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Asian handicap betting only became available at the end of the 1990’s. However, its origins lie in financial spread betting which was developed by City Index, a firm based in the City of London to attract traders who worked in trading offices and floors. City Index allowed their customers to bet on the price of shares. This form of betting saw huge growth and it lent itself initially to soccer and subsequently other popular betting sports such as cricket and tennis.
Spread betting on sport had a certain mystique which was enhanced by rumors of football players kicking the ball into touch from the kick-off having bet on the time of the first throw in. The City experience appealed to certain bettors located in the Asian tiger economies. The Asian market wanted to bet on English soccer but punters in that part of the world had no interest in betting on the draw.
In the UK gambling laws became more relaxed and live coverage of mainstream sports like rugby league, rugby union and American Football became important betting markets. These sports have large point systems and feature many mismatches in which the favorite was almost certain to beat the underdog. This probability is reflected in cramped odds which meant the average punter had no interest in betting on the outcome.
Head starts or handicaps were offered for events in which the two teams were not evenly matched. The concept of half point handicaps was introduced so there was always a definite result in favor of the punter or bookie and the tied match was eliminated. With dedicated sports channels showing more English soccer the Asian bookies offered a half point handicaps so that there could be only two winners, rather than the three options in conventional soccer betting of home win, draw and away win.
The English club Manchester United are hugely popular in the Far East. Its something of a running joke in the UK that something like 99.5% of the club’s global support have never been to Old Trafford where United play their home matches.. However, they still wanted to bet on their team and Asian handicap betting made this possible even when a match featured a big favorite.
The Asian betting markets looked to Europe for betting opportunities and applied the principles of spread and handicap betting to their own culture so Asian handicap betting was born. A popular betting method in Asia is called “hang cheng” which roughly translates to handicap betting. The phrase was derived from this term and betting on two outcomes began to get more prominent at the expense of traditional three way betting.
Asian handicap betting lends itself to soccer matches as handicaps can be applied to equalise the form of each side to encourage two way betting. With a handicap applied there is roughly the same probability of each option taking place. This form of betting reduces the number of options from three to two. Bookmakers like this form of gambling as it allows them to minimise the risk by encouraging equal two betting. Conversely margins are low and bets can be huge.
In a soccer match it is not possible to score a half or quarter goal. Many matches are handicapped at ½ or ¼ goal intervals, to eliminate the chance of a tie and returned stakes in the event of a push. The concept has been adopted by the exchange bookmaker Betfair, which allows customers to place or take a bet. This form of betting is becoming increasingly popular and huge sums will be bet in Asian handicap markets in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. However, it all stated in the City of London more than 30 years ago.