Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn was spending two hours each day on Chinese lessons back in 2006 even though Mr. Wynn is of retirement age and already worth a couple of billion dollars. But at the time, the Wynn Macau -- Mr. Wynn's latest megacasino -- was just getting set to open just off the coast of China. That's right on the doorstep of some 3 billion potential customers.

Big bets for big paydays?
In hindsight, perhaps that looks like a waste of time. After all, the business climate in Macau has since suffered from a slowing global economy and visa restrictions imposed by mainland China. Yet Mr. Wynn's next project in Macau -- the Encore -- remains on track to open in 2010. And competitor Melco Crown is quite happy to be opening its City of Dreams resort early in 2009.

In fact, while there will be near-term difficulties, Macau's proximity to China, and the economic growth that continues on that side of the world, lead both of these companies to expect that Macau will be a very good long-term bet.

At Motley Fool Global Gains, we agree.

We're not the only ones
There are hundreds of companies -- many of them American icons -- that continue to believe that the greatest growth over the next decade will come from the emerging markets of Asia and Latin America. Take Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), for example. It's opened more than 100 stores in China and recently bid to acquire a Chilean retail chain. Not to be outdone, Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) declared in 2008 that China will be its largest market other than the U.S., and its Shanghai store is reportedly among the company's top 10 grossing stores.

These companies and many more, including Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), and eBay, all have clear emerging markets strategies that they've executed through brand-building and acquisition. Amazon, for example, bought a little Chinese website called Joyo.com in 2004 for $75 million and rebranded it, Yahoo! is partners with China's largest e-commerce site, Alibaba, and with Korean Internet retailer Gmarket (NASDAQ:GMKT), and eBay remains the largest investor in Latin America's top e-commerce site, Mercadolibre (NASDAQ:MELI).

The question we have to ask
It's clear that each one of these great American companies has a clear emerging-markets strategy. The question is -- and you had to know I was coming around to this -- do you?

We think every investor needs to have intelligent exposure to China, Latin America, and the rest of the emerging world. If you just realized you don't and you're looking to do just that, feel free to check out our Global Gains international investing service.

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This article was originally published on Jan. 19, 2007 as "Here's What the Billionaires Are Buying." It has been updated.

Tim Hanson is co-advisor of Motley Fool Global Gains. He owns shares of Wynn Resorts, Melco, and Mercadolibre. Mercadolibre and Melco are Global Gains recommendations. Amazon.com, eBay, and Best Buy are Stock Advisor picks. Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and eBay are Inside Value selections. Gmarket is a Rule Breakers pick. The Motley Fool owns shares of Best Buy. No Fool is too cool for disclosure.