London - Almost 100 000 people had signed a petition on Tuesday against an “offensive” advert by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power offering to refund bets made on a guilty verdict in the Oscar Pistorius trial if he walks free.
The ad shows an Oscar statuette with the face of the South African Paralympic athlete and the words: “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.”
No stranger to publicity stunts, Paddy Power timed the ad to coincide with Sunday's Academy Awards and the start of Pistorius' murder trial in Pretoria on Monday. He is accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day last year.
Campaigners against domestic violence have condemned the ad, which appeared in the Irish and British press, and more than 97 000 people have signed an online petition demanding the bookmaker take no further bets on the trial.
The petition on change.org says: “The brutal death of a woman at the hands of her partner is not 'sport' or 'entertainment' and promoting the opportunity to make money from it is a vile and offensive act which anyone with a sense of human dignity and respect for human life must reject.”
A spokesman for the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), Britain's advertising watchdog, told AFP it had received 46 complaints about the advert.
“We are currently assessing the complaints to establish whether there are grounds for investigation,” he said.
Paddy Power did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the controversy.
In a blog posted when the ad was published, the firm said: “If you bet on Pistorius being jailed (7/4) and he is sent down, you've seen justice done.
“Bet on him going down but he walks free, then you get your money back amidst what's sure to be an international howl of news about 'injustice'.”