Published January 28, 2013
NASSAU, Bahamas – Voters in the Bahamas are deciding whether to permit some forms of gambling for the islands' citizens.
Bahamians are barred from gambling in casinos at the islands' tourist resorts. But underground gambling operations called "web shops" where islanders bet on numbers in televised U.S. lotteries have become widespread, even though they are illegal.
In Monday's referendum, voters will be asked whether the web shops should be legalized or if the government should create a national lottery.
Prime Minister Perry Christie's government has encouraged citizens to back legalized gambling, saying the underground houses employ thousands of islanders. He has said the web shops should be regulated and taxed.
But the political opposition and the powerful church lobby are fiercely opposed to any legalized gambling for people on the archipelago off Florida's east coast.