A postman from Norfolk who stole money from birthday cards to feed a gambling addiction has been jailed for two years.
Daniel Kerling, 35, from Thetford, admitted the thefts, which happened between July 2006 and April 2010.
He also pleaded guilty to delaying more than 8,600 items of post, opening 207.
At Norwich Crown Court, Recorder David Gordon QC told Kerling: "This strikes at the very heart of the country's communication system."
Duncan O'Donnell, prosecuting, said that when Kerling came under suspicion the Post Office put two packages through the postal system which were later found in his rucksack.
Mr O'Donnell said most of the packages Kerling had opened were birthday cards with money in them.
When arrested Kerling, of Canon's Close, said: "If I was not a compulsive gambler this would not have happened."
He said he had taken more than £1,000 in cash from the post.
He added: "It is shameful what I have done to the public."
Malcolm Plummer, representing Kerling, said: "It was easy to do and he just went on, but he shows considerable remorse."