Betfair certainly know how to make an entrance. They were the pioneers of the betting exchange which changed the face of online betting, and still operate the largest peer-peer sports betting platform of its type in the world.
Set up in 2000, Betfair are far from your traditional bookie. Although still renowned for peer-peer exchange betting, these days Betfair also operate a fully equipped fixed odds sportsbook giving customers full flexibility in the type of bets they want to place. This comes with very enticing regular promotions.
Excellent in play services and cash out (Betfair invented both) along with a large amount of live streaming are available for both the exchange and the sportsbook, Betfair are often the online bookie of choice for professional gamblers due to the control they have over their bets.
- Double Bubble: The world largest sports betting exchange plus a highly functioning sportsbook.
- Innovation: Introduced live betting, streaming, cash out and partial cash out.
- Exhaustive Betting Options: Professionals favourite, well known, reliable and experienced
Set up in 2000 as a consequence of a chance meeting between professional gambler Andrew Black and City boy Edward Wray, the Betfair group pioneered and went on to create the world’s largest internet betting exchange.
The first ever betting exchange market was offered by Betfair at the 2000 Epsom Oaks. By 2004 revenues were exceeding £50 million and by 2010 the company had floated on the UK stock exchange. Betfair now process over 1.2 billion bets in a year with a total value of over £56 billion – this equates to more transactions than all major European stock exchanges put together.
In 2013 Betfair launched a fixed price sportsbook alongside its exchange, although it is still the exchange that most people sign up for. The concept was instantly attractive to punters because by cutting out the middle man they can back or lay bets at any odds they choose and on average get a 20% better deal. The idea caught on, and while Betfair are no longer the only online bookmaker that offer an exchange they are certainly the biggest and most experienced.
The company’s pioneering outlook has won Betfair many awards over the years. They invented the cash out concept, and were the first online bookmaker to offer in play live betting on their exchanges all the way back in 2001. Many would say they are responsible for a betting revolution, and in fact, they held a mock funeral for the traditional bookie as part of their launch campaign. That didn’t win them many friends in the industry.
Originally based in Hammersmith, London, unfortunately, like most other big bookmaking enterprises, Betfair now operates out of Malta, but with around 1.5 million active customers Betfair are one of the largest online bookmakers in the UK market. Betfair have a global presence in over 100 countries, accepting bets in 7 different currencies and offering their site in several languages.
In 2016 Betfair merged with Paddy Power to create Paddy Power Betfair (PPB). This combined entity is now one of the biggest gambling companies in the world with revenues just shy of £2 billion. For the foreseeable future both brands will be kept separate and customers are allowed to have accounts, and claim welcome packages, with both. As with most big mergers the hope is this will lead to a better resourced and more innovative online bookmaker rather than the prospect of losing the identity and features of two very different brands.
Using the Website
Betfair’s operational capability is certainly more impressive than its appearance. This is a website designed to do some serious work and to do it well, with the focus going on the mechanics rather than the paint job.
It’s a busy site despite having acres of space left to use on either side, and something about the stacking square option boxes makes it feel like a hangover from the early 2000s, but you probably won’t care because performance in other areas is so strong.
The homepage is designed to point the punter in the direction of events that are imminent, so sports highlights, quick links, and next race options are all front and centre to speed up the process for those time sensitive bets. You can also get a quick look at the day’s odds boosts.
In terms of navigation it’s all very easy but Betfair have done their own thing here rather than follow the trend that so many other bookies have gone for. The A-Z is hidden unless you open it up, and the layout in general, while perfectly serviceable, doesn’t always feel ergonomic. For example, once an event has been selected there are a heck of a lot of options to narrow down bet types and find your bet faster, but the resulting list of collapsible options all appear fully expanded, so you have to scroll through them all anyway.
You can easily flick between the sportsbook and the exchange, and obviously, with exchange betting you are offered multiple odds on single selections. You can easily expand these markets to show these although Betfair will always show the most favourable odds for backing and laying on the main screen.
There is probably a bit more of a learning curve to Betfair’s site than to some others, but it’s a worthwhile investment of your time because there is so much here to explore and enjoy. This is a seriously detailed website and a place for bettors who want their platform to be a betting tool first and foremost.
Speed & Style
The colour scheme isn’t particularly attractive and while that’s hardly a deal breaker the boring black, grey and mustard yellow don’t gel together particularly well, and on certain pages I found that the colour scheme made it a little more difficult to scan the options in front of me - there was a lot of squinting going on. The odds are always nice and obvious in blue, though.
Probably as a direct result of the no-frills aesthetics, the speed at which the site responds is great. There is barely a noticeable delay as you navigate around the sportsbook interface, and even switching between the sportsbook and the exchange is relatively painless.
Small Screen Action
Betfair have so many apps you would need a whole new phone to cope with them all. There are independent apps offered for the sportsbook and the exchange too which is frustrating as it prevents easy comparison between the exchange market and fixed price market. The benefit of splitting the services is that they are simpler with less content so their reasons for splitting them up are understandable, and on the plus side all the functionality of the main site is offered on mobile.
The sportsbook app is fairly quick to load but even without the exchange attached you can feel it working hard, and it retains that slightly out of touch feeling the desktop site gives off. This is aesthetic only because as a betting platform it is still first rate.
Odds are clearly displayed, navigation makes sense for the most part with the odd little quirk (it might take you a few seconds to figure out how to open the match view when betting in-play), and as well as a few sensible instant access buttons to cash out and A-Z a horizontal scrolling bar opens the door to some popular categories. This makes switching between sections considerably faster than having to search for them each time. You can manage your account as you would on desktop and a real winning point is how quickly you can place a bet on the move. The bet slip itself keeps out of the way unless called upon, although you can easily access it from any screen without placing a new bet if you want to.
The exchange app is a worthy equal to the sportsbook app these days, after a bit of work behind the scenes to tidy things up a little in recent years. On the whole it functions in much the same way as the sportsbook app, but the extra complications that come with exchange betting have been incorporated well, with drop downs appearing when needed (choosing odds/stake) and a simple swipe of your thumb to go from viewing back bets to lay bets where necessary.
It did feel a little slower than the sportsbook app when loading the various different categories etc, but it was never slow enough to become a problem, and in terms of the odds updating everything felt up to speed.
The Exchange: Backing & Laying
As the Betfair model is geared towards exchange betting it is worth quickly explaining the concept of backing and laying for those unfamiliar with the system. In peer to peer betting you can place a bet (backing) as you would in any fixed odds book but you can also lay a bet for someone else to back. Here, you are betting on something to lose. In this way you act as your own mini bookie and you win if the person backing the bet loses. Betfair will take a commission from whoever wins, either from the winnings or the stake depending on the outcome.
You can pick any odds you want when backing and laying your bets, you can do this with the up and down arrows next to selection in the betslip. A bet will only stand if it is ‘matched’ i.e. if you want to back a bet at 8/1 it will only stand if someone is willing to lay that bet for you at those odds. Vice versa if you want to lay a bet at say 20/1 it will only stand if someone backs that bet. If your bet remains unmatched at the time of the event then you can either change your offer or the bet is cancelled.
Anonymity is maintained and no one can see what individual punters are doing as the prices offered are a pool of punters’ individual backs and lays. For example, if 4 people are betting £10 each on an event at odds of 4/1 you will see a combined pool of £40 against which you can lay. In an exchange the maximum bet is therefore always defined by the amount in the ‘pool’ which is often lower than maximum bets in normal fixed odds sportsbooks.
During big events you can usually find the odds you want to back or lay as there is a lot of liquidity in the market, i.e. lots of money floating around on the various betting lines. Exchange betting can be more restrictive on smaller or less popular events where you may just have to take what you are given or return to the traditional fixed odds book.
What Have They Got?
Betfair offers a large range of around 30 different markets in the sportsbook and more in the exchange. There are online bookies with a longer list but the particularly impressive aspect with Betfair is the depth of the markets on offer; if someone picks up a tennis racket in Albania or a football in the middle of the Congo, chances are you will find someone laying odds at Betfair. This isn’t restricted to competitive fixtures either, you can lay odds on pretty much anything you want in the world of sport; top goal scorers, managers, sports personality of the year etc.
Non-sport and specials markets are offered in abundance in both the exchange and sportsbook sections. I would say Betfair offer the best non-sports markets around, including all of the basics such as UK and world politics, music, weather, and TV shows, but also some stranger markets from individual odds on things like ‘when will alien life be proven’, to “Which Royal baby will go bald first” – don’t mislay that betslip over the next 20 years!
Depth of market from one event to another is also a genuine selling point for Betfair; a big football event will display hundreds of markets on both the exchange and the sportsbook, and they will be varied and interesting too. They don’t cover anything half-heartedly, even the likes of Handball and Cycling are stacked with more bet types than the norm, and from more competitions too.
If you can do the impossible and find a betting line that Betfair does not offer odds on then you can request them directly.
In addition to the above, you can also bet on financials through the exchange. It’s not such a common sight and you might think it’s an area you aren’t qualified to dabble in, but actually, there are some fairly basic entry level bets that anyone could enjoy such as “bitcoin to go below £1k in 2019” or interest rate bets.
For those who feel comfortable with it, financial markets are also available in the bespoke Tradefair branch of Betfair’s operation. Tradefair is a customisable online trading platform which offers full financial spread betting, CFD’s, and Forex - beware this is not for the uninitiated but can be very profitable if you count yourself as a city boy or girl.
The Odds are…
For many years bettors were advised to be wary of Betfair’s sportsbook odds, and for fixed odds alone you would often be better off elsewhere. More recently, however, Betfair have turned their reputation around and offer competitive odds especially on English football, tennis, and rugby. They won’t often be the very best but they’ll be in the vicinity, plus, best odds guaranteed comes as standard for UK and Irish horse/greyhound racing.
Of course, you have an even better option. The Betfair exchange cuts out the middle man and allows you to get odds that are on average 20% higher than usual. The nature of exchange betting means you could even get odds up to 200% higher, it all depends on what people are willing to back and lay around an event. Betfair takes a commission from your winnings, usually around 5%, so try to factor this in when you place or lay your bet. You can even set your own price if you like, and as long as someone matches it, you’re on.
Having the flexibility to jump between the sportsbook or the exchange looking for top odds makes Betfair very attractive indeed. Other bookmakers offer exchanges but for these operators it’s their sportsbook that comes first. With Betfair the exchange is their main feature and so they can offer an unparalleled range of odds in here. The odds are also better here than at other exchanges simply because there are so many more users on Betfair.
Exchange betting is a peer to peer service so Betfair cannot offer enhanced odds promotions in this setting, however, it is worth comparing the odds available in the exchange with odds in the sportsbook, because with the range of enhanced odds and price rushes available you might find more value taking fixed odds in some cases.
Odds are available in fraction and decimal format. Odds in the exchange are offered in decimal by default but you can see fractions by hovering your cursor over the selection.
In-Play & Streaming Capability
Betfair were the first bookmaker to offer live in play betting on their exchange all the way back in 2001, so they know a thing or two about how to make it work. The in-play section is comprehensive offering everything a punter needs to place a bet in both the exchange and the sportsbook. As well as a full spectrum of live streaming there are also live scores, form guides and news and tips to give you an edge. The in-play sections are split by sport and time and this creates an easily digestible page that allows you to find your market really quickly.
Once again, it doesn’t look all that great, but it works exceptionally well and comes with plenty of details.
The live betting section on the exchange is definitely better than the sportsbook. On the exchange you can create your own in play custom section and plan ahead days in advance. Both in play sections are decent on the mobile app, with odds quick to find in your desired market, and after all, live betting on mobile is probably the most critical feature to get right.
Of particular note is the speed of refresh. Odds are refreshed by the second and markets do not spend long in a suspended state during game incidents. This is why Betfair has become the main platform for many professional gamblers.
In-play promotions are quite poor with Betfair although the price rush feature does give you a nice surprise every now and again. For regular in play promotions shop around.
There is always something to watch live on Betfair. Streaming football, cricket, tennis, snooker, horses and more; the service is great alongside the in-play feature and exchange. You can easily filter the in-play section to show only those events that are streamed and you can even see live events days in advance.
Streaming services are free to watch by all members as long as you have funds in your account, and there are a few that a free regardless. Live horse race streaming requires a minimum bet of just £0.50, which is lower than most other bookies (average £1). The minimum goes up however depending on the type of bet you have placed. A single is 50p but if your race is part of a double this now increases to £1, treble £1.50, 4-fold (also Lucky15 and Yankee) £2, etc. Effectively 50p/horse/race. For Tote bets however, the minimum is a disappointing £5+.
The feed quality is average and the viewing box is quite small if you watch it embedded into the interface, but you can open the stream in a new larger window on desktop. All streaming services are available on mobile too, just remember that if you want to watch and not bet, then leave some cash in your account to do so.
Betfair will take bets in 7 different currencies although once the account is open you are fixed to your currency of choice. Currencies include British Pounds (GBP), Euros (EUR), Australian Dollars (AUD), Danish, Kroner (DKK), Hong Kong Dollars (HKD), Swedish Krona (SEK) and United States Dollars (USD).
Minimum and maximum deposits vary by method but for general card payments (Visa, Maestro, Mastercard) the minimum is £5 with no stated maximum. With no real world presence you would expect not to be able to deal with them in cash, but since their merger with Paddy Power you can now deposit in Paddy shops using your account ID and photo ID (once your account has been verified). This was a great idea from Betfair and makes life easier for the punter.
Until recently Betfair charged a small fee on deposits which was a huge problem for many bettors, but thankfully this has now been scrapped. The only fees you might face are for express bank transfers.
Withdrawals with Betfair are also now free, with the exception of express bank transfer. You can withdraw using all the same methods by which you can deposit with the exception of pre-paid card and voucher systems – so Paysafecard. Betfair operates a closed loop policy meaning you must withdraw your funds using the same mechanism by which you deposited initially.
Withdrawals to card generally take around 2-5 working days due to normal banking procedures although withdrawals to online digital wallets such as PayPal can clear in a matter of hours. There are no minimum withdrawal limits to card and PayPal, which is a nice feature. Maximum withdrawal amounts vary, these are usually transactional limits and so multiple transfers can be made if you wish to take out more than the limit.
Min/Max Bets & Payouts
Maximum payout levels and maximum stakes are an important consideration, and not just for those who like to place large bets. Those who place smaller wagers on selection(s) with high odds may only discover payment caps when it is too late, which can really take the shine off your big win.
In the exchange it is simple: you can back or lay a bet up to the total amount offered in the pool for that selection (displayed underneath the odds). Different odds will have different amounts in the pool, so Barcelona to beat Real Madrid at evens may have a pool of £200 but at 4/5 this may be £1000. It all depends on what odds you want and what you want to win. The nice thing about the exchange is you can’t end up over staking as the pool effectively represents the maximum at that time.
Minimum bets vary in the exchange so check in advance; for example, a minimum stake of £2 is required to back a multiple bet and £10 is required to lay a bet at starting price (SP).
For the sportsbook maximum and minimum bets are restricted by the type of selection(s) and the odds you are backing. The minimum can be as low as 10p but always check the terms and conditions before placing a bet.
Maximum payout rates are quite high with Betfair at the top end, standing at up to £1 million on major football and horse racing. Other sports vary a lot, for example tennis comes with a £200k cap, whereas it drops to £100k for golf and cricket.
Novelty and special bets plus some less popular sports like volleyball can be capped as low as £10k, so don’t wager more than necessary if the win would take you over this amount. Maximum payouts can be found in the terms and conditions but this isn’t an easy process compared to other bookies. If you place bets on multiple selections from different markets remember your bet will be capped by the market with the lowest maximum payout so always check in advance.
You can bet by phone with Betfair but the minimum stake is £50+.
Betfair basically invented cash out and so you would expect it to be good here. They are also one of a few bookies who provide full and partial cash out functionally, and combined with the live betting and streaming this is a really professional package.
Cash out is also available on live horse racing with Betfair for win, each-way and multiple bets, which is a very novel feature - in fact they were the first bookmaker to provide this service too.
Betfair are also strong when it comes to the range of markets that cash out is available on, there must be quite a team running this department. You can find all events on which cash out is available by clicking the appropriate menu tab, and you will find the offering is extensive. Cash out is also available on most in play markets, and there will be a clearly visible yellow icon above the odds of the selection if it is an option.
What is it?
Cash out is a betting feature which allows you to lock in a profit or cut your losses and walk away with a portion of your stake returned. It also adds enjoyment to live betting because your odds are constantly going up and down and you are in control over when the bet is settled - it’s no longer a simple case of winning or losing,
The figures will be dependent on the situation in the game at the time you settle your bet, so you will have to think hard and act fast if you see new odds that you want to take. If you bet on Yeovil to win and they are 3-0 up with 20 minutes to go, is it really worth settling the bet early? No. But if it’s 2-1, Yeovil are down to 10 men, and the keeper has just knocked himself out on the right post – that final 20 minutes might well see a goal from the opposite side. Getting out early with a smaller guaranteed profit might be a good call.
You can choose to cash out your bet at any point to mitigate your risk and this offers a completely new tactical dimension to betting. Be careful though as your Cash Out settlement amount will always be a lower value than your potential winnings would be if you allowed the event to run to completion.
You have staked a £10 wager on Louis Hamilton to win the Monaco Grand Prix at 5/1 two weeks before the race giving you potential winnings of £50. After qualifying Hamilton is in pole position on the grid. Cash out at this point may be offering you £15 back (£5 profit) if you cash in your bet in advance of the race.
You may even cash in your bet in play. Let’s say Hamilton is in the lead halfway through the race before the second round of pit stops; cash out may now be offering you £30 to cash in your bet (£20 profit).
Partial Cash Out makes this more exciting still. Let’s look at the same scenario, Hamilton is in the lead halfway through the race and you are being offered £30 Cash Out. You may decide to take half of the cash out (£15) which equates to half of your stake (£5). This way you have banked the £15 and you still have £5 of your stake in place on the original 5/1 bet. You are already in profit so effectively you can’t lose, but obviously if Hamilton went on to win then your profit would be lower than if you let the whole £10 ride. That’s the toss up.
Cash Out is so much fun and considering the depth of markets available with Betfair it really is a punters delight.
Games Game Games
Betfair offer a full range of casino and gaming services on the main site and through mobile apps. These include, casino, live casino, poker, exchange games, arcade, Vegas slots, bingo and pools betting. There is also a casino download client which some players still find preferable.
The exchange games feature is a nice product from Betfair and not really matched anywhere else. If you are sick of losing money on games and casino then you have the option to lay bets here too and act like your own little casino by betting on the outcome of the game at each stage, rather than by playing the game yourself.
Betfair offer a full range of customer service options with live chat, phone, email and Twitter offerings.
The live chat and phone can be found in the help centre easily enough, but you get the impression they would rather you didn’t e-mail.
Still, customer services can be reached 24/7 by live chat and response times are good. Phone support is only open 7:30am-12:30am but customers appear very happy with the set up.
The only thing letting Betfair down is the way that information is buried a little too well inside a messy help centre/FAQ - finding specific details can be a bit like digging around in a field for a lost earring.
It depends what you are looking for, but it isn’t the most instinctive feature out there and steps could be taken to make it more user friendly.
The professional gamblers bookie. There has to be a reason why so many professionals make their living through the Betfair exchange. The simple value, range, and depth of the exchange is unparalleled, as well as being quick and really easy to use. The sportsbook on its own is nothing to write home about but it is added functionality in the context of the exchange, and some of the offers are useful.
Betfair live betting in play and streaming services are also superb, and combined with an excellent cash out feature they give the punter a truly immersive experience. It’s good to see a few unique features like Price rush and Tradefair as well.
If you like to bet on your computer then this service is supreme, but while the mobile apps are good enough they aren’t topping any tables and you may need to dedicate a lot of your storage space to the various apps.
If exchange betting is your thing you may never go anywhere else but if not there are other comparable or better fixed odds bookies out there.
Get In Touch
- Name: Betfair
- UK Licence ref/No: 39426
- Company Name: Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) Entertainment Limited
- URL: www.betfair.com
- Customer Services: 0344 871 0000 (UK), 1800 944 000 (IRE), 0044 203 059 8888 (overseas)
- Head Office: Waterfront, Hammersmith Embankment, Chancellors Road (access on Winslow Road), London, England W6 9HP, United Kingdom. (Phone: +44 (0)208 834 8000)
- Phone betting (exchange only): 0844 871 5000 (UK), 1800 719 915 (IRE) £50 minimum stake.
- Text betting: Not offered
- Twitter: @Betfair, @BetfairCS (8am-11pm) and more
- Registered Company address: Betfair, Triq ll Kappillan, Santa Venera, SVR 1851, Malta