Betfair is the largest betting exchange in the world and one of the largest online betting companies in the UK. In 2016 it merged with Paddy Power, which is Ireland’s most popular bookmaker and one of the biggest in the UK. But should you consider betting with Betfair – and how does it measure up when compared to traditional bookmakers? Here we review its strengths and weaknesses in detail.
Betfair Exchange trust & financial stability
Betfair has over four million customers around the world and processes more than seven million transactions every day – more than all European stock exchanges combined. It’s regulated by the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner and is a member of the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS).
In short, Betfair is very far from a fly-by-night company. However, customers’ trust in the company was challenged when Betfair introduced a “premium charge” – consisting of a 60% tax – for high-winning bettors; a move that many criticised as unfair.
Betfair Exchange odds
Betfair is hands-down number one when it comes to odds for horse racing. Thanks to the betting exchange model it uses, Betfair’s odds provide significantly better value (up to 110% better) than the market average.
For football and other sports, Betfair’s odds are also highly competitive, typically ranking among the top five for best value.
Betfair Exchange website
The Betfair Exchange site can be intimidating at first, but overall Betfair has done a good job of making its exchange interface user friendly. For each selection in a market, the site displays the three highest lay odds and the three highest back odds. The best back price displays in blue and the best lay price shows in pink.
You can easily accept odds on offer. Alternatively, you can set your own odds, potentially enabling you to secure more favourable odds than on traditional bookmaker sites.
Betfair provides extensive coverage of racing. In 2006, it acquired Timeform, a publishing company that’s a leader in form guides and ratings. The results are a number of attractive features on its site, including Timeform radio, tips, news – including articles by famous former jockeys Paul Nichols and Ryan Moore – and extensive form information.
The extra control provided by the exchange model, along with live streaming, great odds and the ability to bet throughout races, all make Betfair a great option for race betting.
Betfair uses decimal odds as its default odds format. You can customise your view of the site so it lists only the sports and markets of interest to you, and use a search feature to locate markets quickly. A help section provides useful materials, including educational videos, that explain how to use both the lay and bet markets, how to set your own odds and how to use the various other features of the site.
A recently introduced service, Tradefair enables Betfair users to participate in spread betting on global financial markets. It features an award-winning platform with real-time price quotes and news feeds, and provides access to over 3,200 markets. Be warned that you could risk losing than just your initial deposit with this type of betting.
In-play betting (also sometimes called in-running betting) is one of the highlights of the betting exchange model. The main reason for this is that there’s little risk to the exchange operator, which simply provides a platform that punters use to bet against one another.
As long as markets are liquid, the operator can keep the service active. Betfair states that 99.9% of transactions on its site are completed in under a second, making in-play betting a safe option.
Betfair provides live video on major events in horse racing, greyhound racing, football, tennis, snooker, volleyball, basketball and darts. To access live horse racing footage, which is provided by At The Races and Racing UK, you need to place a minimum bet of £5. Access to live video is free for all other sports, provided you have a funded Betfair account.
Bear in mind that most live viewing options aren’t 100% live; instead there’s usually a delay of at least a few seconds. In the past, this delay has allowed individuals present at racecourses to take advantage of remote punters by placing bets when results are already known.
Betfair has a very active forum, which adds authenticity to its claim to being “the largest sports betting community on the internet”. In between a lot of dross, there are some helpful and knowledgeable posts on a wide range of issues surrounding the exchange and sports betting in general. The forum even includes some robust criticism of Betfair and its less popular policies.
Betfair Exchange mobile
Betfair provides apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. These apps support most of the features of the desktop version of the Betfair site, including back and lay betting, in-play betting and, for the iPhone, football multiples. There are also dedicated apps for racing with Timeform data, for both iPhone and Android.
Betfair Exchange customer service
Betfair has a live chat support system, but the option is quite hidden in the exchange. We’ve used this service only a few times but waiting times appear to be short and exchange representatives seem knowledgeable and courteous.The Betfair UK Helpdesk provides telephone, e-mail and even Twitter support seven days a week, from 7.30 a.m. to 12.30 a.m., UK time.
All the usual methods for making payments and withdrawals are supported. For example, you can make payments using a wide range of credit cards from many countries, debit cards from the UK or Ireland, NETELLER, Skrill, PayPal web services and even cheques.
Betfair Exchange specials & promotions
Betfair is somewhat limited in the number and type of betting specials it can offer due to the way the betting exchange model works. However, it does try to give its customers extra value by offering competitive free bets to first-time users, along with a selection of accumulator specials.
The bottom line
If you’re a regular punter on traditional bookmaker sites, Betfair opens up a whole new world of opportunities. To benefit, however, you’ll need to make it through the learning curve involved in using a betting exchange. For novice punters, leading traditional bookmakers like bet365 or William Hill offer a better starting point.