Note: Betfair now offers a standard bookmaker along with its exchange. Please read the Bookmaker review here.
Important notice: Betfair is no longer accepting players from Spain.
Betfair Exchange Review
Betfair is the world’s largest betting exchange, comfortably the biggest and best known operator in the niche wagering space. Exchanges provide trading facilities for retail or bookmaker customers to buy and sell contracts. Essentially, these exchanges enable everyday punters to act as licensed bookmakers, setting their own odds and laying – wagering against – specific outcomes occurring.
Andrew Black and Edward Wray founded the company in 1999. While Flutter was the first to offer peer-to-peer gambling, which it did in 2000, later that year it was Betfair that launched what it called open-market betting, at least originally. Betfair pioneered the exchange concept, allowing customers to bet at odds set by either themselves or others.
The company is based in the United Kingdom but it went offshore in 2011, ditching its British licence and deciding to trade out of Gibraltar. Committed to the highest standards of integrity, it has agreed more than 50 memoranda of understanding with sports governing bodies around the world.
Since Betfair is focused on delivering the best possible customer service and gameplay experience, it should come as no surprise to find that its website and mobile applications are a delight to use. The website is easy on the eye and easy to navigate and the same goes for its Android, Blackberry, iPad and iPhone-specific applications. Even its basic mobile website is superb.
Because the primary business is its exchange, unlike traditional bookmakers it does not stand to lose from educating its customers. Actually, one could say that Betfair and its rivals need to provide education in strategies in order to grow their businesses, particularly in new territories. That is why the bookmaker has invested so much time and effort into its online add-ons, especially its community forums, expert columns and Timeform analysis.
In the rest of this review, we will look at Betfair’s markets, its bonuses, its security and licensing, how it treats professional and recreational punters and its banking practices, before providing an executive summary.
There are positives and negatives attached to the range of wagering options. The positives are that, because it’s is not a traditional bookmaker and, therefore, it does not need to invest time and effort framing odds that are profitable, it is the envious position of being able to facilitate bets on pretty much any option that one can imagine. All Betfair has to do is input the option into its system and let its customers determine the back and lay odds, plus stakes.
That is a huge positive, but the organisation does not have a couple of negatives with regards to gambling choices. First, while there are some multi-bets available (but not exchange multiples), it is a service that really only lends itself to single bets. Second and, arguably, more crucially, Betfair, like any exchange, is reliant on its customers providing market liquidity for it to work. It is all very well getting odds of, say, 3-1 about a selection which is 2-1 with most traditional bookmakers but the 3-1 is not worth very much if one can only bet, say, $10.
Live or in-play gambling is the site’s bread and butter and, provided that one resides in a territory that allows such activities online – Australia, for example, bans in-play action not conducted over the telephone – it is one of the key selling points to prospective customers.
The company is not as aggressive in offering promotions and bonuses as traditional bookmakers, believing that it does not need to do so because its odds are much better than its competitors. Most of the promotions and bonuses are related to its multi-betting product that, of course, it is trying to build in order to eradicate one of its negatives.
Security and Licensing
The organisation processes more than seven million transactions every day, which is more than all of Europe’s stock exchanges combined. Betfair has proven itself to be a great operator, twice winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – for Innovation in 2003 and for International Trade in 2008.
The company holds licences in Australia, Denmark, Gibraltar, Italy, Malta, Spain and the United States of America. It is a truly global business with a truly fantastic reputation.
Professional versus Recreational Punters
Betfair services both professional and recreational punters. Professional punters love the relative anonymity, with it not being in the exchange’s interest to close down successful customers. After all, the bookmaker does not care who wins or loses on its exchanges. What matters is the commission that the winning punters pay. The world of professional punting turned on its head when this site was introduced.
Recreational punters benefit from better odds and the organisation, through the 2013 launch of its fixed-odds bookie and continued development of its multi-betting service, is targeting that end of the market specifically.
Getting money in and out of one’s account is quick and easy but, controversially, it may cost one money. That is because the company charges a 1.5 per cent administration fee on MasterCard and Visa deposits. It gets away with this significant deduction because most punters see it – as well as the general 5% commission paid on winnings – as a cost of using the service that they are willing to cop for better odds. Surely there will come a time in the near future when Betfair, like so many bookmakers, drops all deposit-related fees.
Betfair is one of the world’s biggest gambling organisations and rightly so. Any punter who takes their betting remotely seriously should have an account. It is that simple.