Betfair Betting Exchange & Sportsbook Review – Not Recommended

Last updated January 27th, 2022

Betfair ReviewWe do not recommend Betfair anymore due to their moderate treatment of punters, restricting stakes in the sportsbook section very readily. Instead, go to our home page and choose a better online bookmaker from our suggestions there. We have updated the Betfair review below to reflect this opinion. Our personal experience, on a business level, is that this company is far from honest. We recommend better bookies to join on this site.

Betfair operates both as a normal online bookmaker (the sportsbook section) and a betting exchange. The firm is largely based in the United Kingdom and is one of the biggest online betting sites in the world in terms of turnover at £4billion per month and increasing. It won The Queens Award for Enterprise both in 2003 and 2008 from UK government. The company floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2010, valuing it at £2.5billion. It has gone downhill ever since. As well as the betting exchange and sportsbook, it operates online casino, poker and bingo. Its exchange section matches bets placed by people with opposite views. One person may think a selection will lose while another wants to bet on that selection to win. It puts the two together. The sportsbook section is separate from the betting exchange and operates like a traditional fixed odds bookie.

OPINION: Betfair’s betting exchange is the most interesting section of their site and it was their initial core product. Some people do earn a full-time living by backing and laying bets. However while the odds appear good at first glance, the commission you pay at 5% of the profit made in each market rapidly eats into that and it is very hard to make things pay. The software is by nature more involved than a traditional bookmaker’s site and is extremely confusing for the novice. To counter that fact and to appeal to a wider sports betting market, Betfair also now offers a ‘sportsbook’ section, which operates just like a normal online bookie. It is pretty poor though and newcomers to online betting will likely find their betting stakes restricted, just as we were, if they string a few winners together. Betfair is not recommended. 

Betfair Full Review

Betfair was the first betting exchange to trade and is now the world’s biggest by a country mile. Based in London, it is one of the UK’s big success stories. They have millions of customers and a weekly turnover in excess of £45 million. That means more markets for punters and potentially the best prices that can be found anywhere online.

They also offer a traditional sportsbook with fixed odds but if you want to learn about betting exchanges there is plenty of information available on this website to let you know exactly how it all works and how to use it before you start winning money with them.

There are no hidden charges, they just take commission on your net winnings on each market. There is no commission to pay on losses. For most clients the rate charged is 5% although lower commission may be charged for customers with massive volumes. The more you wager the more this commission is reduced but it does take some major betting volume to make much of a dent in this large headline rate. Whilst the commission rate is not the lowest, as nearest rival Betdaq is lower, we consider that it is almost counterbalanced by the quality of the prices you are likely to find. Betfair’s sportsbook section obviously does not charge any commission as their profit is built into the margin (also known as ‘juice’ or ‘overround’) on each event.


It was back in the summer of 1999 that two enterprising young men, Andrew Black and Ed Wray got together and founded this betting exchange. They had the bright idea of setting up an exchange that enabled people not only to make bets but to take other people’s bets. This was the first time that customers were allowed to be either conventional punters placing bets or to act as bookmakers and take or lay the bets of others online.

Cutting out the middleman, the bookmaker, proved an instant success. Crucially, it allowed the firm to offer consistently better odds than conventional bookmakers. That concept is a truly international one that has allowed Betfair to thrive worldwide despite the regulatory nightmare that local jurisdictions bring.

Over 2200 people are on the company payroll across the globe. The company’s reach is extensive. They jointly own the company in Australia and employ approximately 100 people there. There is also a US operation which includes TVG, a fully licensed television broadcasting enterprise and a US horse racing based betting business as well as a San Francisco office.

With such wide ranging business operations, gambling licences are currently held in Gibraltar, Italy, Malta, Tasmania and the US.


Wherever you are based there are massive advantages associated with using their site. As soon as you take a look at the website you realise that the sporting coverage offered is a phenomenon – it is not just about horse racing and football. The website lists ‘Popular Sports’ which includes about twelve of the most commonly wagered on sports such as horse and dog racing, tennis, basketball, golf, motor sport, cricket and rugby to make it easy for the majority of us to find what we are looking for.

If, however, you are looking for something a little less obvious just click on the ‘ All Sports’ tab for an inclusive list of just about every serious sporting contest occurring in the world. American Football and Australian Rules head the list that includes Bandy, Gaelic Games, handball and mixed martial arts.

You will find financial markets and politics listed under the All Sports tab too. If you have a strong feeling on where the FTSE is going in the near or distant future or who the next conservative leader will be or when various individuals will leave the cabinet, odds will be on offer for you to profit from your insights.

If you prefer betting on or taking bets on your favourite TV programme you will also find markets on anything from Strictly Come Dancing, to X Factor, Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. The chances are that whatever you are watching, other people will be watching it too who will have their own differing opinions so you should be able to back or lay the contestants of your choice.

Where but here can you act as a bookmaker while not actually requiring to hold a bookmaker’ s licence? It has always staggered industry observers and insiders that this aspect of the exchange model has gone unchallenged by government. Possibly it is because of a lack of understanding of how the concept works that this ‘Achilles Heel’ of the business plan has never been addressed at parliamentary level. Obviously many vested interests have tried to attack Betfair on the basis that it does effectively facilitate unlicensed bookmaking, but unusually for the betting industry these arguments have cut little ice where it matters. Other arguments by competing traditional bookmakers include the charge this new way of trading bets encourages corruption in sport as it is now so easy to profit from the failure, rather than success, of a horse, player or team. To the punter who suddenly wants to act as bookmaker it is a major boon. It would be illegal to take bets from your mates in the pub on say UK horse racing or football, but on this website you can do it within the law and with no need to be a licensed, levy-paying bookie. That is incredible but true and one of the major appeals of the exchange system.

In- Play Options

Not only is there a colossal choice of markets but the in-play options are unlike those that can be found at any traditional bookmakers. Normally the betting action is over as soon as the race has begun. Yes, they manage to provide in-play options on football and tennis matches but where else can you bet on or lay horses in running?

For racing fans in particular, Betfair provides unique opportunities for you to hedge your bets or add to them once the race has begun. If you have the ability to spot the horse that is going best there is nothing to stop you placing a bet on it at any time, right up to the finishing line, provided there is someone out there who is prepared to take your bet, which with the volumes transacted, there always is.

For gamblers who think strategically and want to manage their exposure to losses, betting on or laying horses in running can provide an invaluable means to hedge the risk of positive bets by laying the same horse in running. The ability to bet on and lay the same horse, at the odds of your choice by placing an order at a specified price, can make all the difference to your gambling profits.

Deposits and Withdrawals

You don’t need a fortune to start making money. Minimum deposit levels are generally just £10. For UK punters they will accept deposits from the majority of mainstream credit and debit cards such as MasterCard, Visa, Visa Delta, Laser, Solo Maestro etc. Deposits are also accepted via PayPal (which has a minimum deposit level of just £5), Neteller (which has a higher minimum of £12) and Skrill (aka moneybookers). You can also deposit by bank transfer or even by cheque (do people still use these anachronisms?), although processing may take up to ten working days by the latter archaic method.

It is quick and easy to make with withdrawals too. For most credit and debit cards the processing time is between two and five working days just because that is the time your bank can take to credit the funds withdrawn on to your statement. The advantage of PayPal, Neteller and Skrill / Moneybookers is that withdrawals will be processed within 24 hours. They do not charge any fees for withdrawals except via Bank Transfer Express which will cost £ 6.

Summary and verdict

The company has now expanded to offer traditional bookmaker-style sports betting (via its sportsbook) plus casino, poker and games online. It was the first and is today by far the biggest sports betting exchange online. The range and depth of markets and the quality of prices at Betfair are unparalleled. However the fees charged in the exchange makes it hard to make things pay, even for the most savvy of punters. The sportsbook quickly limits stakes of winning players. Betfair has gone downhill since it became a public company and does not warrant our seal of approval anymore.

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 3 reviews
 by Dick S
Gone Downhill

I have used the exchange for many years. Recently the software seems to have more glitches than ever. I ventured over to the sports betting area that is not the exchange ie: the 'sportsbook'. Here it is totally different and it is hard to get my full stake on selections. Why are Betfair running so scared of laying a bet, unless it is on the exchange, where they don't face personal liabilities and charge a whopping percentage fee on winnings? Come on Betfair, improve your product - you weren't always this bad.

 by Trig
I Get Limited

I started using the exchange but oddly I seem to have moved over more and more to betting with the sportsbook section. I find their software much harder to get my head around than other places. I do get limited now and then, particularly when the liability is high on multiple bets. To be honest it is very annoying. Other than that it is just an ok site.

 by Jay Champaneria

Excellent. Innovative. A breath of fresh air to the usual copycat model of high st bookmakers. Also brilliant stroke to partner with timeform, both for timeform radio and racecards. All this and in-running betting, wow! I'm a huge fan. I do, however, wish they would stick to the old site layout on their exchange page, I don't know anyone who likes the horrible garish over the top new look.