Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Betfair Sportsbook

A great post on the Betfair Forum from a Frog2 on Betfair's evolution and its new, rather soft, Sportsbook:
I think its fair to say that the current fixed odds website is very very poor. It is characterised by terrible prices and terrible limits. It has joined the current fad of being a soft bookie - i.e. refusing bets to anyone who has a clue. In short it is a pathetic offering and if it was launched without the Betfair name it would not last five minutes.
Betfair is struggling to find its identity. In the early years it was all about 'winners welcome', 'sharp minds betfair'. When they took over Flutter they stressed that the merged markets would mean more liquidity and thus higher limits for customers. They developed the technology to match more bets that than all the European exchanges put together.

Then what did they do? They started looking for soft targets. They branched out into games and poker. At the time it was all still person to person. I remember one of the founders telling me they were not being greedy and they were sticking to their p2p principles. Then came the casino. The p2p games were replaced by ones run by Betfair themselves. The crossmatcher came in - to this day I still dont know if it gets to beat the clock inrunning to match bets.
This was still not enough. They have since walked further from the starting point. They introduced the Premium Charge. Uproar at 20%. But really this would only affect traders, cheats and extremely good position gamblers. Then it went up to 40% and 60%. Now 40% gets all good big players. Arbers - gone. Decent position gamblers who have a long term return of over 3% on stakes - gone or slowly moving. The consequences of the Premium Charge are huge.
Then there are the data charges and bet placement charges. Great in theory. But a 1000 bets an hour max? Try pricing up and adjusting books for 30 races or football matches a day (with all their secondary markets) with that. You cannot. So early markets are no more.
So what started as the perfect limit order book market has evolved into a monster. It has not been helped by the lack of regulation by Betfair itself. Instead of the Premium Charge why did they not look to level the playing field? Encourage people to leave offers up rather than take them with commission rebates. Get rid of obviously unfair markets like inplay horses until real time streams are available. Not allow connections to bet on here. The list is endless.
Betfair could have hired someone who has experience of running a real exchange to run the company. Prices and policies and new markets would have been completely different. Maybe LMAX would not have failed if this was the case. But we now have an out and out industry man at the helm hired out of another soft bookie. So what can we expect going forward?
I would have liked to have seen a lot more thought going into the sportsbook. There are some bookmakers that do actually take bets and offer sharp lines using a proper dealer market. If Betfair had gone down that route I could see the point of it. If they could have offered decent prices to a fixed amount to everyone and adjust the lines if they believe a sharp has just placed a bet they could have had a winning product. The UK is crying out for this. Surely a crack trading team is capable of building the software to do this.

A rubbish sportsbook is a bad fit for the exchange. They need a fair limit decent price one. Lower margin yes but much much higher volume.

2 comments:

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Mimi Hazartnata said...

Well they are improving I should say, and at least the odds aren't so bad