It’s not only in South Africa that viewers are glued to their screens as the murder trial against Paralympics gold medallist, Oscar Pistorius is played out in Pretoria. But amidst the high tension and intense questioning of witnesses, another controversy has generated from the Pistorius trial – as far off as the United Kingdom. The Irish sports betting firm, Paddy Power opened betting markets on the outcome of trial, offering “money off if he walks” to punters. Members of the UK public were up in arms over an advertising campaign run in the British media, inviting gambling fans to bet on the Pistorius trial, with the Advertising Standards Authority saying that it was the most complained-about ad in the country’s history.
The complaints were fueled by an online petition thaa objected to the sports betting group’s ad, which offered a refund on all losing bets should Oscar Pistorius be found not guilty of murdering his late model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The public took offence to the fact that the gambling group seemed to make light of the murder trial and the tragic death of Steenkamp, including the tongue-in-cheek use of Pistorius’ face on an Oscar statue.
The advertising authority took the unusual step of demanding that the ad be removed straight away, even before the complaints were examined, considering that over 5,500 complaints were received.
“We acknowledged that the ad had appeared in the context of a high profile murder trial that had received extensive media coverage and was of interest to the public,” said ASA in a statement.
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“We considered it would therefore have been reasonable to foresee that serious or widespread offence was likely to be caused by placing an ad that sought commercial advantage based on that trial and which made light of the sensitive issues involved.
“Given the content of the ad, and the prevailing circumstances at the time of its publication, we concluded that it brought advertising into disrepute.”
South African betting sites have not opened any markets on the Pistorius trial, although if any did, it is believed that local authorities would order them be removed as soon as possible. UK advertising rules state that any marketing referring to a dead person needs to be handled with care, and it was felt that the use of Steenkamp’s death to trigger betting markets was insensitive and callous.