Purgan Gill kept cash being paid in by customers placing their weekly lotto numbers instead of forwarding it on to the Post Office.
Newcastle Crown Court heard he used the stolen money to help pay for and renovate his business at Railway Terrace, South Hylton, Sunderland, as he had been too proud to ask family members for financial help.
At a hearing last week, the 40-year-old pleaded guilty to stealing £18,989 from the Post Office between July 1 and August 23 last year.
The court heard yesterday he had only recently taken over as sub postmaster when he started helping himself to the cash and was quickly collared when an audit was carried out.
Prosecutor Barry Robson told the court: “He said he used the money taken over the retail counter for lottery payments and instead of paying it to the Post Office, he used it to pay off debts.”
Judge James Goss QC sentenced Gill, of Railway Terrace, to four months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with 250 hours’ unpaid work and £1,000 costs.
The judge told him: “You are clearly highly thought of by members of your community and it is therefore most unfortunate that when you got this sub post office business, your pride meant instead of seeking the money you needed to complete the ownership of the business from your family, you helped yourself to it from the business.
“You no doubt hoped no-one would be any the wiser and it is right to say none of the money you stole was spent on any extravagances.”
When quizzed, Gill said he hit problems when a proposed £90,000 bank loan was reduced to £60,000.
The court heard Gill spent £30,000 fitting out the shop with a secure counter and carrying out renovations.
Paul Cross, defending, told the court: “If he had gone to his family in the first place they would probably have helped him out but his pride stopped him.
“He is very respectable and members of the local community hold him in extremely high regard.”