The following is an in-depth review of the betting agency Betfair. This review covers the history, features, interface, sports & racing markets, upsides and downsides of the service.
This review is part of our comprehensive Bookmaker Reviews section. The Betting Agencies page provides information and reviews for other sports betting agencies that are suitable for Australians. The following details are updated periodically to keep them up to date.
History, Location and Licence
Betfair was launched in the UK in 2000. It is primarily a betting exchange, although it acts as a bookmaker for its multi betting and Tote products. The service enjoyed a meteoric rise and in 2003 the company was a recipient of one of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise (the UKs highest official awards for business). As part of its overseas expansions, Betfair commenced obtaining licences offshore, first in Malta and then in Tasmania in 2005, making it the only betting exchange to hold an Australian licence. In 2010 Betfair was floated on the London Stock Exchange and in 2011 it shifted its UK licensed service to Gibraltar to reduce its tax liabilities. In addition to exchange and Tote betting, Betfair offers casino and gaming services, however these products aren’t available to Australian residents.1
Betfair’s expansion into Tasmania was initially met by resistance from the established totalisators and bookmakers. A ban on the use of betting exchanges took effect in Western Australia in early 2007, however Betfair successfully challenged this law because it violated the Constitution of Australia.1 In July 2012, Betfair increased its commissions on Australian racing markets to cover the fees it pays to the Australian racing industry.5
In August 2014, Betfair Australasia became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Crown Resorts Limited following the purchase of a further 50% of Betfair Australasia from Betfair Group Plc. Crown Resorts Limited had acquired the first 50% in 2004.7
In January 2015, BetEasy (now CrownBet) and Betfair announced a joint venture, where from January 6 2015 Betfair will focus purely on exchange wagering and BetEasy will provide fixed odds and tote products. Learn more.
In September 2016 Betfair became licensed in the Northern Territory. As part of the change in licence, Betfair dispensed with the two-wallet system. Instead of having an Australian wallet and a main wallet, all transactions are now made through the main wallet on the Betfair Global Exchange.
What is a Betting Exchange?
Betting exchanges contrast with bookmaker environments because exchanges operate as a marketplace. Members set the odds for an event and others take up those odds. This enables the user to act as both a punter and bookmaker. Betfair argues that you get 20% better odds with their service than with standard bookmakers. In markets such as head to head betting this claim is often untrue, however Betfair offers by far the best tournament winner and correct score odds. Like most betting exchanges, Betfair earns its revenue through charging commissions on net winnings. Learn more about betting exchanges.
Services and Features
|Deposit options||Australian customers: credit/debit card, POLi, bank transfer, BPAY, Skrill (Moneybookers), Neteller|
|Withdrawal options||Australian customers: bank transfer, Skrill (Moneybookers), Neteller|
|Currencies||AUD, CAD, DKK, EUR, GBP, HKD, NOK, SEK, SGD, USD|
|Languages||English, български, Česky, Dansk, Deutch, Ελληνικά, Español, Suomi, Italiano, Norsk, Polski, Português, Русский, Svenska, Türkçe, 简体中文, 繁體中文|
|Minimum deposit||POLi: $5
BPAY, bank transfer: $30
Credit card: $10
|Minimum bet||$5.00 for online exchange wagers and $50.00 for phone betting. The minimum stake for bets placed on the Internet through Multis, Tote Extra and Tote & Exotics is $1.00, except for flexi bets through Tote & Exotics which have a minimum stake of $3.00.|
|Maximum payout||For wagers placed on the exchange, the maximum winnings are determined by the level of market activity for each event. Your betting limits are effectively dependent on marketplace liquidity. For most Tote products the maximum payouts range between $20,000 and $50,000. For all racing exotics, Betfair will pay the dividend declared by TattsBet up to a maximum of $50,000 for metropolitan thoroughbred, $25,000 for all non-metropolitan thoroughbreds, harness and greyhounds and $10,000 for all international racing. For multiples, the maximum multiple dividend is 5000, the maximum payout per multi (parlay) bet is $150,000 and the maximum payout per round robin bet is $250,000. The maximum daily payout per customer for all winning multiples bets combined is $250,000.|
|Deposit turnover requirements||None that we’re aware of|
|Bonus credit turnover requirements||1x at odds of 1.30 or higher|
|Bookmaker margin||5.0%, which is below the median bookmaker margin of 5.2% in the latest bookmaker margin survey. From a punter’s perspective, the lower the margin, the better. Betfair‘s strength is its future markets, which typically offer better value odds than traditional bookmakers. It should be noted that Betfair’s margins are highly erratic because they are heavily dependent on the level of participation in each market. Popular fixtures and fixtures shortly due to commence generally have the lowest margins.|
|Quantity of markets||Averaged 23 markets per fixture in the latest bookmaker markets survey. This is well below the median score of 61.|
|Exchange fees||Commission Charges: Betfair charges a commission on your net winnings on each market. If you have a net loss on a market you do not pay a commission. The standard commission is 5% for sports and 6.5% for Australian racing. A commission discount of up to 60% is applied based on how active you have recently been on the exchange.|
Transaction Charges:: In addition to commission payments, Betfair customers are charged a transaction fee if they process a large number of transactions (1,000 bets an hour).
Turnover Charge: Wagering operators in Australia are required to pay a fee based on turnover to racing bodies. Betfair passes this charge onto customers who during a particular week meet all of the below criteria:
a) have matched bets on 50 or more markets on which Betfair is subject to a turnover fee from a racing body;
b) have matched back bets with an aggregate value of AUS $2,000 or greater on turnover charge markets; and
c) the total commission generated by the customer on turnover charge markets is less than 1.5% of the aggregate value of matched back bets placed by the customer on those markets.
The turnover charge is 1.2% of the aggregate value of matched back bets on turnover charge markets.
Premium Charges: a small number (less than 0.5%) of Betfair’s most successful customers will incur Premium Charges. Any customer affected by the Premium Charge will be notified in advance. Each week Betfair calculates the ‘gross profits’ and ‘total charges’ generated over the lifetime of each member’s account. A member is only considered for the Premium Charge if their account is in profit and their total charges generated since joining Betfair are less than 20% of gross profits. Any single win that constitutes more than 50% of lifetime gross profits is excluded from the calculation, and customers will only be considered for the Premium Charge after they have bet in more than 250 markets. Each customer also has a £1,000 allowance against the Premium Charge. This means that every customer considered for the Premium Charge will be exempted from the first £1,000 of the charge incurred. If they apply, the premium charges are:
|Forbidden Jurisdictions||Bulgaria, Israel, China/Hong Kong, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Japan, DR Congo, Lebanon, Eritrea, Libya, France, North Korea, Germany, Somalia, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Sudan, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, USA|
|Mobile version of the website?||Yes|
|Identity checks||Australian users can verify their identity at an Australia Post office.|
|Dormant account fees||Customers registered in Australia and New Zealand are not subject to the Inactive Account Fee (which is $5 per month if the account has been inactive for 13 months or more and the account is in credit).|
Betting Interface and Website Layout
Please note that the discussion below concerns the new version of the Betfair interface, not the old version which is still available to use. At the time of writing, navigating to the .com Betfair address takes you to the old version by default, while .com.au takes you to the new version.
Top Navigation Panel
The navigation panel on the new interface runs horizontally at the top of the screen. Moving your cursor over ‘Racing’ or ‘Sports’ will display the list of racing locations and sports, respectively. The sports multi section can be reached by moving your cursor over ‘Sports’ and then selecting ‘Multis’.
To the right of these links is a ‘Cash Out’ button, which takes you to a page that lists your active wagers with links to lock in a profit or loss before the event has finished. This feature is particularly useful in futures markets such as the NRL Premiership.
To the right of this are the buttons Bookmaker & Exchange. These enable you to switch between viewing markets in bookmaker mode (i.e. Tote for racing markets) or exchange mode. At the time of writing only exchange mode is available for sports betting.
Exchange Sports Betting Interface
When you select a sport from the top navigation panel a list of upcoming fixtures is provided along with a sub menu to select a specific league. In contrast with a standard bookmaker, which only displays the odds to back each selection, Betfair displays both ‘Back’ and ‘Lay’ odds for each selection.
When you place a back wager you take on the role of a traditional punter. Your wager wins in the selection wins, with your return based on the odds displayed. In contrast, if you place a lay wager you take on the role of the bookmaker. For example, suppose you place a $10.00 lay bet on Team A at 2.50 odds. You will win $10.00 (before commission) if Team A loses and you will lose $15.00 if team A wins. Learn more about lay betting.
If you click on a fixture all of the markets for that event are displayed, with the best available back and lay odds shown. If a back or lay box is blank this signifies that there are no unmatched wagers available for that selection. If you have already placed a wager in a market, Betfair will automatically display how much you stand to win if a selection wins (in green) or how much you stand to lose if the selection wins (in red).
Because you can’t see how much money is unmatched at the available odds, it is advisable to click on the ‘View full market’ link for the market you wish to wager on. This will then provide more information on the market depth, showing the best available back and lay odds along with how much money is available to match at those levels. The total amount already matched on the market is also shown.
If you click on the stats icon you can view price/volume history for the market.
Exchange Betting Slip
When you add selections to your betting slip they are colour-coded based on whether they are back wagers (blue) or lay wagers (pink). With back wagers your potential profit is displayed when you enter a stake amount. In contrast, with lay wagers your potential liability is displayed when you enter a stake amount.
Note that you don’t have to input odds that are available in the market. The odds displayed simply represent what you can transact at immediately. You an instead enter better odds and create and “unmatched” bet that may or may not be matched later by another Betfair member.
For example, if the best available odds for Team A to win are 1.45 and you were hoping to place a back get at odds of 1.50, you can enter 1.50 and create an unmatched bet. You can cancel this unmatched bet at any time and the bet is automatically cancelled at the start of the event if no other member takes you up on those odds.
Conversely, you can do the same for lay bets. If the lowest lay odds for team A to lose are 1.50 and you were hoping to place a lay bet at odds of 1.45, you can enter a lay bet at 1.45 and see if a Betfair member takes you up on those odds before the event commences.
Once you have placed a wager on a market you can click on the ‘My Bets’ tab to see a list of your matched and unmatched bets on the market. You can amend or cancel your “Waiting (unmatched)” bets at any time. You can also choose whether to automatically cancel your unmatched wagers once the event starts or keep them active for in-play wagering.
Sports Markets & Liquidity
While Betfair may have higher commissions than competing betting exchanges such as Matchbook and WBX, it does have the advantage of providing better liquidity (market depth) than its rivals. As with any marketplace, liquidity is key because you can’t bet if there isn’t anyone to bet against.
According to Betfair, the three most popular sports are football, horse racing and tennis, although a fantastic array of sports are covered, albeit with varying levels of liquidity. Because Betfair is a UK-based company, most members reside the UK. For this reason the best liquidity can be found on events that are popular in the UK. To provide some quick insight, at the time of writing the following amounts had been matched on these events:
Golf – The Open Championship
Total matched: AUD 2,746,223
Shortest selection odds:
Available to match on the highest back odds (16.00) – $26,875
Available to match on the second highest back (15.50) odds – $13,700
Available to match on the third highest back odds (15.00) – $17,161
Rugby League – NRL Premiers
Total matched: AUD 455,831
Shortest selection odds:
Available to match on the highest back odds (4.40) – $12
Available to match on the second highest back (4.30) odds – $269
Available to match on the third highest back odds (4.10) – $309
To provide an example of an extremely popular event, £61 million was matched on the Ashes Test at Trent Bridge in July, 2013.
It should be noted that liquidity generally improves leading up to the start of an event. On a Tuesday afternoon AUD 1,576 had been matched on a Friday AFL fixture, however this would be much higher on Friday afternoon. It should also be noted that liquidity varies drastically between markets for a given event. Most money is wagered on the Match Odds (head-to-head) market, with wagers such as Half Time/Full Time and First Scoring Play getting a lot less attention.
Overall, liquidity issues aside, the sporting selection with Betfair is greater than what is offered by most bookmakers. All of the major sports and leagues are catered for and there are typically numerous betting markets for each fixture.
Because exchange betting doesn’t lend itself to multi betting, Betfair has created a “Multis” section, which can be reached by selecting ‘Multis’ in the Sports navigation menu. The Multis section is separate from the rest of the site and because this feature doesn’t involve exchange betting, all selections in a Multi bet are back bets only. Also, because the Multis are wagered in a standard bookmaker environment, no commissions apply.
You can combine multis from Australian sports with UK and other overseas markets, however only the more popular international markets are offered. Unlike the exchange environment, where wagers on overseas events are regulated by the Maltese Lotteries and Gaming Authority, all wagers placed in the Multis betting section are regulated by the Tasmanian Gaming Commission.
The minimum stake is 50c although this can vary depending on the market type, sport and category. Up to 10 selections can be added to each multi.
Generally, the odds available in the Multis section are not as good as those available on the exchange betting platform and far fewer markets are available. One positive, however, is exotic multis such as Doubles and Trebles are supported.
At the time of writing, the Betfair Multis section is not available on Betfair mobile or by phone.
Below is a screenshot of the Betfair Multi betting interface. At the time of writing it still resembles the old Betfair website design instead of the new interface used in the exchange environment.
The Betfair Hub provides racing and sports previews with betting tips. It also provides output from prediction models and publishes articles on betting theory.
For advanced sports betting enthusiasts, Betfair offers a developer program that enables you to use JSON/JSON-RPC to interface with the Betfair betting exchange.
One advantage of using the Betfair API is that for high frequency traders the Transaction Charges for 1,000+ transactions an hour are half what they charge website customers.
For those who aren’t knowledgeable in programming, third party applications such as Bf Bot Manager enable you to transact pre-defined betting strategies, such as Dutching, through the Betfair API.
Betfair offers both tote (Betfair SP) and betting exchange environments for racing.
Betfair’s commissions for overseas racing venues is 5%, which is the same as for sport. The market base rates for thoroughbred, harness and greyhound races in Australia range between 6% and 8%. This difference is due to fees that Betfair pays to Australian racing bodies. The figure below shows the current base commission rates for Australian racing:
UPDATE: the Queensland rates have since dropped from 8% to 6%. As a result of an increase fees charged by Racing New South Wales, in July 2017 Betfair increased the Market Base Rate on all Racing NSW races from 8% to 10%. The Racing NSW Turnover Charge was also re-introduced. Other thoroughbred racing jurisdictions, such as Racing Victoria, Racing Queensland, Tasracing and Canberra Racing Club remain at the lower rate of 6%. The MBR on greyhound racing in Victoria reduced from 8% to 7% in November 2017.
For less popular events, liquidity is generally poor leading up to the race, with 99% of the matched amounts often transacted in the minutes leading up to the race. We’ve seen matched amounts jump from $200 to $20,000 in the space of a minute prior to a race start.
Only Win and Place markets are available. Since its merger with CrownBet the racing offerings at Betfair have taken a backward step. Fans of racing – particularly those who want to wager long before a race start – are better off using a standard bookmaker.
The Betfair Starting Price (BSP) is offered on a range of thoroughbred, harness and greyhound races. Betfair boasts that BSP beat Best Tote by 17% on average between Sept 2015 and Aug 2016. To see the BSP odds, you must go to the settings page within the racing section of the website. You can opt to have either the projected odds or the near/far odds displayed. BSP is available for Australian thoroughbred win markets and place markets for Sky 1 meetings. It’s also available on Australian harness and greyhound win markets except for full Sky 2 meetings. BSP is available on thoroughbred win markets in New Zealand as well as at selected international venues.
Live Sports Betting
Due to Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act 3, live online betting is not available for Australians. Australian customers must phone in to bet live. If live online sports betting is what you’re after, be sure to check out our survey of betting agencies that offer live online betting.
- Can bet both for and against outcomes, which is excellent for hedging
- Excellent tournament (futures) betting and correct score odds
- A broad range of sports are covered
- The best liquidity of any betting exchange
- The only Australian licensed betting exchange
- The only betting exchange to offer Australian racing markets
- Access to community forum
- Developer API for the sports exchange
- Low turnover requirements on the sign up bonus
- Live online betting is not available to Australian residents (due to Australian law3)
- Not as beginner friendly as a standard bookmaker
- Complicated commission structure
- Smaller range of markets per fixture compared to leading bookmakers
- High $5.00 minimum stake for exchange wagering
- 6%-8% market base rate commission for Australian racing
- Complicated turnover charge fee structure for punters who frequently wager on Australian racing
- Premium Charges for Betfair’s most successful customers (around top 0.5%) 1, 2
When it comes to a betting exchange, bigger is better and Betfair dominates in this regard, boasting 90% of global exchange activity.6 The exchange platform takes time to get used to but it’s well worth the effort. The ability to bet both for and against outcomes makes hedging incredibly easy. Betfair’s other big strength lies in tournament betting. The tournament winner odds are far superior to those offered by bookmakers and the back/lay feature enables you to lock in profits and limit losses. Betfair also offers better value in Correct Score markets than bookmakers. While Betfair does offer a Multi betting platform, the odds and market selection isn’t nearly as competitive, so multi betting enthusiasts should look elsewhere. Betfair is not ideal for beginners, however experienced punters will revel in the ability to play the role of both the punter and bookmaker. We highly recommend Betfair to serious sports betting enthusiasts and to those who enjoy tournament winner and correct score betting.
Notes and Sources
- 1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betfair
- 2 http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2011/jun/29/betfair-premium-charge-increase
- 3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_Gambling_Act
- 4 POLi facilitates online bank transfers that are acknowledged by the bookmaker instantly. This enables you to log into your banking provider, transfer money to the bookmaker, and place bets immediately.
- 5 http://betfair.com.au/turnovercharge/
- 6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betting_exchange
- 7 http://www.crownresorts.com.au/about-us/our-businesses