When Bingo Players Go Bad

Most bingo players are law abiding citizens that would never think of violating any laws. For the most part the bingo industry has been free of criminal activities. When a bingo related crime does take place it usually receives widespread coverage from media sources.  One of the latest bingo scandals took place in Birmingham England. Julie Smith, 46, was given a huge sum of taxpayer money so she could take care of her disabled daughter Haley who has cerebral palsy and cannot walk or talk.

Instead of spending the money on her daughter Smith spent it playing internet bingo and buying new clothes. Smith appeared in court and a judge said she squandered the money on internet bingo and in other “ludicrous ways.” Smith admitted stealing a total of £124,536 over a period of six years. Smith told reporters from the venerable Daily Mail “I am a gambling addict. Caring for Hayley is full-on and I needed an escape. You want to switch off. But I’m not a bad parent. I love Hayley, she is my world. She’s never gone without.”

In 2006 Smith began to receive regular payments from the city council. The cash was supposed to be used to provide Haley with day care and specialist equipment costs. Smith admitted that she spent some of the money on new clothes and weekend trips and the rest on her internet bingo habit. She was caught when the council changed its policies. Smith said “They wanted receipts and I didn’t have them. I don’t think Hayley knows what has gone on. I haven’t much of a family– about half don’t know about it.”

In court Smith received a two year community order and 80 hours of community service. Judge Patrick Thomas told Smith “The figures here are enormous. The plain position is that you received money intended for the benefit of your daughter. You spent it in ludicrous ways, sometimes on internet gambling and also on luxuries you appreciated far more than your daughter did, as if the money was part of your own state benefit. You plainly knew what you were doing.”

Smith also has a 17 year old son diagnosed with ADHD. As part of her sentence Smith will receive treatment for gambling addiction. Smith tried to minimize her actions and told reporters                            “The money didn’t just go on me, it went on the whole family. It didn’t go on holidays or luxuries like that. I smoke 20 to 30-a-day and I hardly drink or go out. But I admit I did wrong and I want to say sorry to social services for that. The money was there and I got into a habit.” The judge told Smith “It certainly seems to be true that you were left to your own devices. The principle concern of the court must be for your daughter.”