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Reproduced from American Gaming Association; Cartogram: Axios Visuals

As recently as three years ago, sports betting was considered taboo. Now, 45% of American adults live in a state where it's legal.

The state of play: 25 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized sports betting, and 21 of those markets (plus D.C.) are live and operational.

Why it matters: March Madness is the biggest sports betting event of the year in the U.S., beating out the Super Bowl due to the sheer volume of games.

  • The sports betting industry took a huge hit when last spring's NCAA Tournament was canceled along with most other sports.
  • But it has rebounded in a major way, with legal betting revenue reaching $1.5 billion in 2020 and projected to hit $3.1 billion in 2021.
  • 100 million Americans can now legally bet in their home state, a 74 million jump from the 2019 tournament.

Less brackets, more bets: Filling out a bracket is an annual tradition that will never go away. But the rise of legal sports betting could steal some of the attention away from office pools.

  • 36.7 million Americans will fill out a bracket this year, down 8% from 2019, according to a new American Gaming Association study.
  • 30.6 million Americans plan to place more traditional bets this year, a 72% increase from 2019.

The backdrop: Given the stigma that was long attached to sports betting, the speed at which it has been normalized and gone mainstream is astounding. A brief history of sports betting in this country...

  • 1931: Nevada opens the nation's first casinos in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy. "Any state could have done it," UNLV professor Anthony Cabot told NYT. "But no others did."
  • 1949: Sports betting becomes explicitly legal in Nevada.
  • 1978: Casinos open in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
  • 1988: Congress passes the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, permitting casinos on land owned by Native American tribes.
  • 1992: Congress passes the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which bans sports betting nationwide beyond a few exceptions like bike racing in New Mexico and bookmaking in Nevada.
  • 2018: In May, the Supreme Court strikes down PASPA, determining it to be unconstitutional.

Go deeper

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Smaller than expected "Justice for J6" rally met with large police presence

Police officers watch as demonstrators gather for the "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

A few hundred demonstrators were met by a heavy law enforcement presence on Saturday at the "Justice for J6" rally outside the fenced-off U.S. Capitol, AP reports.

The latest: Four people were arrested at the rally, including one person with a gun, one with a knife and two with outstanding warrants, per the U.S. Capitol Police.

DHS to increase deportation flights to Haiti from Del Rio

Migrants walk across the Rio Grande River carrying supplies back to a makeshift encampment under the international bridge between Del Rio, Texas, and Acuña, Mexico. Officials are struggling to provide food, water, shelter and sanitation, forcing migrants to cross the Rio Grande several times per day for basic necessities. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Saturday announced plans to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti out of the small Texas border town Del Rio, starting as soon as Sunday.

Why it matters: Reports have emerged of more than 10,000 migrants, primarily from Haiti, crowded in a temporary camp under the international bridge in Del Rio. Hoping to find refuge in the United States, they've had to bear with filthy conditions and the scorching sun for days, per an NBC News affiliate.