For a few weeks now a number of reports have been circulating about Betfair's move into offering traditional fixed odds betting (FOB) - ie a 'regular' sportsbook setup rather than an exchange where one player takes bets from another). The latest news (by The Telegraph in the UK) is that the 'Betfair Sportsbook' should be online in time for the start of Euro 2012 (June 8th 2012), so very close indeed. Definitely worth reading the article to see what's in store.
At a quick read of the article it sounds as though existing Betfair users will automatically have access to the FOB offerings - via a 'toggle' switch accessed in the Betfair interface. So maybe no new SUB offers for existing customers... But who knows, hopefully there will be a few promos on the go through Euro 2012 to incentivise existing exchange users to at least try out the new FOB setup.
EDIT: DOH! Actually the Fixed odds are already available as I type this - if you go to the Beta site and view one of the Euro 2012 games, you can see the 'Fixed Odds' toggle - try this match for example:
Poland vs Greece
You should see a 'Fixed Odds' toggle button near the top of the page.
Scary overrounds in action there... really hope you don't have to pay commission on top of those prices?! Quite curious that they say 'Better odds may be on the Exchange' when you toggle on the fixed odds prices - perhaps there could be occasions then when the Fixed Odds are actually better value than Exchange odds...
Carry on reading for more ramblings and ruminations...
The first rumours that Betfair might move into a more traditional sportsbook setup came to light (for me anyway) back when Australia decided to clamp down on Betfair's exchange offering in New South Wales over the last few months. Essentially they decided to change the way in which gaming operators pay tax in such a way that Betfair would have to pay an arm and a leg to continue operating.
Partly as a result of this - but also because of the difficulties that they continuously experience globally in establishing their exchange product in other territories - Betfair are now branching out to offer a more traditional sportsbook offering. This gives them various 'vertical' advantages in establishing a presence in areas that would normally not be available to them, and no doubt perhaps they hope will put them in a better position to eventually get their exchange offering set up as well.
This isn't how Betfair have framed the move - in a quote, Nick Hagen (Betfair's sports ops director) says:
We know from our own research that we lose 30pc of our customers’ sports betting wallet to the competition. Why should customers have to go elsewhere and why would we willingly let this large chunk of business walk out the door?
Another question that springs to mind from reading the article on the Telegraph site is to what extent the exchange product will change as a result of the new FOB setup? The article says that they intend to use the OpenBet backend system (used at many major operators like WH, PP, etc) to integrate the FOB system into the existing exchange so that you can 'toggle' easily between the two systems. But does that mean that Betfair will end up affecting the exchange market prices in the process if they manipulate the exchange markets to hedge their FOB liabilities? Again only time will tell, probably won't be too noticeable.
Interesting times ahead then.