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Outrage at Irish bookies' money-back offer on Pistorius

South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius (L), accused of murdering his girlfriend, talks to his uncle Arnold Pistorius (R) on the second day of his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, on March 4, 2014. AFP PHOTO / POOL / KIM LUDBROOK

LONDON: More than 100,000 people had signed a petition on Tuesday against an "offensive" advert by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power offering to refund losing 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 killing 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.

By midday Tuesday, 105,000 people had signed an online petition demanding the bookmaker take no further bets on the trial.

The petition on the change.org website 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 Britain's Advertising Standards Agency watchdog told AFP it had received 46 complaints about the advert and was looking into whether there were grounds for an investigation.

Paddy Power was unrepentant, however.

A spokeswoman told AFP: "We don't plan to pull our betting or advertising. There's nothing new about betting on the outcome of the most high profile court cases -- and they don't come any more high profile than this.

"Given the rolling coverage of this trial, pretty much everyone will be talking about it and speculating on the verdict. Much like an opinion poll, our odds are a reflection of that interest."

 

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