In the world of sports betting, bookmakers are everywhere. Betting exchanges, however, are less plentiful with only a handful of big players in the market. Smarkets are one of the world's biggest betting exchange sites. The biggest doesn't necessarily mean the best, though. Find out whether they live up to their reputation as a market leader with our in-depth Smarkets review.
We'll be covering everything their site has to offer, starting from their sign up process and whisking you through everything from their market coverage to mobile usability.
Deposit and Withdrawal Options
Depositing into Smarkets is very easy. There are options galore with minimum amounts starting at just £10. Standard payment methods such as debit card, Solo cards and open banking are all possibilities, whilst several e-payment solutions are also available with Skrill and Paypal, just two examples.
All deposits are free of charges.
Your withdrawal options are the same as stated above. There are a couple of points to note, though; the first is that you'll have to withdraw to the same method you deposited. The other is that bank transfer withdrawals are charged at £10 and can take up to two weeks to process; this is by far the most extended withdrawal wait.
You may well be familiar with bookmakers offering tempting welcome bonuses to new customers; Smarkets is a bit different, though, with the fact they're a betting exchange. That doesn't mean you lose out, though, because there is still a welcome offer to be had. It's not nearly as rich as the likes of William Hill, who offer a welcome bonus of £30, but it's still well worth tapping into if you decide to sign up. What is it? If you deposit a minimum of £20, Smarkets will cover your first £10 worth of losses.
As is always the case with welcome offers, there are some terms and conditions attached to the sign-up promo. One of those links back to the previous section of our Smarkets review with specific deposit methods excluded from the offer.
The key driver for any successful betting exchange is liquidity. If you remove the liquidity, you have an utterly worthless platform; that's true whether you're talking about a small-time player or a more prominent name like Smarkets or Betfair. With the Smarkets betting exchange, it doesn't matter whether you're backing or laying bets. There is close to zero chance of liquidity becoming an issue, particularly in major sports.
We'll come on to the full markets and events covered in more detail in a moment or two but, all you need to know for now is the fact that whatever your bet, you'll likely find it getting matched.
One of the major perks associated with betting exchanges is the possibility to find better odds compared to those offered by a traditional bookmaker. That underpins this because you're wagering against other customers rather than trying to beat the bookie; this means the odds aren't loaded with overround, also known as ‘house margin'.
The margin we speak of is how bookies make their money. Smarkets – and other betting exchanges – make their money by taking a commission on winning bets. It's far from the same thing as a bookmakers margin, though. The commission charged by Smarkets is 2%; this is 3% better than the standard Betfair offering. You won't find a better rate with any other betting exchange. The real question, though, is, how does this compare to a bookmakers margin? The truthful answer is that it varies from bookie to bookie. However, most times, you will be receiving better odds to bet with at the Smarkets betting exchange.
Smarkets 0% Commission
So, we've already established that the 2% commission on offer through the Smarkets exchange is exceptional. Well, there is a way you can reduce that to 0%. Yes, zero per cent. Smarkets have an agreement with matched betting giant OddsMonkey where their members can qualify for 0% commission on all markets. This is also true of their integration with Profit Accumulator and Profit Maximiser.
When you compare this to the other major betting exchanges like the Betfair Exchange and the Ladbrokes exchange, you're saving up to £5 for every £100 won. If you're a big-time bettor, then this seemingly small amount will soon rack up.
Smarkets Trading Software
We've just touched on the relationship Smarkets hold with OddsMonkey, but with the likes of the Betfair Exchange and Betdaq offering trading plug-ins, you might be wondering if you can do the same with Smarkets. We're afraid their API doesn't facilitate this service at the moment. It would not be a surprise to see that change in the future, though.
It will come as little surprise to learn that the main markets on offer at Smarkets are football and horse racing. Not only are they the two most popular sports for UK bettors, but they also tick a lot of boxes for matched betting; this is a guaranteed method of making money by placing lay bets on a betting exchange.
In terms of what is available, you have a lot of choices. Football is a sport that covers pretty much the whole world in the sense that if a league exists, you can bet on it through Smarkets. It's not just the competition coverage that is impressive, though. The array of bet types available is also profound. The genuinely elite end of football, such as the Premier League and other top European divisions, tend to offer 63 different markets ranging from how many corners will be taken in a game all the way up to who will win. This is a theme that continues across lesser profile leagues, too, although leagues in places like Africa might only offer 50 markets.
Horse racing follows a similar pattern. A glance down the side panel menu will tell you that you'll always have a race to wager on, although you might be forced to explore courses as far afield as Japan and Australia! The only thing that is lacking with respect to horse racing is a more extensive range of betting options. Most races offer a straight ‘to win' market with a secondary ‘to place' market, typically defined as a top-three finish. The ability to bet on who will win minus the favourite wouldn't go amiss.
Smarkets do offer markets for Esports. Unfortunately, they don't have an extensive range of betting options. In terms of games, you have a choice of three – CS:GO, League of Legends and Dota 2. There are at least several bet types available for them with betting on match outcome, handicaps and individual bets all opportunities. The downside to wagering on Esports through a betting exchange is the fact that you'll need to pair bets off against somebody else (as opposed to a bookie taking the risk) and, due to Esports being comparative small fry, it's one place where you could run into liquidity challenges.
If Esports is a market that could do with being fine-tuned, then the same cannot be said for the golf markets on offer. Take the Saudi International, for example; as of the time of writing, over £1.5m has been traded across 16 different markets. There will be no issue with matching bets here.
Smarkets provide access to all the courses covered by the PGA and European tours with a range of markets for bettors to wager on. The usual bet types like betting on the tournament winner are available along with selections like betting on a golfer to place in the top 5, 10 etc. Beyond that, Smarkets split the field, meaning you can also take a punt on the top X nationality. A lot of the money goes towards the higher level bets, but even as you move down the levels, you won't find liquidity a problem.
If you're unfamiliar with how a betting exchange operates, then it's plausible; you'd expect to find price boosts on Smarkets. Unfortunately, you won't. Having no price boosts isn't a failing on Smarkets part but merely a product of the platform they operate, i.e. a betting exchange.
If you consider what we spoke about earlier in respect of bookies odds being loaded with ‘margin', then you can explain how they can offer price boosts; it's a similar concept to seeing a promotion ran in a supermarket. They sell to you at a perceived strong price point but still make money out of your purchase. Price boosts are just a label, though. Ultimately, what the odds of a bet come back to is how much ‘value' they offer. That shouldn't be a turn off for you, though. The odds on offer in Smarkets will regularly outperform even the most significant price boosts. Why? Simple, low commission.
Other Betting Specials
It should be quite clear by this point that the world of sport is covered in great detail within the Smarkets Exchange. It's not the only markets they have available for bettors to wager on, though. You can also explore markets relating to television, politics and even current affairs, which includes betting on elements of the coronavirus lockdown, such as when pubs will open.
For most people, it's hardly likely to be the reason you join a betting exchange. However, it is a point of difference with Betfair. In our view, once you reach the size of Smarkets, more markets should just be seen as a bonus because, in theory, it should pull in more users and more money to the platform.
Cash Out and Bet Builder
The concept of ‘bet builders' is something that, like price boosts, exists within a sportsbook environment. You can imagine how bespoke those bets can become, and therefore finding the liquidity would create a problem. For that reason, bet builders aren't covered within Smarkets.
That said, you can still lay bets for multiples with the technique of laying off accumulators used regularly in matched betting. We appreciate its not the same thing but want to stress that Smarkets can be used for more than just simple, straightforward single bets.
Where cash out is concerned, Smarkets do offer this service. In fact, they even highlight it for you with green text appearing on the specific bets where you can ‘trade out'.
Live Sports Betting
The next stage of our Smarkets review is to look at how they tackle in-play betting. We've just touched on the fact you can cash out, which applies to pre-match and live events, so what else do Smarkets do well? The depth of markets (e.g. 50+ for football) we mentioned previously remain available in-play with obvious things changing such as ‘next goal'. Live streaming is a miss, but sports like football do come with smart engines that give you a flavour of how a match is progressing with quick view stats and summarised commentary.
The other notable comment to make in association with in-play betting is linked back to your pre-event bets. The standard approach would see a punter's bet cease when an event becomes in-play if another bettor had yet to match the odds on offer; Smarkets allow holding these bets open whilst in-play, giving a better chance of having your bet matched.
If you're only now learning about Smarkets for the first time, then their reputation as a global giant might not give you the confidence you need to take the plunge. Let us reassure you. Inside the UK, the Great British Gambling Commission holds their registration whilst their overseas trade falls under the Malta Gaming Authority.
Customer Service and Support
When it comes to the customer support of an online betting platform, what are you after? Really, it's something you never expect or never want to have to use. Sometimes though, you might have to. When those times occur, it's nice to know you're in good hands, so how do Smarkets stack up? The answer is quite well.
They have a varied FAQ section as the first port of call, but they're not afraid to cover every base. Whilst smaller companies like QuinnBet don't operate phone lines, Smarkets don't shy away from this method with their number listed clearly on their ‘contact us' page. It's far from your only option, though, with email addresses also listed. This isn't to confuse you; they are clearly labelled for specific queries. The most likely email address you'd use would be purely related to service issues, but other options include direct questions on security amongst other more bespoke queries.
Smarkets customer service team offers support via social media, live chat or post. Live chat is the holy grail of internet customer service, and Smarkets provide this functionality – for logged in users only – and it runs 24/7.
When opening your Smarkets account, you might not give too much thought to how they approach responsible gambling. After all, it's rarely something people think about until they need to.
They have a dedicated, responsible gambling section on their website. There are multiple sections laid out here, meaning you can easily navigate to the area you need assistance. What resources are available? Well, if you're concerned for someone else, there is a useful guide for spotting signs of problem gambling. The next phase offers plenty of reading around Smarkets' policies and references to third party support agencies.
Finally, you have a host of self-help tools you can use. There are guides designed to explain these to you. What can you do to help yourself? You can take a 13 question self-assessment, which poses multiple-choice questions to you. After completing this, you'll be advised whether you're deemed to have or be at risk of developing a gambling problem. Other tools that can help you control your gambling are deposit, staking and loss limitations, take break tools and self-exclusions.
Website User Experience
The website design from Smarkets is a thing of beauty; the first thing you'll pick up is the colour scheme. You have an off-black background complemented with flashes of mint green and bold white text that is easy to read; you can switch this to a ‘light' theme, but it's not nearly as smart. In terms of navigation, you'll be in for a cakewalk too. It's all effortless. The default view shows you the top markets; these obviously change depending on what events are taking place and whether they're in-play. A click on any specific event will drill you into a complete view; from here, you have a range of tabs organised in horizontal form across your screen that allows you to hone in on the markets you wish to explore.
Another charming part of the Smarkets site is the odds structure and reference to the cash wagered. With respect to the money that's been placed, you, the bettor, can immediately see how much has been traded on an event with the amount shown in a delicate yellow text. Also, on the cash invested, you can see a line graph (this can be toggled on or off in your settings) that shows you where bettors have placed their money over time. Then there is the odds format. The best prices for back and lay bets are shown in blue and green, respectively, along with a few less prominent prices on either side; when you select the odds of your choice, you're then able to tweak them using the plus or minus symbols to tailor to a price you want.
The other note is the main menu, which appears down the left-hand side. You can delve into whatever market you want with no difficulty at all.
So, we've touched on what a smart and professional feel the main website has. How does the mobile format stack up? The answer is pretty damn well. We could smoothly go into a full descriptive mode and touch on all the slight formatting differences compared to the desktop site; in truth, though, it's unnecessary. The two are really tightly connected. The only noteworthy change being the tweaks to the layout that can't be avoided with the downsize in screen size.
What is worth noting is the fact a mobile app is available on both Android and iOS devices. Like the aforementioned desktop and mobile sites, the app maintains the same uniformity.
Other Betting Options
Whilst, like our Paddy Power review found, a lot of bookmakers offer gambling options beyond the world of sports with extensions like casino games and bingo, you don't have that add on with Smarkets. They do, however, operate their own sportsbook, SBK. You can bet on this via the SBK app, and you can also read our SBK review.
From using both the betting exchange and the sportsbook, it is immediately apparent the two are linked. The critical difference is what we've detailed; one is a betting exchange whilst the other goes down the more traditional route. There is no reason why you couldn't use both. This is particularly true if you're someone who practices matched betting.