11/23/2015 12:07PM

New York now can race on Palm Sunday

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Saturday allowing New York racetracks to conduct live racing and take simulcast bets on Palm Sunday, lifting an unusual 42-year-old ban. Palm Sunday is March 20 in 2016.

The legislation rescinding the ban on parimutuel activities on Palm Sunday, a Christian holiday one week prior to Easter, passed both houses of the state legislature earlier this year. Current statute still bans parimutuel activity on two other Christian holidays, Easter and Christmas, due to legislation passed in 1973 that legalized racing on Sundays but carved out the three dates as mandatory dark days.

Critics of the ban have pointed out that the state does not bar other gambling activities on those dates. Casinos are not banned from operating on the three dates, nor is the lottery banned from selling tickets. A memo accompanying the bill stated that lifting the ban would “benefit local governments, racetracks, and horse owners.”