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The slots at Flamboro Downs is currently the only facility within Hamilton's gaming zone. (Mark Chambers/CBC)

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has put out a call for companies interested in operating the slots at Flamboro Downs.

The OLG is asking for bids from companies to pre-qualify to operate the 801 slots in Flamborough, as well as the rest of a "gaming bundle" that includes slots at the Mohawk Racetrack in Milton, Grand River Raceway in Elora and Casino Brantford. 

The call, known as a request for pre-qualification (RFPQ), is part of a province-wide "modernization" process that has seen Hamilton residents embroiled in a debate about a potential casino.

The OLG has asked the province's 29 gaming zones to pass motions saying whether they'll allow gaming there. Earlier this year, Hamilton city council voted that it would only accept gaming at Flamboro Downs unless it was found to be "not a viable option" — a loophole that left some councillors uncomfortable.

The winning bidder will operate the slots at Flamboro, said OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti. The OLG is "not evaluating for new facilities right now," he said.

The OLG is hoping for one operator to take on all four facilities, Bitonti said. 

Once they receive proposals, the OLG will evaluate potential operators based on their CVs and "do due dilligence," Bitonti said. Potential operators have until mid-March to submit.

As for a potential casino in Hamilton, Bitonti said, "there is no timeline for a new facility."

The slots at Flamboro Downs are important to rural Hamilton's horse-racing community. And even though a potential casino hasn't been in the headlines lately, people haven't forgotten, said Coun. Robert Pasuta of Ward 14.

"It always comes up," he said. "(People ask), 'What about the slots? What about the proposals?' It's there to stay. It hasn't gone away and I don't know if it ever will."

The racing community took a hit last year when the province eliminated its Slots at Racetracks program. The program saw slot revenue used for winnings for horse races. 

Whatever operator is chosen, Pasuta said, it has to include horse racing.

"The horses have to be part of that," he said. "We've lost so much at this point. The horses have to be part of it."

The GTA gaming bundle, including Woodbine Racetrack and Ajax Downs, as well as the Central gaming bundle, including Georgian Downs, Casino Rama and a proposed casino at Wasaga Beach or Collingwood, are also up for new operators.