California horse betting will be getting a major face lift in May 2012 when exchange betting is introduced. The system will be implemented by UK sports book Betfair, the company that pioneered exchange betting concepts.

What is Exchange Betting?

Exchange betting is operates more like stock exchanges and futures markets than traditional sportsbooks. Bettors can bet for, or against, a specific horse at any time during the race using ever-changing real-time odds. The losing bets pay for the winning bets and the track gets a commission on each bet. Bets that go unmatched are returned to the bettor. That’s a big change from the current pool system where all the money bet on a specific horse goes in to a pot that’s divvied up by the winners.

This system is very different from other forms of betting and may involve a bit of learning curve for longtime bettors, but that’s part of its appeal. Proponents of the new model are hoping that it makes horse betting more appealing to younger players. According to a recent article on, 80 percent of BetFair’s current users are than 50, as opposed to traditional pool bettors, 80 percent of whom are older than 50.

BetFair Wins Big

California exchange betting is a big win for BetFair, which has been in the exchange business since 1999. They’ve already got over 3 million users on their website, which includes horse racing and other sports. But this isn’t the company’s first foray into horse racing. In 2009 they purchased TVG, a horse racing website and TV network that operates legally in the U.S.

The company expects to employ around 100 tech workers to work on the project at its San Francisco offices.

The Bigger Picture

Horse racing aficionados should expect to hear a lot more about exchange betting in the months and years ahead. Officials at tracks like Churchill Downs in Kentucky have expressed interest in implementing the system, as have tracks in New Jersey.

Exchange betting is also seen by many as a sort of gateway towards some form of legalized sports betting in the United States and BetFair has made no secret of their desire to see that goal realized. Whether the Federal government will view exchange betting as an alternative to traditional betting for anything besides horse racing remains to be seen.

Do you think Exchange Betting will take off in the United States? Let us know in our Online Gambling Laws and Regulations Forum.

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