LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A controversial advertising campaign that offers punters their money back if South African athlete Oscar Pistorius is acquitted of the murder of his girlfriend will be investigated by Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Irish betting firm Paddy Power sparked outrage with the advert, launched on Sunday, which shows the head of Pistorius superimposed on a statue of an Oscar award. The ad states, "It's Oscar Time. Money back if he walks. We will refund all losing bets on the Oscar Pistorius trial if he is not found guilty."
The ASA said on Tuesday it would launch an investigation after it had received 46 complaints in two days about the advert, which has been criticised for being in bad taste for encouraging punters to make money off the death of Pistorius' partner Reeva Steenkamp.
An online petition urging Paddy Power to withdraw the bet has already attracted nearly 119,000 signatures.
"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," petitioner Jean Hatchet wrote. "138 women died in the UK alone as a result of male violence in 2013. This type of random carelessness for the lives of women by Paddy Power is an affront to those women and their families."
Women's rights groups and politicians have also condemned the bet. Yvette Cooper, the opposition Labour Party's shadow home secretary, tweeted that it was "sick and shameful" to run bets on the trial.
On its website, Paddy Power encouraged "savvy punters" to take a "courtroom flutter", adding "who can tell at this point what will unfold? But one thing's for sure, trial verdicts don't come much bigger than this."
Paddy Power, which is based in Ireland but is regulated in the UK, said it had no intention of withdrawing the bet.
"We are not planning to take down our betting on the Pistorius trial verdict," a spokesperson told CNN. "We have a long history of offering odds on major global news events and the Oscar Pistorius trial is no different.”
Olympian and Paralympian Pistorius pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of murdering Steenkamp, a law graduate and model, in his suburban Pretoria home on Valentine's Day last year. Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp through a toilet door after mistaking her for an intruder.