Applies to US sports but is identical to "handicap". It is the advantage given to the underdog, and the disadvantage placed on the favourite, so as to even out the outcome of the event and give the bet more value. (also known as spread)
The amount of points an underdog team is given at the start of a game to even the betting and make it more interesting. The underdog must win or not lose by more than the spread for a bet on the underdog to win. The favorite must win by more than the spread for bets on the favourite to win.
The pointspread - also called "the line" - is used as a margin to handicap the favorite team. The oddsmaker - also called the handicapper - "gives" points (or goals) to the underdog - for betting purposes only. The bettor must take either the favorite or the underdog. The favorite is always indicated by a minus sign (e.g. -8.5) and the underdog by a plus sign (e.g.+8.5). For betting purposes, the outcome of the game is determined by taking the actual game score and finding the difference between the scores of the two teams playing (called the pointspread or just the "spread").
Applies to US sports. The pointspread is the advantage given to the underdog, and the disadvantage attached to the favourite, in order to even up the outcome of the event and give the bet more value. See also Spread and Handicap.