The government of the Bahamas says it has prepared a two-part referendum that could legalize certain forms of gambling on the islands.

National Security Minister Bernard Nottage says voters will be asked whether they support creation of a national lottery and the regulation and taxation of now-underground gambling center centers.

He said in a speech late Wednesday that the referendum will be held on Jan. 28.

Bahamians currently are barred from gambling in casinos at the islands' resorts. But many go to underground gambling centers called "web shops" to bet on numbers in televised U.S. lotteries.

Prime Minister Perry Christie has said the measure would generate $20 million a year in taxes if approved.

However, he faces fierce opposition from a powerful church lobby that condemns gambling.