With the dice already loaded against her, Prime Minister Julia Gillard now faces a political deck stacked by the nation's biggest football codes.
NRL and AFL bosses have banded together to fight plans to set limits on poker machines to cut problem gambling that is estimated to cost Australia at least A$4.7 billion ($5.6 billion) a year and affect the lives of five million people.
With grand final week raising passions, code chiefs are calling the proposal to pre-programme cash limits on club pokies a "footy tax" and are preparing to unleash a media blitz against it.
Gillard has no option but to face them down.
She agreed to push the limits into law as part of the deal to win her minority Government the support of Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie, a committed anti-pokie campaigner.
Under the deal Gillard must have legislation in place by next May's budget, and a timetable for the law's introduction by 2014.
If she fails, Wilkie will withdraw his support for Labor and possibly precipitate the Government's final death spiral. In theory Gillard should be able to take the public along with her.
An Essential poll this month showed two-thirds of voters supported the Government's gambling reforms, including the mandatory "pre-commitment" technology demanded by Wilkie. Under pre-commitment laws pokie players would be required to obtain cards registered in their name, setting the amount of money they are prepared to lose.
Trials in South Australia, which included technology that issued on-screen warnings when players neared their pre-commitment levels, found that net turnover by problem gamblers was reduced by 56 per cent. It also found that the system did not significantly affect "recreational" gamblers, trimming their spending by only 5 per cent.
The cost of problem gambling has been well-documented, with the Productivity Commission estimating that there are between 80,000 and 160,000 problem gamblers, with up to 350,000 more at "moderate" risk. Other research has found that one in six regular pokie players had a serious addiction, losing about A$20,000 ($23,950) - or one-third of the average wage - a year.
But gambling is entrenched in the Australian psyche. About 70 per cent punt to some degree and will now be targeted by a united Australian Rules-League campaign, adding to anger from the club industry and opposition to controls from state governments.
The AFL says it receives more than A$60 million a year at the elite level from clubs and hotels, with pokie revenue also funding junior and amateur teams.
The NRL has estimated it will lose A$144 million a year if the planned laws go ahead, in addition to more than A$70 million in costs to fit pokies with new pre-commitment technology.
And Collingwood AFL president Eddie McGuire hit public relations gold with his description of the planned laws as a "footy tax", supported by Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb despite the fact that no money is collected.
"AFL and NRL fans didn't vote for a licence to punt on the pokies at the last federal election," Clubs Australia executive director Anthony Ball said. "It was never mentioned. It makes no sense to give a problem gambler a gambling card and expect them to suddenly bet responsibly."
Wilkie described McGuire's tax analogy as "patently ridiculous", and the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association said it was wrong to prey on the vulnerabilities of punters.
"People's lives are torn apart by addictive behaviours such as problem gambling and problem drinking," executive officer Sam Biondo said. "The AFL need to consider how they promote and condone these harmful behaviours which are hurting vulnerable punters."
Dr James Doughney, a senior researcher with the Work and Economic Policy Research Unit at Victoria University and author of The Poker Machine State, told ABC TV that those campaigning against the reforms had "their snouts in the poker machine trough".
"When they say they can't survive unless they exploit vulnerable people, then we have something seriously wrong with the way we run sport in this country."