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The gambling industry is changing with the times and punters now have more choice than ever when picking how and where to place their bets. While traditional bookmakers have adapted to these changes, players can now bypass traditional routes and opt for exchange betting sites that let them play against other gamblers.
Betting exchanges match users with opponents who want to back outcomes that differ from their predictions. For example, this means that if Person A thinks Tottenham will beat Arsenal and is prepared to place a bet at odds of 3/1, Person B who thinks Tottenham will lose can play against Person A by matching this bet. When the match is over, money is transferred from the loser's account to the winner's, with the bookmaker taking commission from the winnings. This is how betting exchange providers such as Betfair make their money, allowing them to offer more generous odds than traditional bookmakers. Users can also play the role of the bookmaker by laying odds and trading bets.
Because of the increased market prices available, exchange betting is becoming increasingly popular with savvy gamblers. While Betfair is the dominant player, several other companies have entered the market in recent years. So, what should you look for in an exchange betting website?
With the explosion of online betting and casino sites over the last 10 years, it’s important to look out for disreputable operators who may be looking to defraud players. For a start, check that the company is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission or an equivalent authority in another country. You should be able to find this information at the foot of the website or on the ‘About’ page, and it’s worth reading the terms and conditions before you sign up to a site.
Licensed operators in the UK have to comply with strict regulations according to the 2005 Gambling Act in order to protect customers and promote responsible gambling. In general, it’s a good idea to stick to the established household names. Remember the old mantra: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take a look at the Gambling.com list of recommended casino sites for more information.
Nowadays bookmakers offer a huge range of markets on all sorts of sporting (and other) events, but they're not all the same. Consider what sports they offer – they’ll all (unsurprisingly) cover football, but not all will take bets on the Badminton World Championships, for example – and the range of bets they provide within each sport. For example, some sites allow you to bet on more obscure things like the 'number of corners in a football match' or the 'scores of individual sets in a tennis match', rather than simply the winners of an event. You want to choose a provider that fits in with the way you like to gamble and the sports that you are interested in, so have a look around different websites to get an idea of what’s available.
With the vast majority of betting now being carried out online, technical features are an important consideration for many when choosing a betting site. Is the website easy to navigate and laid out in a user-friendly way? Do they provide customer support via live chat? With punters increasingly using their mobile devices to bet, you may want to check how mobile-friendly the website is or whether it has a mobile app. You should also ensure that the website maintains a good level of security, given the nature of the business and the number of rogue sites that are out there. This goes back to the earlier point about choosing a reputable provider.
With a good, reputable betting site it should be quick and easy to deposit and withdraw funds. Most companies offer a range of payment options from conventional debit and credit card transfers to online payment services like PayPal and Skrill, as well as allowing you to bet in different currencies. Most also have a minimum amount for deposits and withdrawals, normally £5 or £10.
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Withdrawals typically take 2-5 days for card transactions but should be quicker with online payments. A bookmaker should never charge you to withdraw cash from your account, although they may limit the number of free withdrawals you can make in one month. All of these are industry standards to look out for when choosing an exchange betting site.
There’s a great deal of choice for consumers when it comes to choosing a betting site, but ultimately you should choose one that’s reputable, fair, secure and offers the events and markets that you want to bet on.
"A passionate sports betting expert and journalist with over 15 years spent in the gambling industry."
Reviewer since June 2016