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Bookmakers vs Betting Exchanges – Which are better in 2019?

Bookmakers or betting exchanges – which are better in 2019? This is one of the most common questions we get asked and I can understand why.

Both bookmakers and betting exchanges offer some great advantages for bettors but if you had to choose between the two which would you go for?

If you’re stuck, this article will certainly help you make a decision. Here’s what you’ll find:

  • What is a betting exchange?
  • Differences between a bookmaker and exchange
  • Benefits of using bookmakers

Ready? Let’s get started.

What is a betting exchange?

If you’ve found this page, I’m assuming you know what a bookmaker is and how you use them. However, some of you may be new to betting exchanges.

Betting exchanges are similar to bookmakers in that they allow you to place bets online. However, there are several key differences that you need to consider before jumping in.

Betting exchanges work in a completely different way to traditional bookmakers as you’ll find out below.

Bookmaker vs betting exchange – Key differences

Here’s a list of the main differences between a bookmaker and a betting exchange:

  • You can only place bets online at an exchange
  • Punters bet against each other rather than against the bookmaker
  • You have access to the true market value odds
  • Punters can place both back and lay bets

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

Only online betting is available at an exchange

As I mentioned above, a betting exchange works differently to a traditional bookmaker. The exchange simply provides the technology to match punters with opposing views.

This model only works online meaning in-store betting is not possible at an exchange.

But in all honesty, the high-street betting sector is struggling a huge amount. As online platforms develop, more and more bettors are happy to place their wagers online meaning more betting stores are closing all the time.

Betting store closed sign

Therefore the lack of a high-street presence doesn’t affect the betting exchange business model.

Punters bet against each other rather than against the bookmaker

As I mentioned in the previous section, a betting exchange simply acts as the go-between. They provide the marketplace for bettors to meet. Therefore placing a bet at an exchange means you’re betting against another punter rather than against the bookmaker.

A traditional bookmaker would take your bet and lay it off at another company, usually a betting exchange.

This betting model is far more transparent and mitigates the concept of ‘the house always wins’.

Access to true market value odds

Odds are one of the most important aspects of any betting company and punters are always on the lookout for great value odds. Higher odds means more profit in the eyes of the bettor.

Here’s the thing, at a traditional bookmaker they build their profit margin into the odds, therefore, reducing the value a bettor receives.

Smarkets Golf betting odds

As an exchange simply charge a commission on players’ net winnings, they can offer the true market price. This means that for every winning bet, a punter will receive a greater profit.

Smarkets put some data together to show that a punter would be 32% more profitable using their platform over a typical bookmaker.

Both back and lay bets available

Betting exchanges are incredibly versatile platforms that allow for a wide range of betting options. Punters can not only place back bets but also place lay bets at a betting exchange. Something that is not possible at a traditional bookmaker.

What’s back and lay betting I hear you ask.

Back betting is your typical type of bet and this is what you’d place at a traditional bookmaker. A lay bet is the exact opposite of a back bet. You can bet on an outcome NOT to happen.

Overall, betting exchanges are a very popular betting model with an awesome amount of flexibility. But there are still things you can do at a bookmaker that aren’t possible at an exchange.

Benefits of betting with bookmakers

So we know what the benefits of betting with an exchange are but how about betting at a bookmaker? Here are just some of the benefits.

  • Access to promotions
  • Boosted odds

Access to promotions

In the bonus culture that the modern world of gambling is in, betting companies are constantly handing out promotions to new and existing customers.

Punters have come to expect generous free bets, boosted odds and other promotions on a regular basis. If they’re not available, they’re likely to look elsewhere.

Whilst you may receive a signup promotion with a betting exchange, the ongoing promotions are somewhat limited in comparison with a traditional bookmaker.

You can usually find free bets and other bonuses on large sporting events such as the Football World Cup etc.

Needless to say, there’s plenty of value in bookmaker promotions and it’s one of the main reasons bookies are still so popular.

Boosted odds

Similar to the previous point, boosted odds are one of the most popular promotions the bookmakers offer. To increase betting activity before a fixture the bookmaker may increase the odds for a certain market. Here’s a typical example from Coral.

Coral odds boost

This can greatly increase the amount of profit a bettor makes. Boosting odds is something that betting exchanges cannot do due to the nature of their model.

Popular betting exchanges and bookmakers

So now you know a little more about the differences between bookmakers and betting exchanges, let’s check out the most popular platforms and what they offer.

Popular betting exchanges

Betfair is the world’s largest exchange with over 4 million customers. They were the ones who founded the betting exchange model back in 1999.

However, in recent years they’ve come up against increased competition from the likes of Smarkets and Betdaq.

Each platform has its pros and cons and can be used for different reasons. However, these are my two favourite betting exchanges with a few key advantages.


  • High liquidity events especially on obscure markets
  • Largest range of betting markets available
  • Access to live streams


  • An industry-leading commission rate of 2%
  • Great for traders
  • Live betting charts available

Overall, using a mixture of both Smarkets and Betfair will certainly benefit your betting. Each platform complements each other meaning they work perfectly when used together.

Popular bookmakers

As you may know, there are hundreds of online bookmakers available for punters to register with. There are so many it becomes difficult to decide on which are the best bookmakers to open an account with in 2019.

However, as with anything, several bookmakers stand out from the crowd.

Here’s a list of three of the most popular bookmakers.


Being the UK’s largest bookmaker with over 30 million users, Bet365 are certainly one of the most popular betting companies in the industry.

They offer generous promotions and they have a huge range of markets available that covers pretty much every category. If Bet365 don’t have a market you’re after, no one will.

Bet365 also has one of the leading live stream services in the industry. Whether it’s a horse race that’s not covered on TV or it’s a Premier League clash, you can be sure to find a stream at Bet365.


Having been around since the early days of betting, Coral must be doing something right. What’s so impressive is that Coral successfully navigated its way into the digital world despite fierce competition from online giants like Bet365. It sounds easy but trust me, that’s no easy feat.

Coral offer some brilliant promotions to both new and existing customers meaning there’s plenty of value if you register a new account with Coral.


Another high-street bookmaker that’s overcome the challenges posed by online betting companies. Ladbrokes is another one of the most popular bookmakers in the industry.

Bookmakers or betting exchanges?

So back to the main question of this article, which is better bookmakers or betting exchanges?

As you can see, each betting model has it’s own pros and cons and it can be very subjective as to which model you prefer. It will usually come down to what you use your betting for.

I like to use a mixture of both bookmakers and betting exchanges. However, if I had to pick just one, I’d go with a betting exchange.

They are far more flexible especially if you’re looking to make money with betting methods such as matched betting.

Which model do you prefer to use, bookmakers or betting exchanges? Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.