A Paddy Power ad ahead in the UK of Floyd Mayweather's bout with Conor McGregor urging readers to "Always Bet on Black" has been banned for the likelihood of it causing serious offence.
The August ad, which appeared in the Evening Standard and Metro newspapers, featured the headline alongside an image of Mayweather, and went to to read: "We've paid out early on a Mayweather victory because we've checked, and only one of them is a boxer."
Nine readers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the headline contained an obvious reference to Mayweather's race and was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Defending the ad, Paddy Power said "betting on black" was a roulette gambling reference as the fight was taking place in Las Vegas and also from the film Passenger 57 when Wesley Snipes said: "Do you ever play roulette? Well, let me give you a word of advice: always bet on black."
They acknowledged that the headline referred to Mayweather's race, but said it was not used in a derogatory, distasteful or offensive manner and the overall tone of the ad was light-hearted and humorous.
The bookmaker said the campaign was approved by Mayweather, who found the line funny, rather than offensive or derogatory.
They also pointed out that the phrase "always bet on black" was embroidered on the underwear Mayweather wore at the official weigh-in for the match.
The Evening Standard said they believed some readers might find the ad distasteful but considered it was unlikely to cause widespread offence.
The newspaper told the ASA it understood the line was a reference to the Passenger 57, but "on reflection, accepted that this was a marginal decision".
The ASA said readers would interpret the headline to be a pun on Mayweather's race and betting on roulette, and also intended as a reference to the 1992 film quote, although it believed that many readers would be unfamiliar with the film.
Upholding the complaints, the ASA said: "We acknowledged that the headline claim did not make a negative statement about Floyd Mayweather's race and had endorsed him to win the match. We also acknowledged that Floyd Mayweather had authorised the claim.
"However, we considered that readers would nevertheless be offended by the invitation to always bet on the outcome of a boxing match based on a boxer's race, and the message that the boxing match was a fight between two different races.
"For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence on the grounds of race."
Paddy Power said: "We respect the decision of the ASA and apologise to the nine people who complained about our 'Always Bet on Black' advert.
"The ASA acknowledged the advert did not make a negative statement about Floyd Mayweather's race, so we will take it on the chin - like McGregor did. Repeatedly."
Equality and Human Rights Commission chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: "Paddy Power have an influential voice and they need to think through the implications of what they say before they say it.
"They are stepping on the line and in real danger of jumping right over it. This is a blatant reference to colour. Causing offence is not a business strategy I would put my money on."