Smarkets operate a low commission betting exchange with a variety of markets catered for including horse racing, football, tennis & political bets.
This interview is part of our quest to seek out more genuine bookmaking alternatives for UK punters impacted by the withdrawal of Pinnacle Sports & SBObet from the UK market.
In fact, whether or not you are a UK based punter or not, there is every chance that Smarkets might well be of interest to you, especially given the wide range of sports they cover.
To find out more on what they offer, Chris over at Smarkets was kind enough to answer a variety of questions, including a number put forward by some of you via the SBC Twitter account.
All new Smarkets accounts are also eligible for a £10 welcome bonus as long as you deposit at least £20 with them initially.
So without further ado, here is our interview with Smarkets…
SBC: For those unaware of your service, can you briefly introduce Smarkets and what you can offer punters?
Smarkets: Smarkets is a sports-betting exchange that has been operating since 2010. Across the industry odds are bad value and operator margins are too high. We want to change that, and bring the efficiency and transparency of financial markets to the betting industry.
Already with Smarkets you have access to liquid markets on all major sports, including football, tennis and horse racing, with an industry-low commission of 2% on winnings only. Our longer term aim is to be the cheapest, leanest and slickest betting experience on the web. We want people who care about price, liquidity and technology to see Smarkets as their go-to exchange.
SBC: Many punters are now looking for alternatives to the likes of Pinnacle Sports & SBOBet who have recently left the UK market due to the new gambling and licensing act. Can you make a definite statement that you have no plans to leave the UK market?
Smarkets: Sure – we are not leaving the UK. The UK is very much our core market. We have registered with the Gambling Commission in the UK, who will be issuing continuation licences in the next month, so we will be able to continue to accept customers from here.
SBC: Mindful of this, how does this new Gambling Act impact you as a business if at all?
Smarkets: If anything this is an opportunity for us. We won’t experience any significant extra costs and the shakeup of the UK betting industry can only be a positive occurrence as we obtain a UK license and fill the vacuum from other companies leaving.
SBC: The new tax has knocked out plenty of your competitors for the time being at least. What would you say to those people looking for an alternative place to bet and considering Smarkets?
Smarkets: We’d say to them that if you are a savvy trader that cares about value, odds and liquidity, Smarkets is the place to trade. Our markets are liquid and offer some of the best odds out there. Our commission is a simple, no catches, no small-print, 2% on net winnings, with no charges for volume. As a result you win more with Smarkets than almost any other operator. If you’re not convinced and just want to try us out without committing, we also offer a £10 sign-up bonus, which will refund any losing bets back to you.
SBC: What are your current fees and commission rates and will these be changing in the future, especially in regards to the new point of consumption tax?
Smarkets: We charge a flat 2% commission on net winnings. You can trade as much as you like and in and out of a market without incurring any charges – only your net winnings will be charged. With no charges on betting volume we believe that makes our commission the best value out there.
The UK point of consumption tax won’t impact that. We’re one of the leanest operators around, with a smart core development team and low overheads. This means we can absorb the taxes better than most other companies. Our outlook, that margins in the industry remain too high and need challenging, is not going to change.
SBC: In terms of the markets you offer, how does the liquidity and the amount of money available to back and lay stand up on key sports such as football and horse racing?
Smarkets: We calculate volume in a market by adding up how much has been risked. Volume traded can be larger elsewhere though this does not impact the liquidity available. In the context of horse racing I’ve found our liquidity to be at the same level as our competitors. If a trader wants to place a very large bet then he should have no problem getting matched with us if the market is also liquid elsewhere.
SBC: How do you calculate how much money is traded (i.e. the liquidity?) I ask as when I compare a horse racing market available on Betfair with Smarkets, there does seem to be a much greater volume of money matched on Betfair.
Smarkets: The volume traded at other exchanges can be significantly more though it is also worth considering that all exchanges use different formulas for measuring this. Whilst volume traded may be larger elsewhere this does not impact the liquidity available. In the context of horse racing I’ve found our liquidity to be at the same level as our competitors. If a trader wants to place a very large bet then he should have no problem getting matched with us if the market is also liquid elsewhere.
SBC: When trying to place several bets quickly, I found your website navigation a little clunky and hard to move between markets easily. Your sub-menus appear in the main window, rather than underneath the parent section. Have you any plans to change this or improve the flow between markets for users?
Smarkets: We do get a lot of comments about this and we will be working on updating this soon. In the meantime, the search bar should offer a quick way to switch between markets.
SBC: Do you have plans to introduce a price and volume of money history (including a graph) for any bet you offer, similar to that available on the likes of Betfair?
Smarkets: Yes, adding richer and more detailed trading data is on the roadmap. We already publish trading volume stats and we’ll be looking to add to this to ensure transparency.
SBC: What odds comparison (if any) websites do you appear on?
Smarkets: We have a public odds feed available and those sites currently publishing it include Odds Monkey, Best Betting, BetBrain, BetOnValue, OddsOddsOdds, amongst many others.
SBC: Via our twitter account – @SunnyRanmal wanted us to ask if you were looking to address the amount of downtime and unreliability that your IT systems experience?
Smarkets: We recognise that downtime has been an issue in the past – given we care so much about technology it’s something we’re a little embarrassed about. Part of the problem we face is that as we grow we experience new technological challenges related to the overall load on the site – to give an idea as to the scale of that problem, since January our active user base has tripled, while at the same time you find increasing numbers of scrapers and other heavy load users. We’ve expanded our engineering team to help us meet this demand.
That said, we’ve made some big changes recently that have improved downtime statistics – as we write this, we are currently running at 99.9863% uptime over the last 30 days. That’s largely come from some infrastructure changes we’ve made. We’re continuing to make changes in the coming weeks which will allow us to quickly scale up to meet demand during peak times. We are also focusing at present on improving site performance and responsiveness, especially during busy periods.
SBC: Also on twitter – @CrazedAlchemist asked how long it will be before you introduce a mobile/tablet app for use with Smarkets?
Smarkets: We already offer some mobile functionality at m.smarkets.com. This is suitable for any smart phone and offers most of the features of the exchange but on your phone. Alongside this we released a Smarkets app for android last year. We will also be developing a dedicated app for iOS, which we plan to do within the next 12 months.
SBC: @Levelstakes also wanted to know how secure the money deposited with you is and whether it was ringfenced?
Smarkets: Yes, player funds are segregated from our company funds and held in separate accounts with regulated financial institutions in the European Union. The Malta LGA and since May 2014, the UK Gambling Commission have both required a high level of protection and reporting of player funds. This reduces the chances of players losing out in the event of insolvency. We’re also currently a well-funded business with low costs and with investment from leading European venture-capital funds, including Deutsche Telekom. Also, with Smarkets parent company being in the UK, our shareholders are public record.
SBC: Finally, do you have any other developments or upcoming improvements to the Smarkets service you can tell us about?
Smarkets: Over the next 6 months most of the changes to the site will be behind the scenes – we want to make the trading experience ever-faster and more responsive. This is the key to attracting liquidity from serious traders. As well as that, we’ve mentioned some of the other stuff we’ll be working on – interface improvements, more data, native iOS app.
If any of your readers have any more questions or want to learn more about us, they are welcome to contact us directly via the live chat on the exchange itself or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can like us on facebook and follow our twitter accounts @Smarkets and for tech related tweets @SmarketsTech. Traders are also very welcome to drop by our offices in London for one of our open-house events. We will be holding another one before the end of the year and details will be released via twitter and our blog.
Our thanks go to Smarkets for taking the time to answer these questions.
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