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Betting Exchanges Compared

Betting exchanges differ from traditional bookmakers in allowing punters to bet against each other and bet on horses, players or teams to lose.

They generally have better odds than the bookmakers but charge commission to punters of up to 5%,

Here we look at the primary betting exchanges and the key points regarding each of them.




  • Commission Rate: 5% (decreases depending on how much you bet)
  • Free Bet: £0 (although a £30 free bet is available at the Betfair Sportsbook)

Betfair is the original – and biggest – exchange. Liquidity is superb and the range of markets offered is unparalleled. If you are a high roller or regular bettor, then it is probably the one to use as your commission rate will drop and you are always ensured of the best liquidity.



  • Commission Rate: 5% (decreases depending on how much you bet)
  • Free Bet: £25

The second exchange in terms of age and size, Betdaq’s liquidity isn’t quite as good as Betfair’s but can be better on Asian Handicap markets on football sometimes. They have better introductory offers than Betfair (who actually have none!) with a £25 free bet and 2% commission on all bet offers. 



  • Commission Rate: 2% 
  • Free Bet: £10

The new kid on the block, Smarkets is making waves in the exchange world by offering a flat 2% commission rate, which it promises will remain in place forever (let’s hope so!). Liquidity is pretty good on main markets like football and if it can improve on more niche markets then could become a major challenger to Betfair. One to watch.  



  • Commission Rate: 1% on winning and losing bets 
  • Free Bet: £20

Matchbook offers a slightly different commission model with 1% charged on both winning losing bets, where as the others only charge commission on winning bets. So how that affects returns will vary from punter to punter, but essentially will have most impact on those who lose a lot. 

Ladbrokes Exchange


  • Commission Rate: 5% (decreases depending on how much you bet)
  • Free Bet: £25

The first of the bookmakers to open its own exchange, the Ladbrokes Exchange offers a similar commission structure to rivals Betfair and Betdaq, with good liquidity on the main markets. There is also a £25 free bet to take advantage of.


History of Betting Exchanges

For over a century, anyone wanting to place a bet had to go to a bookmaker – a person or company who set odds and take their wager, paying them out at the agreed odds should the selection win.
But in around the year 2000, everything changed. A new player arrived on the scene – what would today probably be called a “disruptive” website. 
The website in question was called Betfair and it allowed punters to bet not against a bookmaker, but against each other. Suddenly you could set the odds yourself, bet on horses or teams to lose (called laying) and never had to worry about your account being closed or your stakes limited in you won lots of money, as was inevitable with the bookmakers.
Other players followed into the market soon after and there are now a number of betting exchanges to choose from. The exchanges make their money by charging commission on players’ winnings (or bets in the case of Matchbook) at up to 5%.
The exchanges have proved highly popular with punters and now make up a large portion of the betting market.
There have been controversies as well, not least the introduction of premium charges by Betfair and scandals involving fixing horse races and football matches using exchanges as a medium to place the bets through. 
But even with these difficulties, the betting exchanges are here to stay as part of the gambling world and we have seen bookmakers start to open their own exchanges to try and get a piece of the action. 
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