The prime minister of the Bahamas says a referendum next month will decide if some forms of legalized gambling will be permitted for citizens.

Bahamians are barred from gambling in the 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 increasingly popular.

Prime Minister Perry Christie announced Thursday that a Dec. 3 referendum will decide if the underground gambling houses will be legalized, regulated and taxed.

Christie says the measure would generate $20 million a year in taxes if it passes. But his government has vowed to shut down illegal gaming if the referendum is rejected.

The Bahamas powerful church lobby is opposed to legalizing gambling for people on the archipelago off Florida's east coast.