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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

School principals are not OK

Principal Alice Hom (purple jacket) of New York's Yung Wing School P.S. 124 near a vaccination van in November. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The overwhelming majority of secondary school principals experienced frequent stress last school year, according to a RAND Corporation report out Wednesday.

The big picture: The stress levels among female principals and principals of color were especially stark, with nearly 40% in these groups reporting constant job-related stress, compared to about 24% of male principals and 26% of white principals.

It's official: Stock market having worst start to year ever

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

It's been a decidedly ugly start to the year for the stock market, with particular pain in the tech trade.

State of play: As of the end of trading Tuesday — the 16th session of the year — 2022 is now, officially, the worst-ever start in the history of the S&P 500, according to data from Ned Davis Research, a stock market research shop.

Surprising pandemic side effect: Soaring trade deficits

Source: Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inflation and jobs may get all the economic headlines, but meanwhile a big shift is taking place in the underpinnings of the world economy: The U.S. trade deficit is soaring.

What's happening: Americans' spending on imported physical goods has gone through the roof, while exports are growing slowly, making the U.S. the world's consumer of last resort.