Betting Exchanges: Comparing the Best UK Platforms

Since the launch of and Betfair back in the summer of 2000 the world of gambling changed forever. No longer are punters restricted to a meagre range of betting markets and stake options – true gambling freedom became possible with the development of online betting exchanges. There are many unique components that make these arenas such an exciting place to bet; the betting strategies, the live betting and the automated tools punters can use to gain an advantage. We’ll be giving you all the latest information surrounding these issues, leaving you fully informed and prepared to take on the exciting challenge of online betting exchange sites. Below we have put together an introduction to the four main operators who provide the best platforms in terms of bonus, quality and markets. Read on for the full report!

The UK’s Top 3 Betting Exchange Sites
Casino Bonus Offer Features Rating Secure Link T&C’s
Up to £100 In Free Bets 5 x £10 bets 23,000 35+ 5/5 Visit Site! Full T&Cs Apply! New customers only. Available to residents of UK or Republic of Ireland using promo code ZBBC01. Place 5 x £10 (or more) single bets on the Sportsbook each at min odds 1/2 (1.5). Get 1 x £20 free bet. Up to five times.
Receive £10 Bonus Deposit 22,000 35+ 4.5/5 Visit Site! Full T&Cs Apply! New customer offer. You must deposit £20 (or currency equivalent) in a single amount with your first deposit to be eligible. Debit card, bank transfer or Trustly only. Please gamble responsibly. 18+
Cashback Up to £2000 30x 16,000 22+ 4/5 Visit Site! Full T&Cs Apply! 18+. New customers only. Promotion available from 11/03/2020 - 31/12/2020. Code BETINS must be used at account registration. Players must place min. 5 losing bets totalling min. £/€50 on sportsbook or casino within 28 days from account registration to receive cashback. Sportsbook qualification entitled to 10% of total net losses, max £/€1,000. Casino qualification entitled to 10% total net losses, max £/€1,000. Not available to API or RDT customers.

The UK betting exchange sector is undeniably dominated by the superiority of the Betfair exchange. No other operator offers the full package in such an extraordinary way as Betfair have managed to do. The bonus is fantastic, the depth of markets you can bet on is huge and the UX/UI design of the mobile and tablet application is fully optimised to make the gaming experience as enjoyable as possible. The other three operators shown in the table also manage their own platforms that each have very unique and exciting features. Smarkets is worth mentioning for its high-tech platform that offers very cheap commission rates and might just be the main competitor to the seemingly unbeatable Betfair exchange.

The Concept and Inner Workings of Online Betting Exchanges

Betting exchanges launched on the basis of offering punters single bet opportunities that can be matched by other players. Betfair is unique in the sense that it operates on a model similar to a financial exchange. This allows a great deal of flexibility and amongst other things, multiple small bets to fill a position offered by a gambler interested in wagering a large sum on a particular wager. This innovative approach has allowed Betfair to snap up 90% of the betting exchange market in the UK and continue to dominate with their advanced tech.

The main differences between standard bookmaking and betting exchanges like Betfair are important to understand for a successful gambling experience. Firstly, the customer does not bet against the bookmaker. The bookmaker simply connects opposing gamblers and facilitates a platform where bets can be matched by other customers, the technology programmed into the exchange makes the process instantaneous. Betting exchanges take “no risk” with the bets made on their platform, making slow and steady profit on the commission they charge on net winnings, usually between 2% and 5%. The free market principle also applies to betting exchanges. Unlike standard bookmaking the odds are not set directly by the operator, they are dictated by the betting volume on particular markets and fluctuate accordingly. Customers have the ability to “lay” an outcome, – backing it to lose – as well as backing it to win. Read more below for our explanation of back and lay bets.

What Is a Back Bet?

The back bet is portrayed by a coin being passed between two handsMuch akin to the basic idea of sports betting, a back bet is where you back a particular outcome to win, for example Man Utd to win against Arsenal. In the betting exchange sphere, this bet will be countered by a retail customer who is betting on Man Utd not to win the match. If the back bet is particularly large, the platform will likely match you against multiple counter-parties. The main difference with this process is the odds are set by the current betting volume as you are not betting against the bookmaker.

What Is a Lay Bet?

A finger pressing a lay bet on a tabletLay betting is an option of betting completely unique to the realm of betting exchanges. This form of bet allows the punters to act as the bookmaker, offering up odds to sell a bet rather than back a bet. This is also a component of matched betting that allows customers to both back and sell bets on the same event, thus covering all outcomes and guaranteeing a profit. There’s more about matched betting in the bottom sections of this article. Lay betting is an option on all betting exchanges, allowing users to act as the bookmaker and take bets on particular outcomes in the hope that they will not happen.

Live Exchange Betting

Live betting on the exchanges is extremely popular and is well facilitated. The markets odds prices will constantly drift, second by second, allowing players to capitalise on big price options in-play if they are confident about a particular outcome. The live betting exchange operates in a similar way to standard bookmaking, the prices will drift depending on the betting volume of particular markets. Live betting on the exchange is particularly relevant for matched betting strategies that require a drift in the market before the lay bet can be struck. Some exchanges such as Betfair will allow you to integrate trading tools and API systems giving you more in-depth data and management control over your bets when the event is in play.

Betting Exchange Comparison: Considering All Variables

Two of the biggest betting exchange operators in the UK currently, so what’s the main differences between them? We put these two titans up against one another in a number of different testing categories and the findings are really revealing. Betfair is far more stable due to its massive user base, but take nothing away from the high-tech platform offered by Smarkets – operating like the NASDAQ for trading outcomes of sporting events.

Betting Exchange Liquidity Markets Commission Usability Rating
Very High 75+ fees of up to 5%
High 85+ fees of up to 6%
Medium 50+ fees of up to 4.5%
High 45+ fees of up to 5%

There are key differences between these four operators that should be fully realised before staking large sums of money within the betting arena. Do your own research and make a comprehensive evaluation of each operator before fully committing to the services of a particular exchange.

Where Can You Find the Best Betting Exchange Odds?

As the betting exchange odds are not set by the bookmaker, rather by the betting volume on particular markets by the clientele, it is hard to compare the differences in prices offered. However, there are some minor differences we noticed whilst conducting our research, the prices for popular events were analysed and cross-referenced against one another and we have produced our findings for you to review below.

Average Odds for the Top Betting Exchange Sports
Betting Exchange Football Tennis Golf Racing Avg. Odds
93.99% 94.77% 98.25% 95.63% 95.66%
98.03% 97.93% 96.82% 95.47% 97.06%
95.49% 96.03% 97.39% 97.81% 96.68%
96.47% 94.38% 93.96% 95.76% 95.14%

As you can see from the table, the spread between the betting exchanges is very small. Smarkets coming in top with an overall average of 97.06%, with the lowest of the bunch being Betdaq at 95.14% respectively. Depending on the sport you’re most interested in there may be some hidden value at lesser exchanges. However, retail customers need to be aware of secondary factors to your pay-out such as market volume and commission fees charged by the exchange on net winnings.

Liquidity of the Exchange

The liquidity of popular markets at a betting exchange is something that the user should certainly take notice of – it is especially important to be aware of secondary less popular markets at a betting exchange with low liquidity. The problem of low liquidity at a betting exchange is your bets, whether they are a lay or a back type of stake, will probably not be matched if they are particularly high value. The best betting exchanges ensure high liquidity by offering the correct range of markets and not over extending themselves and leaving the vulnerability of low liquidity open.

Best Betting Exchange Bonuses

There are some fantastic betting exchange bonuses available to new players in the current market. Take a look below for what we consider to be the best value bonus currently available. It’s a fantastic welcome bonus from Matchbook who give their new players an all-encompassing welcome package to fully experience their popular sports betting exchange.

Betting exchange at Matchbook dynamic graphic with a male suited customer
  • fantastic live arena
  • large market variety
  • optimised exchange platform
thawteibasBetting License:

Simplicity is key when it comes to the best betting bonuses. We love to see an operator that takes the interest of new players to heart when deciding what offers to roll out. With a bonus like the one offered at Matchbook, there is very little in terms of complexity that could obstruct the casual player. Simply open an account today in order to reap the rewards of this fantastic welcome bonus.

Markets Offered at the Exchange

The range of markets offered does tend to vary between the top operators and companies offering slightly sub-optimal exchanges. There is a large swathe of market opportunities at Betfair and players will certainly find the largest range at this operator. There are some other great places where you can find the large range of markets that punters love; Smarkets also have the fantastic range of markets that users can find at Betfair, in fact they are the best UK operator in terms of large range of markets offered.

Commission Fees on Net Winnings

As betting exchanges do not physically take bets from the players, of course, they need to generate revenue. Operators have steady profit streams through the commission they charge on winning bets at their exchange, this can be anywhere in the region of 0% – 6%. However, unless you are playing on an active welcome bonus offering you 0% commission on your first X months of betting, you can expect fees to be in the region of 4.5%. This is only payable on winning bets and customers should take this into consideration when they are conducting matched betting profit making strategies.

Matched Betting vs. Betting Exchanges: Key Differences

Matched betting is a form of betting strategy that relies upon the drifting of markets in order to create a gap in the spread, then hedge your position thus guaranteeing a profit, sometimes only small, but profit all the same. This method of profit making utilises free bet offers at third party bookmakers where the player is hedging the bet at a secondary betting operator. Betting exchanges are centrally located and players can back and lay bets on the same event to hedge their position whilst the action unfolds. Unlike the matched betting method, betting exchanges carry a certain amount of risk and do not allow players to make guaranteed profit bets before the action unfolds.

An infographic showing the key differences between matched betting and exchange betting

If you’re a punter that has a highly experienced knowledge surrounding a niche sport such as greyhound racing, then betting exchanges provide an excellent arena for you to back and lay bets to guarantee profit. The key is spotting high value early and anticipating which markets will fall as the start time draws near and then as the action unfolds. Matched betting is for the players who love to seek the best welcome bonus offers around, bearing in mind this tactic has a limited number of deployments as free bets are not an infinite commodity.

Profit Making Strategy: Step by Step Guide

Betting exchanges carry an enormous amount of popularity due to the nature of the system, a system that can be capitalised upon by careful and intelligent trading to guarantee profit. There are a large number of professionals who make a full-time living off betting exchange profit making strategies and we would like to give you an insight into how this can be made possible. Below you will see a simplified version of the steps taken to form a guaranteed profit scenario at a betting exchange.

As you can see there are the two types of bets you need to place in order to lock in a profit; a back bet and a lay bet. Timing is very crucial when it comes to laying the bet off, or hedging your bet. As the odds price data is being updated by the second, these can fluctuate wildly at any un-given notice. In order to assist you with these strategies there are certain API and trading tools that can be utilised by the punter, such as Geeks Toy, which will give you an enormous amount of market data to make clear how the odds are drifting for any particular market available on the exchange.

Pros and Cons of Betting Exchange Trading

There are many great features that make the betting exchange such an enjoyable and unique gaming experience for the punter. The key advantages of betting exchanges can be fully realised when the profit-making strategy is optimised and working efficiently. If executed correctly you can make continuous profit from betting exchanges where the risk of losing is 0 because you have covered your back bet with a well-timed lay bet, creating a spread and taking a small piece of profit no matter the outcome. You are also betting against other retail customers, which in itself is a very cool and fun thing to be a part of.

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Pros and Cons of Exchange Betting
  • Major Strengths
  • steady profit making potential
  • use API’s and Trading tools to assist you
  • easily monitor P/L
  • Major Weaknesses
  • no enhanced odds
  • large bets may not be matched
  • Minor Strengths
  • bet against other players
  • more data to assist betting
  • spot market fluctuations
  • Minor Weaknesses
  • multiples on lay bets not possible
  • limited bonuses available
Full T&Cs Apply! New customer offer. You must deposit £20 (or currency equivalent) in a single amount with your first deposit to be eligible. Debit card, bank transfer or Trustly only. Please gamble responsibly. 18+

Despite the obvious profit-making potential that online betting exchanges possess, the basic rules of gambling still apply and should be respected. If you go and lay a long odds bet in the exchange and the back bet comes in – you can lose some serious money as you will be paying out your stake times the odds of the market you lay against. The good odds that can be found in primary betting markets tend to stop when you get to the less popular markets, as the liquidity is low and this is especially relevant on the smaller betting exchange that only control around 2-3% of the UK betting exchange market. If you’re into arbitrage betting between exchanges, spotting differences in the odds prices offered, this is extremely difficult to do and most cases will result in very little reward for painstaking effort.

Regulation and Financial Security

As with all bookmakers reviewed by our team, they are very respectful of the local authorities and the law within the territories they operate within. The regulation authority concerning betting exchanges remains the UK Gambling Commission. There is no reason to question the legitimacy of any of the four betting exchanges we have outlined for you in this review. All have independent regulators, such as IBAS, that can be contacted in order to settle disputes or contested winnings with the bookmaker. They have the authority to overrule the decision of the betting operators if they believe the customer has been mistreated.

History of the Betting Exchange

Since the creation of online betting exchanges there has been a new wave of punters attracted to gambling. Coming with the mindset of a financial trader, they apply their knowledge of market fluctuation and risk into sports speculations. It has been an epic journey for companies such as Betfair, expertly positioning themselves in the leading position for the industry and outdoing the competition with their superior technological innovation and overall fantastic UI/UX design both on mobile and web application. The years since their launch have seen a couple of noteworthy competitors rise up, the most exciting and noteworthy being Smarkets, that have a completely unique approach to business. Check out our timeline below for the most important milestones achieved in the industry in the past years.

A timeline of betting exchanges from its beginning until now

Betting Exchanges: Fantastic Playing Experience at Betfair

We have put together the most comprehensive guide for UK punters looking to step into the realm of online betting exchanges. You should now have a full understanding of the best betting exchanges, what separates them in terms of quality and how to effectively form a winning strategy at one of these operators. The popularity of this form of betting is growing rapidly, the standard online bookmaker will always command a strong market share but there are increasing instances of players who utilise both forms of betting platform. The future certainly looks bright for Betfair, controlling 90% of this industry with their exchange, but expect new operators and fresh competition that will be looking to gain a piece of this profitable and risk-free form of bookmaking. For more detailed analysis on the operators mentioned in this review, please take a look at the Betdaq review page, the Smarkets review page and the Matchbook review page. To learn more about betting in general, head on over to homepage now!


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Can I cancel or change a matched bet?

A matched bet is a binding agreement between the backer and layer and so cannot be cancelled or changed by either party.