RICHMOND, OCT. 29 -- Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles said today he would vote against the lottery referendum in Tuesday's election, but said he was "not telling {other} people how to vote."

"I will vote no on Tuesday," Baliles said, adding that "reasonable men and women may see it differently."

Baliles said he made his decision some time ago but withheld announcing it until today as a "question of timing," to ensure its maximum impact. The governor had favored putting the issue to referendum.

Attorney General Mary Sue Terry has announced her opposition, as have House Speaker A.L. Philpott (D-Henry), and former governors Charles S. Robb, Mills E. Godwin and A. Linwood Holton.

Lottery opponents greeted the governor's announcement with glee. Although early polls showed voters favored a lottery by as much as 2 to 1, more recent polls show the gap closing.

"We would win if the election were today," said Robert R. Weed, the Washington-based director of Virginians Against State-Sponsored Gambling, one of two opponent organizations. "This helps us pull away a little bit."

"This could have the effect of swinging a number of undecided our way, and peeling off some of the soft support," said Jeff Gregson, executive director of Free Enterprisers Against the Lottery.

Ken Storey, spokesman for Virginians for the Lottery, said the governor's position would not change the election outcome. "We'll win or lose on the turnout," he said.

Both sides believe that a high voter turnout favors the lottery question. With no other statewide issue, and nearly two-thirds of all legislative seats uncontested, the election has aroused little interest generally, a condition that Gregson and Storey agree favors opponents, who are better organized and more impassioned.

Storey, urging a large turnout, said "the governor made it clear that he is interested in what all Virginians feel, that he just gave his personal opinion. It's not a matter of going into the voting booth and saying, 'Lottery yes, Baliles no.' "

In his announcement yesterday, Baliles said, "I do not see the question as a burning moral issue; I do not see a lottery an an invitation to widepread crime. But neither do I see the lottery as a door to uninterrupted bliss and low taxes."

He noted that as a legislator he voted to legalize bingo and parimutuel betting. The latter was defeated in referendum. "The difference in this case," he said, is that bingo and horse racing are private enterprises that the state regulates, while with a lottery "the government becomes the enterprise. It takes on the role of producer, promoter, administrator and beneficiary.

"That's where I draw the line," he said.

If voters choose to have a lottery, however, he said, "I assure you that Virginia government will adminster the lottery in the Virginia tradition -- honestly, efficiently and fairly."

Baliles' announcement leaves only Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, among statewide officeholders, uncommitted on the issue.

After the governor's news conference, Wilder issued an ambiguous statement that did not say how he will vote on the issue. "I join the governor in urging the referendum," Wilder said, "and I too feel comfortable letting the voters decide this matter for themselves."