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Beirut's racetrack, once a chic hotspot, falls on hard times

Middle East News
Sun, 03 Apr 2016
Associated Press
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Middle East News: Beirut's racetrack, once a chic hotspot, falls on hard times
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In this Thursday, March 24, 2016 photo, Lebanese Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon drinks tea as he stands next to a horse at his own stable at the Beirut horse racetrack in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo)

"The prizes are too low to attract new horse owners," said Lebanese Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon, himself a horse owner and a leading member of the private association that manages the track.

Gambling revenues are down, he explained, squeezing the track's bottom line.

The racetrack opened in 1916 and by the 1950s, it had become part of the architectural fabric of the young Lebanese republic. But it suffered greatly during the country's 15-year civil war and never recovered its former glory.

The hippodrome sits on a prized piece of real estate belonging to the city, and the mayor thinks it is time to open it to the public.

"I want this to be Beirut Central Park," said Beirut Mayor Bilal Hamad, describing his plan for horse riding facilities, a golf course, and an "ecology village."

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