If Smarkets were the first or only betting exchange out there, they’d have every reason to be extremely proud of their idea and product as an excellent alternative to the traditional sportsbook.
The problem is, they’re not.
In a market where rival Betfair has a virtual monopoly on betting exchanges, it’s hard to see where exactly Smarkets is better than them, including in the most important aspect of all: liquidity.
Meaning the question isn’t so much: why open an account at Smarkets? Rather, it’s: why not open an account at Betfair, instead?
That said, Betfair do have an eight-year head-start on them and Smarkets have made good progress since starting out in 2008, claiming to have almost 200,000 active users on the site and winning numerous awards as one of the fastest-growing companies in Europe.
Such things as more live streaming and a few more offers may help them get more customers on board, which will obviously help them solve their liquidity issues.
But even before dealing with that, they need to address how they go about verifying customers and handling their KYC checks.
At the moment, asking them to jump through endless hoops, requesting excessive amounts of documentation and asking customers numerous personal questions is doing them no favours at all. Let’s hope they can improve in that regard.
Smarkets started out in 2008 with the aim of disrupting the betting exchange industry. Or to put it another way: challenge Betfair’s stranglehold on the market.
That was followed by the launching of a sportsbook, available only as an app, meaning they’re now going to war with two separate products.
They have offices in London, Malta and more recently Los Angeles as they now look into breaking into the wide-open US betting market.
They hold the UK and Malta Gambling licenses.
Let’s get this Smarkets review underway by looking at the Smarkets sign-up offer.
The sign-up offer sees new customers get 60 days of paying no commission on winning bets here.
When using the Smarkets betting exchange, customers pay a flat 2% commission on winning bets.
So, if you placed a £100 bet at odds of 2.0 and it won, you will have won £100. But your account would only be credited with £98 (plus your stake, of course) because Smarkets would keep £2 of that (2%) for providing their services.
Thanks to the welcome offer, customers have 60 days where any winning bets are commission-free. So, depending on the amounts they win in that period, they could potentially be saving themselves dozens, or even hundreds, of pounds.
Smarkets promotions are extremely rare.
So much so that at the time we wrote this Smarkets review, there were no ongoing offers at all to speak of.
The best we found was one that ran between February and March 2023 rewarding the first 50 customers who filled in a survey about their experience at Smarkets with a £10 credit in their accounts.
There was a similar offer that ran in the summer of 2022 where customers who completed a survey had their names put into a hat and 50 winners chosen at random won an Amazon Voucher worth £50.
So, these are ‘initiatives’ they run from time to time as a relatively cheap and easy way of getting customer feedback in exchange for potential rewards.
But they’re not exactly what we’d call ‘offers’ or ‘promotions’ because they’re dependent on customers completing a survey rather than doing something related to their betting account. Or being rewarded for previous betting activities.
If they want to keep customers coming back for more, we’d suggest they come up with something that gives customers something back in some shape or form.
In this section we normally consider all the different sports you can wager on here in terms of the number of markets offered, the odds and variety of events.
Plus, any particular features that specific sport has. Such as Odds Boosts or Bet Builders, or just any other positive aspects of that sport on that site.
But that’s the methodology we use for Sportsbooks rather than Exchanges, which obviously work in a completely different way. Instead, here’s a more general look at the customer experience you can expect at some of the main sports in general.
Before we look at them, this is as good a time as any to talk about liquidity.
When betting at a Sportsbook, there is no such thing as liquidity.
The bookmaker offers a price on something, the price is non-negotiable (you either take it or leave it) and then it’s just a case of what’s the maximum bet they allow you to place.
On betting exchanges, liquidity is everything.
Liquidity is the amount of money ‘waiting’ to be matched on a particular market. The more customers that are actively wanting to play a market by leaving odds up and the more money that’s waiting to be matched, the more liquidity there is in the market.
The more liquidity, the better the odds on offer, whether you’re looking to back a bet (betting something will happen) or lay it (betting something won’t happen).
In summary: a betting exchange as a whole, or an individual betting market, is only as good as the liquidity available in it.
Markets with good liquidity allow customers to get fair odds on whatever they want to bet on and allows them to place bets for decent amounts of money.
Markets with poor liquidity don’t and that means customers are forced to take poor prices or will choose to not bet at all. So that’s why liquidity is so important.
If it’s betting on matches from all over the world that you want, you’re going to find them here. In terms of the sheer number of leagues they cover, they can easily compete with the major sportsbooks and the best of the betting exchanges, Betfair.
They cover all the major betting markets, including: match winner, over/under goals, correct score, both teams to score, anytime goal scorer and the different players to be carded.
The good news is that the biggest matches like those from Premier League or Champions League have plenty of liquidity.
For example, in Brighton v Manchester City in late May 2023, you could back City at 1.85 and lay them at 1.87, which means they’re almost a ‘perfect’ market.
Or back the draw at 4.4 and lay it at 4.6. At the time we looked, you could back or lay any of the three outcomes for between £300 and £1000, which is pretty decent.
The bad news is that the side markets don’t have anywhere near those levels of liquidity, meaning you’re offered poor-value bets and in some cases, may only be able to get a couple of quid on anyway.
The same is also true of less high-profile leagues where on occasion customers may be offered far wore prices than they’d get at your average sportsbook, which somewhat defies the purpose of a betting exchange.
As with football, there’s racing from all over the world including: the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and Japan
But unlike football, the liquidity isn’t necessarily there even for the biggest daily UK races.
Often there would be a gap between the back price (e.g., 5.6) and the lay price (5.9), a tell-tale sign of liquidity being ok, but not great. Worse still, in some cases you could only place bets for £2-£5 even on the favourites.
So punters with deeper pockets would either have to take shorter prices, or place their bets up and just hope they eventually get matched at those prices.
Live streaming is available on all UK races.
Unlike some other exchanges who offer 5-6 markets on each race, including each-way betting, they only offer two: to win, and to place.
There’s decent liquidity for the likes of tennis, cricket and basketball for the more high-profile leagues but like with football, the side markets struggle for action, as do less high-profile matches.
They have a decent number of markets for ‘specials’ such as who will be the next James Bond, or who will host the next Football World Cup.
But where they do considerably better is as regards politics markets, where there are lots of interesting markets covering UK and US politics in particular, and with decent liquidity on them.
So how are the Smarkets betting odds?
Well, that’s pretty much exactly what we’ve been discussing when talking about liquidity.
When it comes to high-profile events like a big Premier League or IPL match, you’re likely to get slightly higher odds than you would at a (fixed odds) Sportsbook. When it comes to lower-profile events, the lack of liquidity means very often the prices on offer (to back) will be shorter than with your average sportsbook.
When you consider that you have to pay 2% commission on any wins on top of that and you can see you’re not getting a good deal in those circumstances.
So, it really is a case of assessing each market individually and seeing whether you’re better off using Smarkets or a sportsbook for a particular bet.
Lastly, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room: Betfair. The site that sets the standard when it comes to betting exchanges.
Having looked at numerous markets across different sports, we didn’t find a single example of Smarkets having higher odds, or you being able to place bigger bets, in comparison to Betfair.
Now is the time in this Smarkets betting review where we look at the features they have that bring something extra to the table.
All the odds on offer on any market are also displayed as implied probability, or converted into a percentage that reflects a runner’s chances of winning, if you prefer.
For example, a 1.43% chance has implied probability of 69.93%.
For those who prefer to visualise bets as implied probability rather than odds, it’s a useful feature.
This is especially true when it comes to customers who aren’t the more experienced bettors.
If they’re interested in such things as the winner of a Reality TV show or who will win an election, it may make more sense to them to see runners displayed as percentages, rather than betting odds.
Another interesting feature are the graphics that show you the evolution of the odds on something to win over time.
For example, when looking at the odds of Manchester City winning the 2022-2023 Champions League, you can see what their implied probability was when it started in August, all the way to the final the next May.
In those circumstances it’s not going to help you that much; it’s mostly just a case of being something interesting to consider.
But when it comes to something like a horserace, the evolution of a horse’s odds over time are of great importance to the more experienced punter. So it’s actually a useful tool that can help you make better betting decisions.
The Smarkets betting app is available on both Android and iOS. That said, customers can choose to just use the mobile web browser as well, if they prefer.
For more info on downloading betting apps, visit our mobile betting app page.
Their app is actually pretty good, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given they’re a very tech-focused betting site.
They don’t have nearly as many FAQS available to check as some other sites. But to be fair to them, the ones they do have are very clear, concise and often accompanied by pictures or screenshots to make them even easier to understand.
Crucially, a lot of them are specifically about betting exchanges and the unique characteristics of them, rather than sports betting in general.
For example, how to use Trade Out, which is the betting exchange equivalent of Cash Out in sportsbook betting. Or how to avoid your bet being partially matched when it’s not fully matched.
They do also have more general questions though, such as how to download the app or what happens when the site is unavailable for some reason.
In terms of (human) Customer Support, you can reach them on e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), Live Chat (need to be logged in) or via Twitter.
It’s not totally obvious whether they have a phone line for queries or not. If they do, it doesn’t appear to be listed on the Contact Us section.
Unfortunately, Smarkets have gained a reputation for not making your life at all easy when it comes to deposits and withdrawals.
Not only do they request endless documents as proof of identity, far more than just about any other betting site, but they also have a habit of making endless requests for other things, such as proof of earnings. Not many bookies ask for those.
Much less do they ask for financial documents belonging to FRIENDS of a customer (see Smarkets in the Media section, below)!
We’re well aware that all customers have to pass KYC checks with a betting site as part of their gambling license. But you’d think that the betting site would try as hard as possible to help you provide what they need, rather than waste time and keep asking for additional documents.
What’s even more odd is that they make depositing just as hard as withdrawing. You’re not going to have too many customers adding that all-important liquidity to your markets and paying a commission on wins if they don’t have any money to play with, are you?
Anyway, here are the payment methods you can use to get your money in and out with expected waiting times for the latter. The withdrawal times are what they advertise on their site but as we’ve just mentioned, it could potentially take considerably longer in some circumstances.
|Method||Minimum deposit||Deposit Time||Minimum withdrawal||Withdrawal Time|
|VISA/Maestro||£10||Instant||£10||1-6 business days.|
|Mastercard||£10||Instant||£10||1-6 business days.|
|Neteller||£10||A few minutes.||£10||1-2 business days,|
|Skrill||£10||A few minutes.||£10||1-2 business days.|
|Bank Transfer||£10||5-10 business days.||£20||5-10 business days.|
|Trustly||£40||A few minutes.||£40||1-2 business days.|
|Instant Bank Transfer||£10||Instant.||£10||1-12 hours.|
Punter loses patience with intrusive questions
Poker player, high-stakes gambler and part-time bookmaker Joe Beevers closed his account at Smarkets after being asked for two friends to whom he had lent money, to provide their financial data to Smarkets. Even though they weren’t even customers there.
Beevers considered the request intrusive, refused it and duly closed his account with them, admitting that actually withdrawing his money was just about the only easy part of the process.
PA betting services have already been providing racing data to the exchange for over a decade and have renewed their agreement in a multi-year deal.
“We are delighted to be partnering once again with such a well-respected data provider. Continuing to work with PA Betting Services was the obvious choice, especially when it comes to racing content.” said Smarkets Marketing Director Adam Baylis.
Not quite. They’re both owned by the same company, but the former is the betting exchange side of things, while the latter is the (fixed odds) sportsbook part of the business, available only as an app. Customers need to open separate accounts in order to use each of them.
Their original office was in St Katherine Docks, London, and they since opened a second office in St Julian’s, Malta, before then having a third one in Los Angeles, USA.
It was founded by Jason Trost and Hunter Morris, both alumni of Northwestern University. Trost is currently the CEO, Morris is the CTO.