BOOKMAKER Paddy Power has been ordered by the advertising watchdog to withdraw an advert offering gamblers a refund if Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius is acquitted of murder.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said in a statement: “We have today ordered that a national press ad for the bookmaker, Paddy Power be withdrawn with immediate effect.
“On the back of an unprecedented number of complaints, we are investigating whether the ad is offensive for trivialising the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman and disability; we are also challenging whether, in doing so, it brings the good reputation of advertising generally into dispute.”
Earlier, the agency said it was “fast-tracking a formal investigation” following 46 complaints about the ad which offers “money back if he walks”.
The advert features a photograph of Pistorius mocked up as an Academy Award statuette.
It states: “It’s Oscar Time. Money Back If He Walks. We will refund all losing bets on the Oscar Pistorius trial if he is found not guilty.”
The ASA’s decision comes as a change.org online petition demanding that Paddy Power “please remove your offensive betting on the outcome of the Oscar Pistorius trial and donate any profits so far to a women’s charity fighting violence against women” drew more than 120,000 supporters.
The ad coincided with the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles and the first day of Pistorius’ trial in South Africa, where he formally pleaded not guilty to four charges including the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.
Prosecutors allege Pistorius, 27, shot his model and reality TV star girlfriend through the bathroom door at his home on Valentines’ Day in 2013. Pistorius claims he mistook her for an intruder.
Holly Dustin, director of End Violence Against Women, said: “They are making a game out of murder and the brutal killing of a young woman, which is unacceptable.
“It is not just that this is a bit sick - it also actually contributes to a culture in which violence against women is trivialised or made into a bit of a joke.
“This is a really serious problem. It is recognised as a human rights issue both here in the UK and in South Africa. It is totally unacceptable. They should withdraw the ad.”
A Paddy Power spokeswoman said: “We stand by our decision to run this betting market and publicise it to punters.”
Protesters from across the globe who have signed the petition condemned the bet as “reprehensible” and “shameless behaviour”.
Others declared that Paddy Power had gone “too far this time, too far” and that the “death of a woman should not be used as a publicity stunt. A new disgusting low for the UK”.
The petition is addressed to Paddy Power’s chief executive Patrick Kennedy.
It states: “Please consider the vast surge of public outrage against the terrible decision you have taken to offer bets upon the outcome of the Oscar Pistorius trial.
“[Reeva Steenkamp’s] death is not and should never be a source of entertainment or profit.
“I have seen your attempt to explain the decision and it is unacceptable. 138 women died in the UK last year as a result of male violence against women.
“This is not something that should be seen as ‘sport’. In order to salvage the situation it would be an act of reparation and humanity to donate any profits to relevant women’s charities working in the area of domestic violence and abuse.”