected to continue to be a big moneymaker. Live betting is one of the most promoted aspects of gambling in many countries, although the advertising and nature of it may encourage impulse betting.

Key Takeaways

  • Live betting is betting that happens during a sports or gaming event.
  • Live betting is a relatively new development in gambling.
  • The ability to place many bets during a single event has changed the nature of placing bets.
  • Live betting and the advertising around it may encourage impulse bets, causing concern that the practice may lead to a gambling addiction.

Understanding Live Betting

Sports gambling stretches back as far as recorded history, with reports of wagers being made during the ancient Greek Olympic Games. As time has moved on, betting has become more mathematically advanced, often spurring on advances in statistics. Until recently, however, betting was not able to keep up with the rapidly moving odds that happen during a live event. Technological progress has changed this and, since the 1990s, some forms of betting have occurred while an event is taking place. At first, bookies would take bets by phone as the event occurred. Now, with the rise of online betting, sportsbooks and casinos provide live-betting services.

Live betting has, in some ways, changed the nature of gambling. First, the number of things someone can bet on has expanded. With the ability to place bets during a game, people can bet on things such as the halftime score or the number of fouls during a game. Second, the frequency of betting has changed because the odds are constantly changing during play. Live bettors can respond to the changing nature of the game and theoretically adapt their betting strategies.

Increasingly, online gambling is legal around the world. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting. Online gambling is now legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C., though in three of those states—Florida, Ohio, and Nebraska—it is not yet operational. However, in-play betting isn’t necessarily allowed. It depends on the particular regulations at play.

Live betting has been an area of concern for match fixing because of the higher betting limits and changing odds, not to mention the short windows during which betting takes place, which can make it harder to spot suspect betting.

Live Betting vs. Pre-Match Betting

In pre-match betting, the bettor must make their bet before the event begins, and after it has started, they are stuck with it. In live betting, the wagering will be ongoing throughout the event. What interval of betting is available or what can be bet on will vary depending on who is offering the bets.

The types of things that can be bet on will be much more varied. In football, for example, live betting often allows for bets to be placed on things such as the halftime score, the number of yellow cards, and the number of goals scored per half, according to a comprehensive review of in-play betting research. Bets could be allowed between quarters of the game, after drives, or even after plays.

Gambling always involves a negative expected return—the house always has the advantage. 

Can You Bet on a Live Game?

Yes. In-play betting, or live betting, is gambling that happens during a live game.

How Does Live Betting Work?

Live betting works by offering betting options—which can include a range of things, such as goals scored in a period—at points throughout the game. The specifics will depend on whom you’re betting through, though proponents say that live sportsbooks and casinos tend to have fewer live-betting options than online ones.

Is In-Play Betting Legal?

It depends. Online betting is increasingly legal, but it is not yet legal everywhere. In the United States, online betting is often regulated at the state level. Regulation trackers show that it is legal and operational in 30 states and Washington, D.C.—and legal, but not yet operational, in another three.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700, or visit NCPGambling.org/Chat to chat with a helpline specialist.

The Bottom Line

Technological changes have altered gambling, allowing for live betting, which refers to bets that occur while a game is in progress. It may encourage impulse betting, which has caused experts to warn that it could fuel a gambling addiction. Nonetheless, online and live betting are becoming increasingly legalized, generating record profits.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. GlobeNewswire. "Global Sports Betting Market (2021 to 2028) - Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report." Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  2. Elizabeth A. Killick and Mark D. Griffiths. "In-Play Sports Betting: a Scoping Study." Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  3. Victor Matheson. "An Overview of the Economics of Sports Gambling and an Introduction to the Symposium." Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  4. U.S. Supreme Court. "Murphy, Governor of New Jersey, et al. v. National Collegiate Athletic Assn. et al.," Pages 30 and 31. Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  5. American Gaming Association. "Interactive Map: Sports Betting in the U.S." Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  6. David Forrest and Ian G. McHale. "Using Statistics to Detect Match Fixing in Sport." Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  7. American Psychiatric Association. "What is Gambling Disorder?" Accessed Feb. 3, 2022.

  8. American Gaming Association. "AGA Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker." Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

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